August 07, 2011
In March of 2010 we sent a formal letter to Buick asking for a long-term 2011 Buick Regal. "Can you work with three or six months?" read the response. Hmmm... not our usual MO, but we really wanted to see if the new Regal was all Buick said it was. We debated internally for awhile and eventually conceded to the shortened loan period.
Upon our acceptance of the offer, Buick replied, "We can give you a six-month loan of a Regal and we'd propose doing that in the fall with the 2.0-liter turbo version. Does that sound feasible?"
Had we been able to get the car sooner, we would have opted for a base Regal CXL. And we weren't prepared to wait for the manual Regal GS to reach production. So the Regal Turbo satisfied our needs just about right. Our long-term test began.
Why We Got It
For 2011 the Buick Regal was all-new, though it already existed as the Opel Insignia overseas. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter engine that produced 220 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. The inline-4 was attached to a six-speed automatic transmission. This car was built more to help us forget endeavors like the Rendezvous than it was to embody the fabled Grand National. But more importantly, it was the strongest entry-level luxury representative from Buick in years.
Within our long-term fleet we had some Regal competition. It would be interesting to see the Buick beside our Acura TSX and Audi A4. Our full test of the normally aspirated Regal suggested it may be a step behind these two in performance. Would our turbo-equipped CXL be enough to compensate?
How It Drove
Our first impressions of how the 2011 Buick Regal drove were generally positive. Inside Line Editor Ed Hellwig wrote, "The turbo engine feels suitably powerful and refined. No, this car is not fast. In fact, you'll get cooked by any number of V6 family haulers from a stoplight. But more importantly, the engine is quiet and remains that way throughout its power band. The suspension isn't bad either. Put it in Sport mode and the car will whip around turns with considerable speed. It doesn't sway or flop around either, so if you really want to make time down a twisty road, this Regal will not embarrass itself."
We did have concerns pertaining to life behind the wheel of the Buick. Road Test Editor Mike Monticello commented, "Who says modern turbos don't have lag? Nobody home until 3,000 rpm." Another editor added, "The steering is numb. It's overly light at low speeds and doesn't really stiffen up or deliver much feedback in Sport either."
Inside the cabin our 2011 Buick Regal came into its own. Automotive Editor Mark Takahashi drove the Buick home one night after a draining week in the office. Takahashi blogged, "I looked at the Regal and said, 'Don't try to impress me; just get me home, OK?' In the process, the Regal managed to impress me because it had just what I needed. It was quiet, allowing me to just relax. The ride was smooth and the steering was feather-light. Nobody hassled me by trying to get me to drag race them at a signal; I just anonymously faded into the background. Perfect." The seats offered minimal lateral support but we found them comfortable. All controls were within reach. Although the layout was a bit confusing. But if you had to spend hours in traffic, this was the place to do it.
As it pertained to recalls and problem history, the Regal name was untarnished during our test. Due to the accelerated six-month term of our test, it was difficult to compare the Buick to other long-term vehicles. It wasn't even around long enough to reach its first required service interval at 10,000 miles.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 6 months): None
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: None
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
After 10,000 miles the 2011 Buick Regal was just getting started. So our final round of instrumented testing was nearly identical to preliminary track tests.
Dynamic tests remained unchanged with time. We recorded a speed of 65.8 mph through the slalom and 0.83g of lateral force around the skid pad. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton reflected, "In Sport with ESC off there's good balance right up to the point when understeer begins to creep in. Surprisingly grippy. Springy steering doesn't provide any feel of the tires. Good ESC with minimal intrusion." Straight-line tests showed some change. From 60 mph the Regal stopped in 120 feet, which was 5 feet shorter than its first test. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph remained unchanged at 7.8 seconds (with rollout). It completed the quarter-mile in 15.9 seconds at 90.0 mph.
According to the EPA, our Regal Turbo should average 18 city, 28 highway and 24 combined mpg. We averaged just that, 24 mpg during our test. Our lowest single tank equaled the city estimates of 18 mpg, while our best tank of 35 mpg far surpassed expectations.
Best Fuel Economy: 34.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23.9 mpg
As previously stated, the length of our test made it difficult to draw a comparison between the Regal and vehicles before it. The Buick arrived with an MSRP of $35,185. After 6 months and 10,232 miles Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) valued the Regal at 15 percent less than its original MSRP. This calculation assumes a private-party sale.
True Market Value at Service End: $30,093 private party
Depreciation: $5,092 or 15% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 10,232
Because we borrowed our 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo for only six months we could not draw direct comparisons between the Buick and its rivals in the key areas of maintenance cost and residual value. We think the Regal is better than some of its competitors but we couldn't give the credit it may deserve without apples-to-apples supporting evidence. What did we learn? The Buick Regal is a competent, quiet and comfortable midsize sedan. In other words, it's about average for its class. It's certainly not a fast car. The 2.0-liter lagged off the line but the midrange wasn't bad. It was generally quiet, too, a good trait for a car in this class. In fact, the whole cabin was pretty quiet thanks to numerous sound-deadening measures. Our overall impression of the interior was mixed, though, as some liked its build quality and ease of use while others thought it already looked dated. The Regal fared better when it came to its exterior styling as most of us thought it looked pretty stylish on its big 19-inch wheels and tires.
Buick has not overcome the stigma associating it with the retirement communityand the Regal is not the car that will suddenly make Buick cool. It's a solid step forward, though, as it looks modern, performs well and has the technology to match any of its competitors. All it needs now is a hook, something to get buyers to give the Buick a try. Not every one of them will find the Regal to their taste. But there were enough of us that came away surprised with the Regal to know that Buick is on the right track.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds with this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.