Take a visual trip with us down to Florida. Ignore the hot sun, sticky humidity, alligators, hurricanes, and all the other stuff that makes the state terrible, and focus on the retirees. What sort of car are they driving at 10 miles per hour below the speed limit? If you guessed a Buick, you would be right. We would have also accepted Cadillac and Toyota.
That’s the image that most people get when they think of the Buick brand. Grandparents above the age of 65 driving around in boats dressed up in the shape of a car with a suspension so soft and leather so plush that you could mistake it for a yacht. That is the exact reason why General Motors nearly went belly up.
The message coming from automotive enthusiasts finally sunk in to GM’s thick skulls and they presented us with the new Buick Regal, basically an Opel Insignia with a new badge. So, does this new sedan shake off the old image, or should we leave it at the retirement home when the test is complete?
Hit the jump to find out.
Buick and it’s owner, General Motors might not be a favorite among Americans after the whole bailout issue back in 2009. Maybe it just the wake-up call that the general needed, as the new Buick Regal is actually quite good.
We know many won’t want to hear that, as a car’s badge can mean more to some people than just about anything else and a Buick badge is about as cool as wearing a pocket protector or shorts that are so long they could be pants. GM must have realized this as the Regal was never intended to be a Buick, it was suppose to be a Saturn, but we all know what happened to that brand.
Like the LaCrosse, the Regal is a whole new approach to things for the old nameplate. The new Regal is a four-door, five-place sport sedan that can really only fit four, like most sport sedans.
Buick has aimed their crosshairs right at the Acura TSX, Volkswagen Passat, and Volvo S60. Let’s add the Mazda6, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and the upcoming Kia Optima as secondary targets, as they will most likely be.
The car that the Regal was based off of is actually a fantastic machine. The Opel Insignia won the 2009 European Car of the Year award, so it was definitely a great place to start. The Regal has certain features that would make the average Buick driver’s head explode, including a multi-function controller on the center console for audio, navigation, and Bluetooth devices. On the top of the line model, drivers get something called the Interactive Drive Control System, which will control how firm or soft the suspension should be.
The underpinnings of the Regal were designed with sportiness in mind, a word that was never uttered before at Buick after 1988. The platform uses high strength steel to tighten it up, which resulted in precise suspension and a quieter ride.
The exterior styling of the car is very European. The badge might have changed but the styling remained the same, not that it’s a bad thing, the Regal is a very handsome machine.
The gorgeous waterfall grille is the centerpiece of the front fascia that features swoopy headlights and a very aggressive long hood. The body flows from front to back better than anything else in the Buick lineup.
The trunk lid is short, but it’s covered cargo area that is quite large. In fact, the Regal has 14.25 cubic feet of space. That should enough for big bags of luggage and a few sets of golf clubs.
Inside the Regal, the layout is very stunning and miles better than anything Buick has created, with the exception of the new LaCrosse. In a way, if you take the LaCrosse and shoot it with a shrink ray, you would end up with the Regal.
The higher end models come with a command controller on the center stack that can control just about anything. Rotate the dial to your desired radio station, navigation destination, or Bluetooth function and then, work some hand motion voodoo to press the outside buttons to select whatever you desire. There is even another knob behind the first knob that does more crazy stuff. It’s a little confusing and, unless you really need these dials to impress your friends, it’s best just not to get them. It’s as if Buick looked at BMW’s old iDrive setup and said, we need to make this worse.
Seating inside the vehicle is stellar, as the European bucket seats hug you and support you like something you might find in the Lexus IS. Mashing the car around corners and cruising on bumpy roads never proved to be unbearable.
Seating in the rear of the car was decent as well. There isn’t that typical Buick room that could fit even the largest American bodies, but it should be plentiful for families. The Harman/Kardon audio system is wonderful and if you get the version with the navigation system, the system can store up to 10 gigabytes of music.
Powering this new Regal is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that delivers enough power to have a good time and decent fuel economy. But, let us come clean for a moment, we drove the Regal after taking laps in such cars as the Audi S4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and other performance machines, so we’re sorry if we seem underwhelmed by the Regal’s motor. The four banger produced 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque and that’s just fine for what most people will be doing with the car.
Step it up a notch and you can have the Regal with a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This motor creates an all-new sort of Regal, something that we would never expect out of such a docile company.
Both engines get a six-speed automatic transmission, but there will be a six-speed manual later in the year, which we are pumped for. Once it hits showrooms, we’ll certainly be there to give it a go.
We apologize for the boring stuff, but we feel every review needs to describe the suspension. The Regal gets modified MacPherson struts in front with tuned coil springs, and a stabilizer bar. In the rear is a four-link independent rear with a stabilizer bar. The Turbo model gets the previously mentioned IDCS system.
On the road, we were very impressed with the driving dynamics of the car. The handling was precise and quick, and the acceleration wasn’t insane, but it was good enough. The car was poised, planted, and very refined. The brakes were decent, but nothing special. We would imagine that the Turbo model would be a tad harder, but just as competent.
With the new Regal, Buick has come out to play in the 21st century. Sure, they still make big slabs of crap like the Lucerne, but with this model and the LaCrosse, GM’s semi-luxury division is proving that it can complete with Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti.
On the downside of things, the Regal didn’t provide us with anything that we haven’t seen before. The interior was good and well put together, but it was no better than cars of equal price. The engine was good, but not as quick as the Acura TSX. The styling is one of the upsides, as we really like the way it stands out.
With a few interior tweaks, such as that stupid rotating knob controller, and a few more dealers, Buick could have a real hit on their hands. If people are buying the Chevrolet Impala, it shouldn’t be hard to convince them to go check out the new 2010 Buick Regal.