Like the proverbial kitty, there's more than one way to improve fuel economy. So far, the gasoline/electric hybrid has overshadowed alternative technologies but downsizing, not just car size and weight, but engine size, is another option. In lieu of its much-hyped Chevy Volt, General Motors has opted for the latter with its latest model, the 2011 Buick Regal.
For better or worse, many old nameplates did not survive the current phase of auto industry streamlining. The Regal has resurfaced, however, powered exclusively by a four-cylinder engine. Buick hopes that fond memories will bring sedan buyers, who still want an elegant ride but appreciate fuel savings, back to the brand
According to Covert Bastrop Chevrolet-Buick-GMC manager, Jay Winetroub, many loyalists have done just that. “We’ve received a great response to the new Regal. It’s brought back former customers who are happy to see midsize cars return to the lineup,” he says.
At a recent launch held in San Diego, the all-new four-door, midsize sedan looked in good form. Matching the rounded silhouette of contemporary Euro-styling (it was designed and is currently built in Germany) it lacks the signature Buick portholes. Still, the new Regal did grab some looks.
One advantage the Regal has over its European competitors, is its longer wheelbase and greater trunk volume, along with standard features, like a six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, OnStar, and better fuel economy.
A 2.4-liter Ecotec direct injected engine rated at an estimated 182 horsepower, powers the CXL while a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec rated at an estimated 220 horsepower comes out later this year. On the test drive, the turbo added a much appreciated oomph to the engine performance without sacrificing too much fuel economy. The regular four-cylinder should achieve an estimated 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg on the highway matched to the standard six-speed automatic transmission while the turbo should get 18 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. A six-speed manual will be available after the turbo introduction.
Buick reps at the launch claimed the Acura TSX and Volvo S60 as the sedan’s chief competitors but I’m going to add the Hyundai Sonata. Both the Regal and Sonata will be available exclusively as four-cylinder models in an effort to broaden fuel-efficient offerings.
In a calculated move, Buick begins the Regal re-introduction with its top-of-the line trim levels, the CXL (now) and Turbo (later this year). Mid-level and base models will appear in 2011. Buick marketing director Roger McCormack explained that the objective is to jump-start the Regal launch.
The mid-sized market is packed and as such, packaging (the car buyer’s bottom line) sets the competitors apart.
On the inside, the Regal signals that Buick still stands for accessible refinement and luxury. Creature comforts include leather seating with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an AM/FM/XM stereo, single disc CD and MP3 player. For added convenience, cruise control, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, a split-rear folding seat, and manual tilt/telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel are also standard.
Satin metallic, piano black and new, Kibo (a rich, dark, progressively grained wood) trim materials accent the car’s flowing interior. The overall feel inside the Regal is solid, elegant, and refined.
Standard safety features on the CXL include the latest-generation electronic stability control (ESC or StabiliTrak), the anti-lock braking system, traction control, OnStar onboard emergency and information system, dual-stage frontal air bags, side-curtain air bags, and pedal-release.
Pricing for the all-new 2011 Regal starts at $26,995 for the premium CXL model, including a $750 destination charge.
With a downsized engine for better fuel economy, the 2011 Regal gives Buick a competitive entry in a crowded segment.