The Truth About Cars » Regal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Regal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1986 Buick Somerset http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1986-buick-somerset/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1986-buick-somerset/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=864818 18 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAhhh, the Buick Somerset! One of my favorite obscure General Motors cars of the 1980s, right up there with the Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo and Buick Reatta. The Somerset started out in 1985 as the Somerset Regal, but then GM’s marketers must have become as confused as an octogenarian Buick shopper confronted in the showroom by this little coupe with thrashy four-banger and science-fiction radio pod, changing the name to just plain Somerset for 1986. Not easy to find, the Somerset, so I was happy to spot this one last winter in a Denver self-service yard.
06 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomerset buyers got this cool digital dash, which might have appealed to Japanese octogenarians but didn’t resonate so well with American ones who grew up with a more traditional sort of Buick coupe. No, I didn’t buy this cluster to add to my collection— I already have a Somerset digital cluster, pulled from another car that I found the week before photographing this one.
03 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWant to upgrade to an aftermarket radio in your Somerset? Not with this setup in place, you won’t!
04 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNobody has ever been able to explain what GM was thinking when they came up with this idea.
13 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnder the hood, the good old Iron Duke, the least luxurious engine available to General Motors at the time. The 3.0 liter Buick V6 was optional for the ’86 Somerset.
17 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one ran when crashed.

Give me the look. Give me the feel. Give me the magic. Give me the wheel.

Where better really matters.

02 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1986 Buick Somerset Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1996-buick-regal-olympic-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1996-buick-regal-olympic-edition/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=807738 01 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBuick sold some special-edition Centuries as part of their sponsorship deal with the 1984 US Olympic athletes, and we saw one of these cars in this series last year. The later Olympic Edition Buicks are harder to find; there are still some ’88s around, but this is the first ’96 I can recall seeing anywhere. Let us admire its athletic grace.
11 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA perfectly competent front-drive Detroit sedan, but it didn’t sell to many buyers born after 1920.

The advertising for this generation of Regal talked big about “European styling” and “Camry beating.”

The subsequent generation of Olympic Regals got a bit of star power in its ads.
04 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe textured-velour Olympic-logo headrests didn’t change much between 1984 and 1996.
10 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old Buick V6, which soldiered on (in the Lucerne) until the 2009 model year. By 1996, this engine was much smoother than its ancestors.

01 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Edition Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Piston Slap: Why dented roof, Regal? BECAUSE S.L.A.B. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-why-dented-roof-regal-because-s-l-a-b/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-why-dented-roof-regal-because-s-l-a-b/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2013 10:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483212

Ed writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Recently my GF and I became the owners of a 1999 Buick Regal with about 225k miles on it. We weren’t in the market for a Buick, but when a limb dropped on its roof from a dead tree was combined with a higher deductible and a desire to keep the claim off our homeowners policy, the natural thing to do was buy the dented car for the $2500 asking price. Now our question is what is the best way to get most of our money back from this “investment”?

A roof panel goes for 125-200 from the yards near me. I could cut out the old dented one, and set up the replacement to be welded in. I’ll be in it for the rear window, replacement panel, something for the welding and something to get it painted. I’m guessing $750ish, which doesn’t seem worth it. Now on the other hand, I could bang out the roof so its straight enough to get a rear window in there and buy some white vinyl and make a half vinyl top for it and try to get what I can for it. I’ll probably only be in it for an additional $300 max I think and would ask 2k or best. Or I could just cut my losses and take the $4-500 from a scrapper for it. Its got a 3.8 and still runs good. Whats the correct solution here?

Sajeev answers:

Quick answer: I’d fix the dent decently enough for a new rear window/headliner and go the full padded roof route instead. No half-vinyl tops on sedans without significant B-pillar trimming to make it work! (1980s Panthers, for example). Depending on where you live (i.e. the American South, anywhere with old people, etc) there’s a decent market for old school Buicks with even more old school styling. I’m talkin’ the moden NeoClassic, FWD General Motors’ family sedans dressed up like Super Fly’s sweet, sweet ride.

I’m talking 84s; SWANGAS on SLABs…son!

And, in the case of a white Regal with a gray(?) interior, make the roof material a contrasting color: dark blue, maroon…or money green if you got the balls of a baller. I see red and blue actually improving resale.

Ed replies:

Thanks for the quick reply, going with a colored top is a great recommendation. (No shit, really? Wow! – SM) I see a dark blue or dark maroon cloth instead of vinyl. It will probably cost a little less, they have some outdoor fabric at the fabric store, and the sewing machine we have will be able to handle it. I can put a couple of seams in there and make it all fancy :). I’m in RI, we have a good helping of older folks and urban folks that might like an older Buick. There are one or two other minor things to do, but the car runs strong. Just driving it around the block the pickup was enough to make me pop the hood and check for a blower, no super charger, just the NA 200hp there. The other good news is rear windows are $45 per car-part.com. If I can get this done for $125, that’ll be a victory in itself.

Any idea or links what/where to get foam padding? I’m thinking just some Home Depot insulating foam sheets if its thin enough, but I haven’t looked yet.

Sajeev concludes:

You are on the right track! I don’t know a good way to trim the material around the end of the C-pillar and base of the A-pillar, so I’m curious to see your solution! The aftermarket tops (installed by dealerships, or their sub-contracted accessory outfitter) have a custom metal trim with big, shiny screws to mount to the sheet metal, but maybe you can fab that up too.

Padding?  See what’s used in outdoorsy camping equipment, find that raw material at a fabric shop.  Even better, a fabric shop that sells Marine grade fabrics.  If all else fails, perhaps some sort of high density, high-grade packing foam will do?  You just want to make sure the stuff won’t turn into dust after a few years of heat cycling.

You have a real opportunity here: turning an American hooptie ready for the scrapper into a proper American Icon for a subculture that both creates and demands respect.  Be it for old people or, uh, young people.  We all like the same shit…and if you pick up a set of chrome rims for cheap, you’ll definitely remember the time you made lemonade out of a serious Lemon. That’s a seriously worthwhile memory.

Any way you dig this one: respect to you.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: 100,000 Mile Tune Ups, Dex-Cool, Grandma’s S.L.A.B. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/piston-slap-100000-mile-tune-ups-dex-cool-grandmas-s-l-a-b/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/piston-slap-100000-mile-tune-ups-dex-cool-grandmas-s-l-a-b/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2013 12:52:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477112 Justin writes:

Sajeev,

I have a 2001 Buick Regal LS. I bought it in 2007 with 14,000 miles on (yes, from a grandmother). It has 72,000 miles on it as of this morning. It’s not a great car and has required plenty of maintenance (for example, I’ve had to replace the brakes completely 3 times already). However, I have a few questions about long term items:

1. Spark plugs. Should I change them? The owner’s manual specifies 100,000 miles; does time play a factor in that at all? I’ve read that sometimes the back 3 never get changed anyway (apparently it’s a PITA).

2. Coolant. I had it changed once in 2008 (it’s Dexcool) because I had been reading the horror stories. How often should I be changing this?

I’m unsure how long this car is going to last, but I’ll keep limping it along until the cost gets too high. So cost is a factor here too.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

As you learned, buying a low mile original car isn’t necessarily a great idea. Unless you buy it for an occasional, collector type of vehicle. (*cough* H-town swanga *cough*) Though a 6-year-old car with low miles doesn’t exactly fit this definition: you replaced the brakes three times in the past 58,000 miles?  Whaaaa?

 

Either you got screwed by a mechanic or you are a seriously aggressive driver that needs elbows and vogues to slow yourself down.  Perhaps you should take a page from the Houston playbook, and keep that GM sedan Slow Loud And Bangin’.  But I digress…

  • Spark plugs: the 100,000 mile tune-up interval has been proven valid for every car I’ve seen, mostly because platinum plugs are that great. There’s a chance that age hasn’t been kind to the ceramic part of the plugs, but if the car idles smooth when cold, gets good mileage, decent power, no check engine light, etc…don’t worry about it.
  • Previously discussed here, here and here, Dex-Cool is a bizarre case where you can either flush it out (entirely, no margin for error) and switch to another type of coolant, or continue topping off with a Dex-cool compatible coolant, or you can continue to use Dex-Cool and service it as per the owner’s manual.  If you choose the latter, I’d service a little more regularly than suggested…out of fear of the Dex-Cool devil that comes from neglect.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

 

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Review: 2011 Buick Regal Turbo Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo-take-two/#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2011 20:26:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389180

Sometimes love strikes at first sight. Other times it emerges more gradually over months or even years. When I first drove the new Buick Regal nearly a year ago, I found a fair amount to like, but love didn’t instantly happen. The Regal just isn’t that kind of car. Its strengths are subtle. Perhaps if we spent a week together, and a turbo was added to the mix?

Ours being an open relationship, I also played the field, driving an Acura TSX V6, Chrysler 200 Limited, and Volvo S60 T5 to better evaluate how the Buick measured up. Those reviews will follow. First, the Regal CXL Turbo.

The Regal isn’t as flashy a dresser as the half-size-larger Buick LaCrosse, but it will likely wear better over time. Over the course of the week the car looked better and better to me. The proportions are outstanding for a front-driver, with the ends of the car pulled tight to minimize their perceived mass. In a clear sign of Lutz’s involvement, the fenders swell out deliciously to barely contain the optional 19-inch wheels. Inspired by the 1998-2004 Audi A6, but further refined. Current Audis, with more kinks in their curves, appear stodgy in comparison. I took many photos in an attempt to do the Regal justice, but failed. Its complex surfacing simply cannot be captured in two dimensions. One exterior flaw that can be remedied easily: there’s far too much badging on the trunk. Does any owner really want to broadcast that their car can burn E85?

The Regal’s interior similarly grew more attractive over the course of the week. Though less overtly styled than the interiors in the Acura and Volvo, there’s beauty in the details. Look closely and, like its exterior, the Buick’s interior is filled with curves. These flow together so harmoniously and are so tastefully highlighted with piano black and lustrous metallic trim that no element draws attention to itself. (Okay, the chrome trim plate surrounding the shifter does, but without a few pieces of jewelry the interior would be too dark.) At night, ice blue lighting proves both attractive and easy on the eyes.

When I first drove the Regal I reported that its interior materials didn’t quite measure up to those in an Audi or Acura. Perhaps I was thinking of past Audis and Acuras. The interiors of the current A4 and TSX—and of the new Volvo S60, for that matter—seem plasticky compared to that in the Regal. Within the Buick most surfaces are soft to the touch and even those that aren’t have a reassuringly solid feel. The door pulls—historically a GM weakness—deserve special note. Tug on them and they don’t budge a bit. Yet they also have a soft-touch inner surface. Regal production is shifting from Germany to Canada. Hopefully these materials survived the move.

Ergonomics are much better than in the LaCrosse, with the shifter properly located and the many knobs and buttons all within reach. But there are so many knobs and buttons, unconventionally arranged (for North America, at least), that even basic operations require considerable hunting at first. By the end of the week I’d figured out how to perform most functions. Perhaps after a year the location of audio controls on the steering wheel, the center stack, AND the center console would start to become intuitive? Even the tach is a bit of a bother; since like that in some VWs it’s numbered in hundreds rather than thousands, making it easy to confuse at a glance with the speedometer. As is often the case, the gear indicator is mounted low in the instruments, where it’s not possible to read at a glance. (I was spoiled the previous week by the head-up display in a GMC Acadia.) Thankfully the driving position requires no such acclimation. Compared to the styling-uber-alles LaCrosse, the Regal has a lower, shallower instrument panel and thinner, more upright pillars.

Then there are the seats. Because the headrests jut far forward, it took me a few days to find a position that wasn’t downright uncomfortable (for me; your neck might be less vertical). Supposedly this torture is required for safety, but both Acura and Volvo earn equally good rear crash protection scores with much less intrusive headrests. The problem: GM isn’t willing to fit its cars with active head restraints that move forward in the event of a rear impact. Even excluding this factor, the Regal’s seatbacks lack contour and their bolsters are too widely spaced. They have four-way power lumbar, vs. the two-way manual lumbar in the Acura and Volvo, but the seats in these competitors are nevertheless both more cosseting when cruising and more supportive when the road turns twisty. Of the Regal’s shortcomings, these seats would be the largest impediment to a satisfying long-term relationship. I might eventually learn to live with them, but it would be a struggle.

The Regal is, in the GM fashion, a few inches longer than its closest competitors, and this pays some dividends in rear seat legroom. Even so, the rear seat isn’t a comfortable place for adults. Knee room, though relatively plentiful, is still limited and the cushion is too low to the floor—the price of the arching roofline. Adding insult to injury, rear seat passengers don’t get lustrous metallic trim on their door pulls—to save a few dollars? But they do get rear air vents and an AC outlet (which will only work with a three-prong plug.) The trunk is a little larger than most, and the rear seatbacks fold to expand it.

I first drove the Regal with a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and found this engine adequate. Over the course of a week with the optional 220-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four I found it…also adequate, only more so. Tipping a friendly scale at 3,671 pounds, the Regal Turbo weighs hundreds of pounds more than most competitors. Consequently, the turbocharged engine merely achieves parity with the base engines in the Acura TSX, Audi A4, and Volvo S60. (And the much less expensive Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, for that matter.)

Why did GM opt to offer the 220-horsepower four as an option? Virtually everyone else offers base engines that are a little less powerful along with optional engines that are much more powerful. To more effectively compete with the latter the 2012 Regal will also be available with a 255-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter turbo. But this will still be 20-40 horsepower short of parity when the Regal needs a stronger engine to compensate for its additional poundage.

In terms of refinement, the Regal Turbo’s engine is better behaved than previous GM fours, but idles less smoothly and quietly than the best and makes pedestrian four-cylinder noises when revved. Casual drivers will notice little amiss—aside from a very faint occasional whistle the boosted nature of the engine isn’t evident—but there’s also nothing here to thrill. The soulful sixes offered in the Acura and Volvo are in entirely different league. These sixes also feel much stronger when starting off from a dead stop, where the normally lag-free Buick engine sometimes hesitates for a moment.

Fuel economy is rated 18 city / 28 highway by the EPA. Competitors usually do a few MPG better, especially in the city. An Audi A4 2.0T, which weighs about 270 pounds less: 22/ 30. Even in turbocharged six-cylinder all-wheel-drive form the Volvo S60 manages 18 / 26. The even heftier Cadillac CTS with the 3.6-liter V6: 18/ 27. So the fuel economy benefits of the four-cylinder turbo are not evident. In casual suburban driving I observed about 22.5 in the Regal.

The chassis is easier to admire, even if love still proves elusive. Going down the road the Regal feels unusually solid and well-mannered for a non-German car. Except it is a German car. Or was until it moved to Canada. The ride-handling balance is about the best you’ll find in a nose-heavy front-driver. The ultra-low-profile 245/40WR19 tires audibly clomp over road imperfections, but despite the absence of any sidewalls to speak of the ride remains smooth and steady on all but the worst roads. The Acura and Volvo aren’t as composed. There’s some lean in turns, but no more than in other sedans without hardcore performance ambitions.

Understeer? With nearly sixty-percent of the Regal’s many pounds on its front tires, of course it understeers. But the situation is more complicated than it initially appears. The Regal’s overly light steering has a relaxed feel to it, and when the wheel is first turned the car’s nose seems somewhat reluctant to follow. But override this feedback and tweak the wheel another twenty-or-so degrees, and the front tires mysteriously hook up and carve a tight line. Once you know this hidden capability is there, it’s easy to exploit. But it might never become intuitive. If and when the stability control intervenes it does so very effectively and relatively transparently. The systems in the Acura and especially in the Volvo are much more intrusive.

The Regal’s top option packages pair the 19-inch-wheels (a big aesthetic improvement) with adjustable shocks. Prominent “Sport” and “Tour” buttons respectively firm up or relax these shocks along with the steering and the throttle. At least they’re supposed to. Even after a week to familiarize myself with the car I could not tell the difference between the default setting and “Sport.” The latter might make the ride a little more abrupt, but handling is not perceptibly affected. Supposedly the system adapts to your driving style, so it might simply have defaulted to something near “Sport” for me. In “Tour” the steering felt a little more vague and the suspension felt a little less tied down, but the differences are again so small that I doubt I could reliably distinguish them in a blind test. So, are the trick shocks a waste? Not for anyone who cares about driving. They simply do such a good job left to themselves, that they should simply be left to themselves.

The steering is another matter. A much more significant difference between modes, as in Audi’s latest “Drive Select” packages, would be better than the current system. But an excellently tuned, single-mode system would be best of all.

The price: $35,185 with all the toys. Adjust for feature differences (like the trick shocks) using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and a similarly-equipped four-cylinder Acura TSX is a few hundred less. The two cars are very similarly priced. This puts the Regal about $5,000 over the much more powerful Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T (about $2,800 after the feature adjustment) but about $7,000 under an Audi A4 2.0T.

Buick would of course prefer that you focus on the latter comparison, and they’d have justification for this. As suggested by its highly refined styling and hefty curb weight, the Regal was designed and engineered well beyond normal $25,000 car standards—which might explain why it starts at $27,000 and ends up at $35,000 when fully loaded. Want the basic car and the performance bits, but need a lower price? Cutting the nav would save $2,000 and cutting the sunroof would shave another grand.

Ultimately, even when turbocharged and fitted with the industry’s quickest-reacting shocks the Buick Regal simply isn’t a driver’s car. Instead, it’s a solid, exceedingly well-behaved machine that, if it proves reliable, I’d readily recommend to casual drivers without overly vertical necks. Driving it for a week, I came to admire the Regal’s subtle strengths. Perhaps given a year or two of commutes this admiration might turn to love. Prefer to fall in love more quickly? Perhaps the upcoming Regal GS with its more aggressively boosted engine will do the trick.

Press Car, insurance and one tank of gas provided by GM.

An earlier Regal Turbo was provided by Dick Johnson of Lunghamer Buick in Waterford, MI (248-461-1037).

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Regal front seats Regal IP 3 Regal engine Regal and A4 rear quarter Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Feeling regal? Regal rear seat Regal and A4 side Regal turbo Black Regal side Black Regal rear quarter Regal front quarter Regal and A4 front Black Regal front quarter Regal trunk Regal rear quarter Regal IP from side Regal rear Regal and A4 front quarter Regal front Black Regal rear quarter 2 Regal IP Regal IP 2 ]]>
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Review: 2011 Buick Regal Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-2011-buick-regal-turbo/#comments Wed, 26 May 2010 21:20:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=357310
Taut. Trim. Modern. Sporty. Developed in Germany. Aimed at youthful enthusiasts. Stop me when it starts sounding like I’m describing a Buick.

Since the launch of the Enclave in 2007, Buick has repeatedly touted a decline in average buyer age that still has yet to push the brand’s demographics into the fat sections of America’s population pyramid. Though the year-old LaCrosse appears to be helping Buick’s central PR narrative, even it is, at best, not your grandfather’s Buick. Despite a brand heritage based on a traditional, suburban American image whose fading appeal is evidenced in Buick’s pre-Enclave demographics, the long-term health of GM’s entry-luxury (or “premium,” to use GM-speak) marque depends on continued progress away from the “blue hair” image it has so richly earned over the past several decades.

It should come as no surprise then, that the 2011 Regal is the most substantive break from Buick’s past to date. And no wonder: born in Germany as the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, the Regal is as traditionally American as a Kraftwerk album. In Europe, the Insignia is sold as fashion-forward competitor in the mass-market, midsized segment. In the context of a Buick that still offers a taste of the geriatric image it’s desperate to escape in the G-Body Lucerne, the Regal is unapologetically marketed as a sports sedan. And until a recently-approved high-performance GS version arrives, the 220 horsepower Turbo version is the bellwether for both the Regal’s sporting pretensions and Buick’s desire to attract a new kind of buyer.

The decision to launch the Regal on 200 miles of twisting road east of San Diego, California is testament to just how much Buick believes in the Regal’s sporting credentials. And this was no mirror-smooth, touring course either. Tight hairpins, deep compressions, nasty potholes and impossibly narrow, rough roads left the Regal no opportunity to fake the funk. Nausea-control armbands left in each Regal’s center console weren’t just for show either: several of Buick’s reps were looking decidedly green around the gills at the stops between driving stages.

And no wonder. The Regal Turbo we tested proved not only to be the best-handling Buick ever (damning with faint praise, to be sure), but also an accomplished athlete by any reasonable comparison. The Regal Turbo is by far the most enthusiast-oriented application of GM’s Epsilon II platform to date, and was, throughout the test, a poised and willing dance partner. The front-drive chassis provided considerable grip through fast sweepers, performed sharp direction changes with aplomb and carried its 3,600 pound claimed curb weight with unexpected grace. And though a far cry from the squishy, all-day touring comfort that previously defined Buick chassis and suspension setups, it never felt overly harsh or hard-core. Even fitted with optional 19 inch wheels (reminiscent of the Jaguar XF’s), the ride remained impressively smooth.

Of course, on the kind of roads that one finds in the hill country east of San Diego, a well-settled chassis alone isn’t enough to deliver true enthusiast performance. The loaded Turbo model we drove was equipped with an active damping system that will be optional on Turbo models when they arrive at dealer lots later this year. With this option comes the choice of three modes, Normal, Touring and Sport, selectable with buttons on the instrument panel. According to the engineers responsible for developing the Regal Turbo, the car itself will even choose between the different modes based on its analysis of real-time telemetric data.

With Sport mode engaged, the difference in suspension, steering and drivetrain settings were immediately noticeable, and is clearly responsible for many of the superlatives in this review. Because Sport mode is self-activating, however, it’s hard to say how a Turbo model without active damping would perform, and its advantages are based on an imperfect comparison to the 2.4 liter, normally-aspirated base Regal with 18 inch rims.

But even with the performance-enhancing wheel and active suspension upgrades, the Regal Turbo we drove was not a perfect athlete. The impressively-fettled chassis, and firm, flattering suspension were consistently let down by a hydraulic-assist steering setup that failed to live up to the Regal’s promise of sports sedan performance. From the moment I slid behind the wheel, it felt almost comically disconnected from the wheels, and driving through downtown San Diego in Touring mode, my concern with the super-light, feedback-free, and vague on-center feel through the Regal’s helm only grew. Based on the number of fellow testers who waggled their wheels in curiosity on the way out of town, like Formula 1 drivers breaking in their tires on a warm-up lap, I wasn’t the only one who took notice.

And sure enough, as soon as the drive’s first leg got into the curvy stuff, the steering came into focus as the weakest link in the enthusiastic driving equation. The vagueness on-center, which was mitigated (but not removed) by pressing the Sport button, robbed the Regal’s driver of confidence when diving into an apex, while the overboosted lightness prevented a steady flow of communication between the road and the driver. As a result, it was extremely difficult to feel out the limits of the Regal’s capability, and one couldn’t help but get the impression that an otherwise capable chassis was going underexploited. Moreover, it limited the Regal’s ability to flatter the driver, an key consideration for an entry sports sedan.

These steering feel complaints are popular whipping boys for road testers, but I wasn’t the only one left cold by the Turbo’s aloof tiller. Halfway through the test, Vehicle Line Engineer Jim Federico admitted that our Turbos fell short on steering weight and feel. He insisted that he understood the need to improve the steering heft on Turbo models, and promised that this would be “dialed in” by the time Turbos hit dealerships later this year. Federico is clearly an engineer who takes his job seriously, but we’re bound by the Great Communicator’s principle of trust but verify on this count.

In contrast to its steering, the Regal’s two-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged Ecotec engine is extremely well-suited to this application. Making 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the direct-injection engine provides plenty of usable power. Buick’s reps were quick to point out that the Regal Turbo offered comparable torque to the Acura TSX V6 (which makes 254 lb-ft), despite coming up a good 60 horsepower short of its arch-rival. And despite the many on-paper similarities between these two cars, this comparison offers a keen insight into the Regal’s soul.

The turbocharged Ecotec is not a rev-happy screamer, preferring to focus on mid-range power, and offering surprisingly refined performance. A subtle but unmistakable turbo whistle greets the driver under acceleration, before being drowned out by a restrained, though less-than-entirely-musical note as the engine charges up the rev counter. The results are certainly effective, feeling at least the claimed second faster to 60 MPH than its normally-aspirated cousin, and in non-enthusiast driving it’s smooth, refined and quiet.

As an enthusiast-oriented engine, however, it could stand to offer more in the way of soul. In fact, the lack of rev-rewards almost make the wait for manual transmission versions (coming in Q4 of this year) a non-event. Almost. Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic also takes away slightly from the Regal’s dancing abilities. Letting off the throttle and brushing the brakes on the entrance to a corner almost always leaves the slushbox in a higher gear than the exit requires. Truly spirited driving requires almost constant contact with the gas pedal, and early, subtle throttle inputs to keep the transmission from confusing itself coming out of a tight bend (the transmission offers a “manual” mode which helps in this regard, but not paddle shifters which are even available on the Malibu). Luckily, the chassis can take corners at a high enough speed to allow earlier gassing than you might expect, but tight hairpins can take some wind out of the Turbo’s progress and stringing fast corners together takes some planning. Again, it  wouldn’t be at all fair to call the Regal “unsporty” on this count, but it also doesn’t flatter the driver the way a true enthusiast’s sedan can.

But there I go again, criticizing a Buick for failing to live up to “true enthusiast” standards. In the real world the Regal Turbo is not only more than capable of entertaining anyone currently considering a front-drive, four-door sedan, it also offers an experience that jives surprisingly well with my concept of what a Buick should be. The smooth, quiet powerplant is complimented by a an impressively quiet cabin, which in turn compliments the chassis’s well-moderated balance between ride and handling. The exterior styling, though an undeniable break from Buick’s heritage of ventiports and sweep-spear lines, is handsome and well-detailed but subtle nearly (although not quite) to the point of anonymity. How Buick is that?

Similarly, the interior is well-appointed with surprisingly high-quality materials, and more importantly, surprisingly few low-quality materials. The interior’s Teutonic simplicity is a refreshing (if somber) break from the often overwrought interior designs that have emerged from GM in recent years. Unfortunately, it does suffer similarly from GM’s propensity for IP button overpopulation. The only real letdowns: an all-too familiar steering wheel from GM’s corporate parts bin, and seats that, though comfortable, offer little meaningful side-bolstering for the sub-200 pound driver. This last point is yet another quibble with the Regal’s sporting pretensions, and a possible clue to the nausea that afflicted several Buick reps on the test drive, as the chassis also outclasses the seat’s ability to hold the driver in place during spirited driving.

Is the Regal Turbo a “real” Buick? That’s a debate that will likely rage on until the folks who can still remember a glory year for the brand have died off. It’s certainly different, but with a crossover already in its lineup and compact sedans and MPVs on the way, Buick’s managers aren’t letting fear of the unknown stop them now. And with this less-visceral, more refined alternative to front-drive sports sedans (notably the TSX), they certainly could have taken a less-Buick-like step into the unknown. But whether it will continue the sales momentum that the LaCrosse has undeniably built up over the last year still remains very much to be seen.

On paper, the Regal Turbo’s just-under $30k price point puts it in competition with the base, four-cylinder TSX while offering power closer to the $35k TSX V6. But what exactly the loaded Turbo I drove, with navigation, active suspension damping, 19 inch wheels and more will end up costing is an open question as GM has not yet released full Turbo pricing. And with Federico’s last-minute steering tweaks and a manual transmission as yet untested, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Regal’s sporting capabilities… let alone any sporty Buick’s youthful-customer-attracting capabilities.

General Motors offered to fly me to San Diego and put me up in some swanky digs for this launch event. I turned down this kind offer, but over the course of the event I did receive three delicious meals, a 2 GB Buick-branded USB drive (which I instantly lost), and two small pies (one stop on the test drive was a pie shop) which I was afraid to take on the airplane, and gave to a friend.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Six Of One, Half Dozen Of The Other Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other-edition/#comments Sun, 28 Mar 2010 20:06:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350593

Buick’s LaCrosse is dropping its little-loved 3.0 V6 base engine in favor GM’s direct-injected 2.4 liter four-banger, probably so it can use the magic term “3o MPG highway” in forthcoming marketing. The downsides? You mean, besides having to move over 4,000 lbs with a 182 hp, 172 lb-ft engine (compared to the 3.0′s 255 hp, 217 lb-ft)? How about the fact that it brings the LaCrosse even closer to the forthcoming Regal? Buicks have long suffered from the fact that consumers see them as “Buicks,” rather than distinctive models, and cramped positioning like this is the reason why. But hey, someone’s got to make up for lost Pontiac volume at the Buick-GMC dealerships, so why not sell two cars on the same platform, starting at the same price point? Meanwhile, the Regal Turbo will not be available until the fourth quarter, and Regals with navigation won’t start to be built until the end of April. Buick’s sales are improving, but it’s still suffering from a number of very familiar Old GM symptoms.

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Buick Regal GS: The Detuned Image Changer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/buick-regal-gs-the-detuned-image-changer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/buick-regal-gs-the-detuned-image-changer/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2010 16:44:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341160 I guess those GS'essess was ambidexterous!

Buick has announced that it’s bringing a high(er)-performance GS version of its Opel Insignia-based Buick Regal to the Detroit Auto Show, and later, to the US market. And for once we’re left wishing we were getting a rebadge. After all, for the first several years of US sales, Insignias will be imported from Germany, meaning GM could easily have brought the thoroughly mad Insignia VXR/OPC as a quick-and-dirty (if not cheap) rebadge. After all, the point of the Regal (and especially the GS) is that “we’re trying to rebuild the performance credentials that Buick once held,” as GM reps put it. The European OPC/VXR version gets a 325 HP version of the turbocharged V6 found in the SRX and Saab TurboX, while the GS gets only a 255 hp version of the 2.0 Turbo found in the Solstice GXP. That engine can reportedly be tuned to an easy 310 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, making the “base” Regal CXL with the 220 hp 2.0T engine a much smarter buy. Unless the idea of tuning a Buick is simply more cognitive dissonance than you can handle. Otherwise, the only thing the GS really brings to the table is AWD and a bodykit with more front-end venting than the United States Senate. Still, if you’re young enough to not get a discount at Denny’s and you have to own a Buick, the Regal is the way to go… especially once an enterprising tuner starts offering Opel badging and grilles in the US market.

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How To Talk About A Rebadge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/how-to-talk-about-a-rebadge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/how-to-talk-about-a-rebadge/#comments Thu, 12 Nov 2009 22:45:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=335195

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Buick Regal Announced http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/buick-regal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/buick-regal/#comments Thu, 12 Nov 2009 01:11:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=335049

The American version of a Chinese rebadge of a German sedan to be built in Canada will be available at your local Buick dealer starting in the second quarter of next year. According to GM’s presser, the new Regal will initially be offered with the direct-injected 2.4 Ecotec, making 182 hp. Which, you gotta say, doesn’t sound like luxury-level motivation for a 3,600 lb car. A 2.0 turbocharged version with 220 horsepower will be offered later next summer. There will be no manual transmission option (both get 6-speed autos), and in a weird turn towards the Acura side of life, only one trim level (CXL) will be available. Accordingly, the 2009 Acura TSX and Volvo S60 are shown as competitors, although the 2.4l Buick comes up short of both in standard horsepower and rear headroom. In the real world though, GM picked some pretty safe competition: the S60 sold under 9,000 units in 2008 while the TSX sold just under 32,000 units. The Regal competition that Buick should really be worried about is its slightly-larger, more-optionable Epsilon II platform-mate, the LaCrosse.

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