2011 Buick Regal CXL
2011 Buick Regal CXL. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos
Buick Regal earns Top Safety Pick award
DBDR: 2011 Buick Regal CXL
First Drive: 2011 Buick Regal
Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Buick Regal
GM unveils Regal show car
Buick unveils all-new Regal
Buick Regal will be Ontario-built

Manufacturer’s web site
General Motors Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 Buick Regal

The term “sport sedan” isn’t one to be taken lightly. The archetypal sport sedan, after all, is the BMW 3 Series; it, and many cars like it, combines a practical four-door body with a choice of terrific powertrains and performance, albeit at a price that might be out of range for many family sedan buyers.

In that sense, a sport sedan is something of an aspirational purchase. It’s a car you might have to wait for while you toil away behind the wheel of cars you tolerate rather than treasure.

Among the automakers trying to edge into the sport sedan segment is Buick. While you wouldn’t expect it, the full-size LaCrosse is a very respectable attempt to do so by a company better known for catering to the motoring needs of elders, not enthusiasts.

Round Two in Buick’s attempt to burn away that stodgy image is the mid-sized Regal, a resurrection of a name last seen in 2004, before it and its Century twin were displaced by the Allure (the first-generation LaCrosse in the United States). The Regal is ground-up new, based heavily on (and in terms of styling, differing little from) the Opel Insignia, built in Germany by GM’s European division. (Future Regals will be built in Oshawa, Ontario starting in early 2011.)

2011 Buick Regal CXL
2011 Buick Regal CXL
2011 Buick Regal CXL
2011 Buick Regal CXL
2011 Buick Regal CXL. Click image to enlarge

It seems like an easy win, right? Europe practically invented the sport sedan as we know it, so why shouldn’t a German-built car be one right out of the box? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

While the Opel Insignia is available with a range of engines, there are just two offered in the Regal. The highlight is a 2.0-litre Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in the CXL Turbo model, set to join the line-up this fall. The base engine, and the one in my CXL tester, is GM’s “other” Ecotec motor, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder making a more modest 182 hp and 172 lb-ft. The 2.4-litre motor comes standard with GM’s Hydra-Matic 6T45 six-speed automatic, while the turbo mill is paired with a six-speed manual and gets the Hydra-Matic as the upgrade.

The chassis is the most impressive aspect of the Regal’s on-road character. Here, its European roots show through with a firm-but-comfortable ride and handling that surprises given the Buick nameplate. Even in the relatively basic trim of my tester, the Regal corners eagerly, responding to the steering wheel with the kind of enthusiasm you’d never expect in any GM sedan short of a Cadillac CTS.

The Regal’s overall feel falls short of its European-branded competitors though; a Mercedes C-Class feels more solid over rough pavement, and the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 will out-handle it at the limit. For the casual driver who enjoys a spirited spin down a favourite two-lane highway or carrying a little more speed than usual through a freeway ramp, the Regal is a satisfying drive. Despite its comfortable ride, the Regal feels very well-planted at high speeds and is a terrific highway car. There are aspects that could be better, such as the overboosted steering, which will be a letdown for anyone who’s driven a decent European car, but brake feel is more impressive, with a firm pedal and confident stopping power. All of this is without the Turbo car’s available Interactive Drive Control system, which allows a choice of three modes that alter things like suspension and stability control settings, throttle response, steering sensitivity and transmission shift patterns.

Connect with Autos.ca