August 01, 2011
One of our friends is a life-long Buick nut. There's still a 1951 Buick Riviera in his garage and when we first met a number of years ago, he was driving a 1998 Riviera, the eighth and final generation that Buick made. Yet after a lamentable rendezvous with a Buick Rendezvous SUV, he found himself with no choice but to abandon the brand. He's now in his 60s, but even he couldn't stomach life with a Lucerne or the last LaCrosse. Today he drives a Hyundai Tucson.
When our friend discovered Inside Line would be taking a 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo into its garage, his eyes opened a little wider and there was no escaping the excitement in his voice. "Oh man, could you bring it by some time? I'd love to check it out." For him, this wasn't just another shiny new car to ogle. This was a potential savior for a once-beloved brand he had left for dead. The new Regal has been engineered in Europe as the Opel Insignia, it looks good as we discovered in our test of the 2011 Buick Regal CXL, and it can be had with a turbocharged engine just like a Buick Grand National (the Buick we can't forget).
Of course history is filled with saviors that didn't pan out. Is the Regal Turbo really the car to make Buick relevant again and bring back former loyalists like our friend? More important, can it attract new, younger buyers who remember Buick only as that bland, old barge with the gold package that Grandma used to drive around Sun City? Well, we have six months to find out.
What We Got
You read that right, this 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo will be with us for six months rather than the usual 12. GM mostly took a break from the long-term loan business during its recent economic unpleasantness, and the Regal is the first we've received since our 2008 Buick Enclave, so we agreed to the shorter time frame.
We got a Regal CXL Turbo, the more expensive of two available trim levels. Beyond its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the Turbo trim adds rear parking sensors and a power passenger seat. Other standard equipment includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth.
Our tester arrived with the eloquently named T07 Equipment package which adds rear side airbags, a sunroof, HID headlamps, a navigation system and a nine-speaker premium sound system. There's also Buick's Interactive Drive Control System with Standard, Sport and Tour modes that alter suspension and stability settings, throttle response, shift response and steering effort. The total for our Quicksilver Metallic Regal Turbo with the Ebony interior was $35,185.
By now, though, you're no doubt asking yourself two questions. Yes, our Regal was assembled in Germany rather than being one of the first to roll off the line in Oshawa, Ontario. And no, we did not get the available six-speed manual. A row-your-own Buick doesn't exactly sound like a volume seller and we'd probably be the only people in the world to have one. Six-speed automatic it is, then.
Why We Got It
We're not going to pretend that the 2011 Buick Regal Turbo is somehow the second coming of the Grand National just because they both utilize forced induction. We put that to bed when we matched one up with a 1987 Buick Regal Grand National. Instead, this midsize sedan is really aimed at entry-level luxury buyers who would otherwise check out an Acura TSX or Audi A4. On paper, the similar engines, feature content and prices would certainly put them in the same league.
But there's more to a luxury car than just the specs and features on a comparator spreadsheet. How will its adaptive suspension handle thousands of miles of summer road trips? And will its cabin design and functionality hold up to our nitpicking? At least we're pretty sure the 2.0-liter turbo will leave a better impression than the 182-hp Buick Regal CXL, a weakling that hits 60 mph in 9.8 seconds.
Perhaps most important, we have the 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo as a measurement of the Buick brand itself. Will people at gas stations stop us to ask about our handsome new luxury sedan, or will they just see the badge and automatically wonder where the Landau roof went? Perception is paramount in the luxury game, and if this rebadged Opel Insignia can indeed convince Americans (and our editors) that it can hang with the establishment, then Buick could very well earn its place in the garages of an entirely new generation of loyalists.
Follow our long-term road test blog for six months and 10,000 miles to see what the future holds.
Current Odometer: 1,029
Best Fuel Economy: 19.9
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.9
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 19.4
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.