The new Buick Regal was brought over from Europe to solve some of GM’s big problems in the U.S. Buick has been falling in numbers and failing with marketing for years, and now that it’s one of the surviving brands of the “New GM”, Buick knows it’s got to get it right. In the European market, this car is known as the Opel Insignia. If you know European cars and Opel’s history with GM, you’ll know that the last generation Opel Insignia was brought over to our shores as the Saturn Aura. Before the purging of brands, this Buick Regal would have been yet another poorly marketed Saturn. Thankfully, someone in GM had some clarity to make this a Buick. The Opel was built to compete in Europe with the likes of Audi and BMW, sort of the same market that Buick needs to go after. When you see the Regal, sit in it, and drive it, you might think to yourself that this feels more like a German car than an American one. With good reason, as the U.S. version shares 95% of its overall parts with the Insignia. The 5% that differs consist of the headlights and taillights and other minor changes to meet American standards.
Buick is marketing the Regal as a “sports sedan” and bringing sportiness back to Buick. With its 220 horsepower 2.0 liter turbocharged engine, the Regal has a good claim to that title. Weighing in at 3,765 pounds makes it harder on the 220 hp motor. It’s not a “fast” car, but with its German tuned suspension and frame, throwing it into the corners can be an enjoyable process. The suspension is adjustable to your liking or needs of each particular moment. The Regal offers up sport suspension, touring suspension, or standard. These buttons are not there for looks and are not gimmick buttons. Push the sport button and it changes not just the stiffness of the suspension, but also the steering effort, shift pattern, throttle position, and traction control intervention. This is something that a sport sedan should have: comfortable when you want comfort and hard when you want hard, I liked it. The only complaints I’d have with the Regal in a “go fast” setting is that the steering still feels too loose under hard turning, I’d like it to be heavier and more consistent when in sport mode. The other is something that you can get out of Buick, but our test car wasn’t equipped with, which is a manual transmission. You would be surprised how much of a difference getting rid of an automatic gearbox can make in the acceleration of a car. The automatic fitted in this Regal did its job well and there is a manual sift mode, but no paddle shifters, but you get the inevitable lag when stomping your foot to the floor.
Inside the Regal is more of a mixed bag. I loved the seats as they were good quality leather and very comfortable on any journey. I even think that they are better than some Cadillac seats I’ve sat in over the more recent years. The steering wheel was wrapped in leather and comfortable on the hands whether you are cruising down the highway or driving enthusiastically on a back country road. Everything is layed out well, easy to find and read buttons, and a great gauge cluster and information center. The looks from the outside make the car look small and sporty, but the interior is roomy and comfortable. Almost everyone I gave a ride to during our test week with the Regal had the same comment. Even backseat passengers didn’t complain about legroom. Again, I do have a few gripes with the interior, but they are minor at best. The flat black, plastic material that makes up the center stack is a material I’m familiar with. Unfortunately, it gets dirty easily, is hard to clean, and scratches easily. The other thing I’ve noticed is when you do decide to drive on the enthusiastic side, the whole center console flexes and you can hear the plastics moving back and forth. This could become a wear and tear problem and create annoying noises in the future, but we’ll have to see for ourselves when we get our hands on a higher mileage Regal in the future.
I’ve had here and there gripes about the sportiness and interior quality of the Regal, I couldn’t find one thing to gripe about when it comes to exterior styling. The Insignia is a great looking car and has some features in the front that the Regal doesn’t have, but on par, this is a fantastic looking Buick. It’s sporty and lean looking, drastically different from the any previous Regal and most other GM products. That is a great thing.
Comparing the Regal to other cars was a fun process. Buick says that its main competitor is the Acura TSX. We took a quick drive in the TSX back to back with the Buick Regal at GM’s Main Street in Motion event. Around the small track the TSX felt more planted and stiff, but at the time we didn’t mess with the Regal’s sport suspension settings. Also the Regal seems much more comfortable in every day driving situations. The TSX is about the same price as the Regal, but the 4 cylinder engine is under on power from the Regal Turbo. To jump up in power you’ll need to get the TSX with a V6 and shell out another 6k.
The Regal will be offered with a V6 soon as well, maybe even a V6 turbo model down the line. It has been brought to my attention that the V6 will not be brought to the Buick Regal. The GS model, when and if it makes it, will have a higher output turbo 4 cylinder engine.
But that’s who Buick compares this car with. What about real world cross shopping? Obviously, you might be interested in the Regal if you are looking at an Audi A4 or BMW 3 series. You save about 10-grand when picking the Regal over its German rivals, but you’ll sacrifice a little more as well. But if you’re looking for that American nameplate, the Regal is where it’s at.
Other interesting observations that came up when looking at competitors were the Suzuki Kizashi and Hyundai Sonata. Both are a little cheaper when fully specked out. If you are looking for a sporty sedan, the Kizashi is a fantastic starting point and the interior quality is surprisingly good. The Sonata now comes in “turbo” trim as well, and has a fantastic interior for the price point of the car. I don’t know if it says more good about these other brands, but I don’t think it says anything bad about Buick as these are great cars to be compared with. Before I purchased my current car, I was cross-shopping some of these sporty, reasonably priced sedans. If I was still in the market, the Regal would move way up on my short list for sure.
Check out more pictures from txGarage of the Buick Regal Turbo HERE!