2011 Buick Regal
2011 Buick Regal. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Bob McHugh

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2011 Buick Regal

Kelowna, British Columbia – With a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a driver-selectable suspension system and a rigid Euro-tuned chassis, the new Buick Regal is a Buick like no other. The woody-wagon Buick that your family owned and loved back in the seventies is a distant spec of history in its rear-view mirror.

Development of this car started in Germany where GM’s globally led engineering team created the Opel Insignia: the 2009 European Car of the Year. The Insignia is currently the best-selling midsize sedan in Europe and it arrives in Canada as the Buick Regal.

A row of Buck Regal models awaited us on our noon arrival at the B.C. interior city of Kelowna, and the plan was for us to drive them (by a roundabout route) to Osoyoos in the southeastern part of B.C., and then back to Vancouver the next day.

2011 Buick Regal
2011 Buick Regal; photo by Russell Purcell
2011 Buick Regal; bottom photo by Russell Purcell. Click image to enlarge

Fred Dixon, Canadian Product Manager for the Buick Regal, explained that there are basically two types of premium vehicles: premium luxury and premium sporty. “We developed the LaCrosse as a premium luxury vehicle and with Regal we hope to compete on the other (sporty) side of premium,” said Dixon. “This Regal is nothing like the previous Regal, other than it shares the same name.”

It didn’t take very long, after leaving the Kelowna airport, for us to recognise and appreciate the taut attributes of the body platform that underpins the new Regal. It’s also complimented with a suspension that’s tuned to take advantage of the rigid chassis.

Although not a direct copy of the European Insignia, the turbo version of the Regal should not be ignored if looking at other front-drive premium vehicles like a Volvo S60 or an Acura TSX. The Regal has a longer wheelbase and a larger trunk than these two and notable features include a six-speed automatic transmission and a selectable driving mode option.

2011 Buick Regal
2011 Buick Regal
2011 Buick Regal
2011 Buick Regal; top and bottom photos by Russell Purcell. Click image to enlarge

Unfortunately, the turbo version of the Regal is not available until the fall, but dealers may get some early demos you can test drive. The turbo models we drove in B.C.’s Okanagan district were U.S. spec vehicles (speedometer in mph) and sourced from that country.

“What we need to do is get people to drive this car to really appreciate what we’ve done,” said Dixon. “Like every thing else it starts with a great car… and we think we’ve got one in the new Regal.”

The 2011 Regal is offered in premium CXL trim with two drivetrain options, and initial production will be sourced from Germany. Additional trim levels will be offered for the 2012 model year and its production will switch to Canada (Oshawa) next year.

The standard engine is an 2.4-litre direct injected Ecotec four-cylinder engine rated at 182 horsepower (136 kW) that comes with a six-speed automatic transmission – both American-made components. The transmission has a manual mode and it’s a combination that provides decent power and excellent highway fuel consumption, rated at 6.5 L/100 km.

For everyday use, this drivetrain does a decent job, but an eight-second-plus time to 100 km/h is not sport sedan territory; the gas pedal was pinned to floor during passing manoeuvres on the less travelled sections of our route.

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