Test Drive: 2012 Buick Regal eAssist luxury cars buick hybrids car test drives
2012 Buick Regal eAssist. Click image to enlarge

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Buick Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Buick Regal eAssist

All-new for 2011, and based on the European Opel Insignia, the midsize, front-wheel drive 2012 Buick Regal now offers a hybrid version called the Buick Regal eAssist. The eAssist technology is designed to complement Regal’s available direct-injected 2.4-litre, four-cylinder Ecotec engine, producing an estimated fuel consumption of 8.3/5.4 L/100 km, city/highway (without eAssist, the Ecotec engine returns an estimated 10.7/6.3 L/100 km, city/highway).

The hybrid system is described by Buick as “light electrification,” making the Regal eAssist similar in operation to mild hybrids like the Honda Civic in that it uses regenerative braking to charge a battery that powers an electric motor supplementing the gasoline engine. The eAssist sytem doesn’t permit the Regal to operate in fully electric mode, but does utilize start-stop technology at intersections. The package also includes improved underbody aerodynamics, 17-inch aluminum wheels and low-rolling resistance tires.

Test Drive: 2012 Buick Regal eAssist luxury cars buick hybrids car test drives
2012 Buick Regal eAssist. Click image to enlarge

The battery in the Buick Regal eAssist is a modern and comparatively light weight lithium-ion unit, and the eAssist powerplant is estimated by Buick to improve fuel efficiency by 20 per cent, while making up to 182 horsepower at 6,700 r.p.m., and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 r.p.m. A six-speed “next generation” automatic transmission that can provide some electric assistance at cruising speeds allowing the driver to accelerate lightly or ascend mild grades without the transmission downshifting is standard equipment.

The base price of the 2012 Buick Regal eAssist is $34,190, plus $1,495 freight/PDI (the “base” Regal starts at $29,940). Standard equipment includes leather appointed seats with driver and front passenger power adjustment, along with four-way power lumbar support. Additional standard features include “EZ” key passive entry with push-button start, driver information centre, universal home remote, dual-zone automatic climate control, windshield humidity sensor with auto defog, 120 volt power outlet, and ambient lighting.

Our test vehicle added an $1,885 preferred equipment group, $995 navigation system, $1,395 sunroof, $660 bi-xenon HID headlight package, $275 remote vehicle start option and outboard position rear side airbags for $415. Total price including the $100 federal air conditioning excise tax, but not including sales taxes, was $41,400.

Test Drive: 2012 Buick Regal eAssist luxury cars buick hybrids car test drives
2012 Buick Regal eAssist. Click image to enlarge

The Buick Regal is a radical departure from past Buick models. Now that Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn have gone from the General Motors line-up, Buick is being aimed at a younger demographic, with the Regal specifically billed as a performance-oriented sport sedan.

Engineered in Germany (but built in Oshawa, Ontario), the Regal’s sporty handling is immediately evident when underway. The suspension is firm without being harsh, and offers a very agreeable ride. Steering is responsive, and body roll is all-but absent when cornering. The car feels stable and composed in city driving and on the highway: very impressive.

Inside, the interior is pleasant but a little busy. There are chrome surfaces next to brushed aluminum surfaces next to gloss trim and contrasting stitching, and a centre stack with many buttons and controls that are hard to identify at a glance when driving. Fortunately, a “home” screen on the centre stack display nicely organizes most amenities; it can be operated by touch or a console-mounted rotary knob with redundant controls. The navigation system also helpfully shows its directions in a separate selectable display situated in the instrument panel.

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