Buick Regal CLX Review – A Sport-Sedan Regent

There it is, sitting low and wide in the parking lot in front of the NK’MIP desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos. From the rear and sides your casual glance would mistake it for a BMW 3 series; with graceful lines, a coupe-inspired silhouette belying four doors and purposeful stance. You’d be wrong of course, and that’s apparent the moment you come around front and are confronted with Buick’s instantly recognizable waterfall grill and badge… meet the new 2011 Buick Regal.

In reality the Regal isn’t new. This Buick had its start with the Epsilon II platform, a global, midsize, front-drive offering issuing from GM’s Opel operations in Russelsheim, Germany, in 2004.

The Insignia is well known too, it carries the credentials of being 2009’s European Car of the Year; an award judged by 59 automotive industry and journalist jurors from 23 countries across Europe. So don’t go around saying the Regal is a European inspired sedan, because for the time being it’s still made in Germany and there’ll be some lederhosen getting in a bunch.

The interior is well put together and appointed, easily matching that of the Hyundai Sonata or Acura TSX. It is quiet, 160 kph elicits only a quiet, reassuring whistle of air over the car’s skin. The central console features a symmetrically laid out confusion of flush-faced, soft-touch buttons.

Young people like buttons, they’re cool. At least the switch gear has a feel of quality and durability. Beyond that, the ergonomics are comfortable, embracing and carry just a hint of sporting to them, which has this new Regal feeling like an all round premium product.

In the back I was happy to find myself relatively comfortable and only suffering a hint of static-head from the head liner courtesy of the sloping down-swoop of that coupe-esque roofline. I’m a not insubstantial 6’2” so most passengers will be fine for headroom, and rear leg room is ample. Up front the seats are all day comfortable, supportive and well contoured. Again Buick is going the extra mile in the CLX trim with the driver’s seat being a 12-way adjustable seat, and passenger’s seat being 4-way adjustable number, both are complete with inflatable and adjustable lumbar supports. For the turbo version a bit more lateral support may be in order though.

That brings us to the main point of why a Buick is on a site that hasn’t been overly focused on practical, mid-sized, four doors.

The Buick handles like a European sports sedan.

Switch the Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) (adaptive suspension to the rest of us) to Sport mode and ride is firm yet compliant. In reality, there isn’t a need to switch, start tossing the Regal through the corners and the system with switch automatically yielding a lovely even stability when cornering. The dramatic pressing of the “sport” button does however serve notice to your passengers.

Barreling into the corner of a favourite country road (the Old Hedley) outside of Princeton, BC, I suffer a blond moment.

“This is miles per hour isn’t it?” The Regal CLX Turbo with the adaptive suspension isn’t yet available in Canada, so we were driving a US model, with US gauges.

“Yes,” responds our GM handler for the Turbo model.

“Ah, I was wondering why I was having to work to hit 100.”

Ease off the throttle, a dab of brake and touch of the wheel and the Regal turns in with poise and well modulated body roll and pitch as the 19-inch tires hold on with good lateral grip. Tromp the gas and the twin-scroll turbos respond without detectable lag, and the front wheel drive will issue a bit of torque steer. I’m not a high performance driver, but this is unexpected from the Buick mark…

A Buick has made me smile.

Even the core CLX model, when whipped up and down Anarchist Mountain outside Osoyoos, displayed the poise and stability for a few grins. Undoubtedly the currently available $31,990 CLX will meet the needs of most on the daily grind; the normally aspirated a 2.4-liter, 182 horsepower four cylinder producing 172 lb-ft. of torque and gets a fuel-efficiency rating of 10.8 L city / 6.5 L highway.

For the $3000.00 premium in Canada though, I’d have the $34,990 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine, which puts out 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. The additional power helps the Buick Regal reach towards its sport-sedan potential. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until fall for the turbo here in Canada, and while I’m at it I’ll hold out for the yet to be priced Interactive Drive Control too.

Both engine options are currently mated to a six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift option, and a six-speed manual transmission is on the way for those who like to stir things up. The auto is more definitive and spends less time hunting for the proper ratio with the Turbo model and the manual shift is a nice touch.

With all this talk of sport-sedan some reviewers have questioned if the Regal is really a Buick in keeping with the brands historic values and associations? As if making a break with a brand image normally associated with rental fleets, early-bird specials and tan pants worn at nipple level with suspenders is a bad thing?

No, it’s not a Buick of old.

This is a damn good car.

There were moments where I forgot what mark I was in and found myself hunting for paddle shifters bracketing the steering wheel. That’s a telling unconscious act that that drives home that Buick has hit the sport-sedan mark.

The only other additions I’d found myself wanting were keyless ignition with a nice start-stop button. That would give this Buick Regal a nice sense of sport-sedan ceremony fitting a regent.

Buick Regal CXL
– $31,990
– 2.4-litre ECOTEC inline four (182 hp/172 lb-ft)
– six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode
– combined fuel-efficiency rating of 8.8 L / 100 km
– 10.8 L city / 6.5 L highway

Buick Regal CXL Turbo
– $34,990
– 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine (220 hp / 258 lb-ft)
– six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode
– 19-inch wheels (price currently unavailable)
– Interactive Drive Control (price currently unavailable)

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