2011 Buick Regal Long Term Road Test

2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo vs Lexus IS 250

April 15, 2011

regal_is250_1.JPG A friend of mine saw on the blog that I was driving our Regal CXL Turbo. "How does it compare to my IS 250?" he asked me. It was an interesting question. "I'm not sure," I told him. "Meet me for lunch with your IS and we'll find out."

My friend's Lexus IS 250 is rear-drive with six-speed automatic and 18-inch wheels. I was curious to drive the two cars as it's been a while since I've driven an IS. Plus, I think it's fair to say that the two cars are pretty close competitors.

His car is a 2008, but the IS haven't had any major mechanical updates since then. Here are a few 2011 Regal and 2011 IS 250 specs.

  Regal IS 250
Base MSRP $28,745 $33,815
Power 220 hp 204 hp
Torque 258 lb-ft 185 lb-ft
Weight 3671 lbs 3435 lbs
Combined 22 mpg 24 mpg

I drove the cars back to back on a 20-minute loop that included city streets and some highway. It wasn't much, but it was enough to get some general impressions.

Powertrain: Neither car held a big advantage here. Around town the Regal is a bit quicker and more responsive, which makes sense given its greater amount of torque. Both transmissions have a manual mode; the Regal's shifts more quickly in manual mode, and has rev-matched downshifts as well.


But the IS does have column-mounted shift paddles (the Regal doesn't) and its 2.5-liter V6 sounds better than the Regal's grumbly 2.0-liter turbo-4. We also did a quick rolling acceleration run of the two cars from about 10 mph in second gear; I thought the Regal would be quicker, but the IS actually smoked the Regal off the line, so to speak. In hindsight, the Regal was boggy due to its turbo not being spooled up.

Handling: There wasn't much of an opportunity to compare here. But I prefer the Lexus' steering from a sporting standpoint, as it has more heft and seems to be more communicative. We've commented before on the blog that we're not fond of the Regal's overly light steering. In general, the IS 250 is tighter and sportier to drive.

Ride quality/road noise: The Regal is the more isolating of the two cars. Though both cars are similar in terms of ride quality and noise, the IS 250 is a louder when driving over rougher pavement and transmits more vibrations into the cabin.

Front seat comfort: Hard to say with such a short drive. But the Regal has more headroom.

Back seat comfort: It's well known that the IS 250 has a cramped rear seat. As such, the Regal is definitely superior in terms of rear legroom. However, rear headroom is about the same, and the IS 250 is better in regards to thigh support. As long as your legs aren't totally jammed up in the IS 250, you might actually find it more comfortable. In the Regal's favor, though, is its fold-down rear seat. The IS 250 only has a pass-through.


After our drive, I asked my friend what he thought of the Regal. He was pretty impressed and said he liked its styling, interior fit and finish, punchy engine and folding rear seat. The biggest drawback for him was the Regal's interior design -- he found the control layout confusing and generally thought his IS was nicer. I'd pretty much agree with that. But overall our Regal had a good showing here and had some distinct advantages over an established entry-level luxury sport sedan.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Buick Regal in VA is:

$121 per month*
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