More: Road & Track Magazine - First Look: 2011 Buick Regal (11/2009)Buick has produced Regals for nearly four decades, but the longevity of the nameplate is a double-edged sword. It might prompt memories of the turbocharged mid-1980s' Grand Nationals and GNXs for some, but others may flash on the velour-upholstered, softly sprung, vinyl-roofed boulevardiers of the late 1970s.
The 2011 Regal, however, revives the name with a fresh approach and a decidedly European execution. Sharing architecture with the Opel Insignia, the Regal will be offered initially with a 2.4-liter 182-bhp Ecotec 4-cylinder paired with a 6-speed Hydra-Matic. A few months after its mid-2010 introduction, a turbocharged 220-bhp 2.0-liter Ecotec version fitted with an Aisin 6-speed automatic will be available, and can be ordered with the Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) that offers driver-selectable damping (Normal, Tour and Sport settings) and also alters throttle response, shift aggressiveness and steering sensitivity.
At 190.2 in. overall, the new Regal is 6.0 in. shorter than the pushrod V-6-powered Regal last sold here in 2004, though its 107.8-in. wheelbase and trunk volume of 14.2 cu. ft. are more generous than those of a couple of marketplace rivals, the Acura TSX and Volvo S60.
While "frumpy" would be charitable in describing the 2004 Regal's styling, the 2011 version's sweeping silhouette and no-flab, toned contours look modern, set off with a suitably svelte waterfall grille and well-placed bits of chrome. The standard 18-in. wheels complete the look. Inside, forensics investigators might find traces of Cadillac DNA in the highly stylized center stack. Instruments have a bit of a sport watch feel, there's lots of blue LED theater lighting, and both the seat bolsters and the steering-wheel rim appear suitably thick. There's also a multi-function controller on the console for the infotainment system with all the (optional) high-tech perks...navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a Harman Kardon sound system with a 10-gig hard drive.
With the Opel Insignia holding the title of best-selling midsize sedan in Europe, Buick has a solid base to build upon. The division can only hope the feel-good sales juju makes its way across the Atlantic.