2011 Buick Regal Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2011 Buick Regal Long Term Road Test

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Screen Graphics

July 26, 2011


I've got to give a pat on the back to the designers who developed the Regal's screen graphics. The background is pleasing without looking like it's trying too hard and the narrow font is easily legible. There's just enough information displayed and I really don't feel I need any more. By contrast, the last Ford Explorer I drove suffered from information overload. Good job Buick, way to keep it simple and easy.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

RIP Amy Winehouse, your version of Valerie is simply fantastic.

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: For Both of Us

July 21, 2011

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This scene made me sad. There, our 911 Carerra, forlorn and parked for the night. No takers and me settled into the Regal. But I had to do it. For both of us. We can't force the 911 to make too many mule runs to Orange County. It's a rough drive on both driver and car, invigorating though it is.

This is a 25-year-old car. With 115,000 on the odometer, it deserves a better allocation of 100 miles.

Anyway, it'll spend a nice weekend in OC soon enough at the 356 Club of Southern California's Dana Point event, where we'll no doubt have to account for the black powder-coated Fuchs.

So I took the Regal home. It was the right call. Comfortable, no fuss, and finger-flick steering just right for the surging and slowing of the late-evening San Diego Freeway. The iDrive-style interface is really the only way forward, less taxing than touchscreen. I also forgot how capable the Harman Kardon stereo is.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' "Get Down Moses" (Strummer's cinematic Rastapocalypse by way of Tennessee) brings an underpowered factory system to its knees. But the Regal's handles the throbbing dub bassline with grace, accepting a steady stream of gain before the speaker cones start leaping from their surrounds.

This is not faint praise. The Regal is a fine mule.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Doing It the Old-Fashioned Way

July 07, 2011


Our Buick Regal is not equipped with a backup camera. Not a problem, I'll just turn my head and look around by myself.

It's amazing, though, how quickly we get used to little luxuries and modern safety features.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Buick Regal CXL 2.0T: Santa Rosa and Back, Part 2

June 28, 2011


I had plenty of time to consider the ride quality in our long-term 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2.0T during my 900-mile weekend road trip. Overall, I'd call it pretty good, but I'm not convinced the adaptive dampers provide that much of a benefit... over the conventional shocks on the Regal 2.4.

In the default Normal mode, the Regal is compliant enough for me on most roads, but definitely on the firm side. As soon as we hit the Grapevine/Cajon Pass stretch of Interstate 5, though, my boyfriend pointed out that the ride was getting pretty busy, as the suspension and tires weren't filtering out enough of the small, quick impacts. So we switched to Tour, and sure enough, as James wrote, this mode subtly but usefully softens up the damping response and improves comfort over rougher pavement.

Although it's nice to be able to call up some extra compliance on our turbo Regal, the conventional dampers on the base Regal 2.4 I drove worked just fine. Ride quality was actually the thing I liked most about the Regal 2.4, and I remember that our test car was particularly adept at insulating its occupants from small impacts. The setup on our Regal 2.0T is certainly acceptable in Normal/Tour, but I'd bet I like this car as much or more on the base 2.4 suspension.

Further, I don't care for the Sport damping mode on our Regal CXL Turbo. It's too harsh for most roads and it doesn't do much to make the Regal feel sporty. I drove on some back roads in Sonoma County, but I wasn't about to use Sport. Too much of a compromise.

On a completely unrelated note, our Regal's nav system brings up this screen whenever it activates the low fuel warning. This is an incredibly handy feature when you're driving in an unfamiliar city, and I took advantage of it in Santa Rosa.

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2011 Buick Regal 2.0T: Voice Control Saves the Day

June 20, 2011


I was hurried when I left town for my recent trip to Vegas in our long-term 2011 Buick Regal Turbo and I forgot to program the navigation system before I left L.A. Oh, drat, I thought, I don't want to lose precious time stopping to enter a destination in the nav... because this is one of those nav systems that locks out everything except "previous destination" functionality when the car is moving.

And then I remembered that the voice control works pretty well in the Regal.

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Chance Music

June 02, 2011

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I drove our Buick Regal CXL Turbo behind the Orange Curtain last night to meet a friend for yummy Vietnamese food in Costa Mesa. My iPhone needed charging so I plugged it in, and rather than click over to FM news, I just let it play through the "All Songs" setting that came up.

OK, to tell the truth, I wasn't that familiar with the Regal's audio system so I couldn't figure out how to get it out of All Songs and switch over to my iPhone's playlist while doing 65 mph on the San Diego Freeway. As my colleagues have pointed out, the Regal's in-dash monitor sure looks like a touch-screen interface, but isn't. I abandoned that smudgy effort and just drove. And it was pleasant to hear a bunch of A-list songs I hadn't heard in a while, from "Al Otro Lado del Rio" to "All Along the Watchtower" (Bob Dylan and Paul Weller versions) to "Avientame."

Once I'd parked, I did discover the magical "iDrive like" controller in the center console, and switched to a playlist for the drive home. But I'm tempted to dip into the B-list songs on my next drive. Serendipity is fun sometimes.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @6,272 miles

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Three Things I Like

May 24, 2011

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I drove our long term Buick Regal last night and I came away impressed with the car. Here are a few things that caught my attention:

1. Comfortable: I chose the Regal because I wanted a comfortable ride and it didn't let me down. I thought that the 19-inch wheels would affect the ride quality, but the ride never suffered as even as I drove over potholes and cracked pavement.

2. Information Display: While this display isn’t exclusive to the Regal (Our Cruze has it too), I love the amount of information it gives you. You can check your tire pressure, condition of the oil, average fuel economy, navigation info, and trip information.

3. HID/LED Lights: Xenon lights aren’t standard on the Regal, but if I were purchasing one, I would definitely check off that option. Xenon lights are only available on the turbo model, which give them a degree of exclusivity among other Regals. I'm also digging the LED eyebrows on the headlights. It makes your car easy to spot in the daytime and looks cool.

Ron Montoya Consumer Advice Associate @ 5,967 miles.

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Audio Review

April 29, 2011


The 2011 Buick Regal is generally considered the car that has the monumental mission of reviving the glory days of the entry-lux brand. Toward that effort, GM has updated many aspects of the European-engineered baby Buick, and if you've followed our posts on our long-term CLX Turbo model the past couple of months, you know that this particular car has pretty much lived up to the task.

One thing that hasn't changed in regard to the Regal is the premium sound system brand: Harman Kardon has been offered before in Buicks, most recently the 2010 LaCrosse. A well-known logo on the speakers or radio doesn't always assure quality. But as with other attributes of the new Regal, the H/K sound system can more than hold its own compared to other offerings in the segment.

The Setup
The Harman Kardon system in the 2011 Buick Regal CLX Turbo consists of nine speakers powered by 320 watts. The speakers include a 3.5-inch midrange in the center of the dash, a 1-inch tweeter in the "mirror patch" in each front door and a 6.5-inch woofer lower down, another 6.5-inch woofer in each rear door and a pair of 6x9-inch subwoofers in the rear deck.

The Sound
As with every sound system we test, I listened to 10 musical tracks that I've heard in literally hundreds of vehicles to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. The music on these tracks ranges from jazz to folk to rock and rap. I also use several non-musical tracks to further test soundstaging, imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on this testing process and the tracks used, click on the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice.

Overall, the Harman Kardon system performed impressively, and in every sound-quality category it scored well above average. The midbass boom and high-end sizzle that's the scourge of lesser car audio systems was largely tamed in the Regal. Test tracks like Red House Painters' "Cabezon" and Luka Bloom's "Cold Comfort" feature thick, resonant acoustic-guitar tones that make many systems to buckle in the midbass region and steely treble that cause high notes to screech. But the Regal's H/K system kept its composure for the most part. Bass from the two 6x9 subs was also surprisingly solid and only somewhat distorted. The lowest frequencies did noticeably emanate from the rear, however, which gave some songs a ping-pong effect.

Aside from this and a few other minor quibbles, the system reproduced the test tracks in great detail and with a sense of spaciousness and lifelike dynamics. The soundstage was sizable and imaging realistic if not pinpoint accurate. In the mostly instrumental jam "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me" by Bluesiana Triangle, cymbals and drums floated above the dash and a flute solo that starts at about two minutes into the track was centered the way it should be.

I always play a couple of non-musical test tracks -- one with three voices mixed so that they appear in the left, center and right portions of the soundstage, and the other with seven drum beats that are supposed to be spaced at precise intervals across the dash -- to double-check imaging and staging. The system easily passed the seven-drumbeats test, but the other track revealed that while the left and right voices were spread very far to either side, the center voice could be detected in the left and right channels. So it failed the test but passed in recreating a solid center image with music, which is what counts. The system also scored a fair and good rating, respectively, for linearity, a measure of how the sound holds up at low and mid volume levels. And it aced the absence-of-noise/zero-bits test.

The Sources
The Regal sports a single CD/DVD player in the dash with AM, FM and XM radio. And since our car has a hard-disk nav system, GM's Time Shift feature that allows storing up to 20 minutes of a live AM or FM broadcast in a buffer is available. Ten gigs of the 40GB HD is also reserved for music storage. MP3 and WMA files as well as audiobooks from Audible.com can be ripped from CDs as well as USB drives. And the transfer process is fast; it took about 30 seconds to rip six WMA music files from a USB drive to the car's HD.

Of course, you can also just play the files straight from the USB drive, and that the Regal's USB port and the aux-in jack in the center console slightly fold out is a nice touch. Music files on a USB are organized in the typical folders/playlists, artists, albums, songs and genres structure. An iPod can be connected using the USB sync cable that comes with the device and uses the same menu, but adds composers, podcasts and audiobooks.

The interface for accessing your tunes on a USB drive or iPod won't win any awards, but isn't quite the nightmare that one editor described it as for navigation purposes. Once you get past thinking that the in-dash monitor is a touch-screen interface -- and clean away the fingerprints -- the iDrive-like controller in the center console becomes the main point of contact. And it saves you from having to use the funky multi-directional knob in the center stack if you don't order nav.

What We Say
GM deserves credit for making many great decisions with the new Regal. Part of our job is to nitpick the vehicles in our long-term fleet, but I found few major flaws with the 2011 Regal CXL Turbo's Harman Kardon sound system.

Well, there's one: We had to spend $5,690 on the T07 option package to get the system along with the nav, a sunroof, HID headlamps, 19-inch alloy wheels, rear-seat airbags and Buick's Interactive Drive Control System. You can also get the H/K system starting at $2,445 for the T03 option package, but that's still a lot of coin. And it's still bundled with the sunroof, HIDs and rear airbags and isn't available a la carte.

So it comes down to how much you value good audio. Or how badly you want the other items in the package. And whether you still believe in Buick.

The Scores
Sound: B+
Sources: B
iPod Integration: B-
Cost: C

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Parking Brake

April 22, 2011


A couple days ago I wrote that our Regal would benefit from having a rearview camera. A few people commented that I was just whining and drivers get along just fine without them. Say what you will about all that, but along those lines allow me to present our Regal's electronic parking brake.

It comes standard on the Regal and, yes, it's another non-necessity. (It's certainly less of a necessity than a rearview camera.) Personally, I find electronic parking brakes mildly annoying as it just takes longer for the electronic motor to operate than it does with a traditional hand brake. (You just wasted a whole second of my life, man!) But Buick was smart to put one in anyway as I think consumers shopping for a premium sedan will see it as more luxurious than the typical hand- or foot-operated brake.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Buick Regal Turbo: Could Use a Rearview Camera

April 19, 2011


Last month Donna posted a video of outward visibility in our Buick Regal. I would say that rear visibility is not so great due to the Regal's sloped, coupe-like rear window. This is no big deal by itself -- the coupe-like roofline for sedans is a growing trend. But I'd personally appreciate having a rearview camera to complement or replace our CXL Turbo's rear parking sensors. With a camera, you can see what's behind you when in reverse, not just know "something" is back there.

A camera isn't offered currently for the Regal. But bundling it with the navigation system makes sense. Plus, most competing cars in the entry-level segment (Acura TL, Volvo S60, Lincoln MKZ, for instance) have cameras as options.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 4,040 miles

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Pop-Out USB Port

April 12, 2011


The devil is in the details in everything from carpentry to car design, and it's usually the little things that delight or bedevil the user over the long haul. While few drivers plug their iPods, iPhones and USB thumb drives (yes, we've listened to your suggestions on that last one) into as many cars as we do day in and day out, the simple yet ingenious design of the pop-out USB port and aux-in jack in the 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo deserve a shout-out.

In some cars, the USB port is buried deep in a center console, as in the 2010 Toyota Camry shown below at left. And you can't see how to plug it in while it swallows your whole hand. Or it's tucked in an inconvenient location on the dash, as in a Mini Clubman shown below at right. And with the kludgy sliding cover, you need two hands to plug in an iPod.

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2011 Buick Regal: FAV and Tire Pressures

April 11, 2011


I had our Regal over the weekend and remembered that there are a couple features that I really enjoy. Both aren't specific to the Regal and are actually pretty common for GM vehicles. But both really deserve a Facebook "Like This" button.

The first is the "favorites" setup of the audio preset buttons. No longer are radio stations confined to bands with six slots only. With favorites, you can mix and match FM, AM and satellite radio however you want. And when you use the up and down seek button on the steering wheel, you move through each favorites grouping; there's no need to push "FAV" after every six stations. Personally, I just find it more convenient, and I think it reduces driver distraction as well.

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: OnStar Hands-Free 1, Bluetooth 0

March 01, 2011


Over the weekend I had our 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo as my ride. I wanted to hook up my iPhone so I could make hands-free phone calls and just for giggles was going to see if I could figure it out on my own with no help from the owner's manual.

Turns out no I couldn't. I pressed the "Push To Talk" steering wheel button and asked for phone help. But then the Voice Recognition System "hung up" on me. Trying again I figured I'd ask to pair a phone, as other cars with similar Bluetooth systems have this as a standard request, but it didn't recognize that command. And asking for a list of commands didn't turn up anything having to do with phone help, pairing phones, etc.

So long story short, somehow I got to a menu where I could make a hands-free call via OnStar. Since I couldn't pair my phone via Bluetooth, I had to just ask the car to dial a number by reciting the phone number I wanted it to call. I was nervous about proceeding because I wasn't sure if I (read: Edmunds) would be charged extra for this. But in the name of research I went ahead.

The phone call went through but my friend whom I was calling was reluctant to take my call because she didn't recognize the number which started with "313." "Where the heck is '313,'" she asked. "Detroit, baby!" I replied.

Anyway, back at the office I cracked open the owner's manual to figure out how to pair my phone via Bluetooth. Turns out it doesn't involve the Voice Recognition System at all.

Here are the steps:
1. Press the "Config" button.
2. Select "Phone Settings."
3. Select "Bluetooth."
4. Select "Pair Device." A four-digit PIN appears on the display.
5. Start the pairing process on your phone. Locate the device named "General Motors" or "Your Vehicle" in the list and follow the instructions on your phone to enter the PIN.
6. Name the phone.
7. The system informs you that your phone has successfully been paired.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 1,972 miles

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2011 Buick Regal: Nonsensical Electronics Controls

February 25, 2011

Buick Regal Electronics Controls Wrong.jpg

The Regal's electronics interface is just wrong, period. This isn't a matter of preference. If someone would like to tell me that they prefer the Regal's absolutely nonsensical array of buttons, knobs and screen, they've apparently never used anything else.

Let's see if I can properly described its ridiculousness.

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2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Infotainment Overload

February 18, 2011

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I haven't been this daunted by prep materials since I studied for the SATs.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @1,029 miles

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