By Steven Cole Smith, Tribune Newspapers
April 1, 2010
" Buick Is Back!" shouts the cover of Motor Trend magazine, the first time since 1982 the enthusiast publication has featured a Buick on the cover.
Of course, there are plenty of people who would suggest Buick never left. Especially citizens of China, where Buick is overwhelmingly the most popular General Motors brand.
But let's face it: In the U.S., Buick's demographics are the oldest of any major car brand. With the demise of Pontiac and Saturn, GM is looking to get a few younger buyers interested in their products.
And, as the slightly hyperbolic Motor Trend suggests, the 2011 Buick Regal may be the best chance for that. About an inch longer and wider than the Toyota Camry, the Regal is an alternative to the popular Camry/Honda Accord/Nissan Altima trio. But it's aimed slightly more upscale, in content and price. It should be available by May.
The Regal is essentially an Americanized version of the Opel Insignia, and the first Regals sold in the U.S. will be built in the Opel plant in Russelsheim, Germany. Later this year, production shifts to the GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario, which is building the Chevrolet Camaro.
Yes, GM has tried to sell Opel-based vehicles in the U.S. before, most recently the Saturn Astra.
After a brief drive in a 2011 Regal that was close to U.S. specifications, I think it could be a hit.
Styling is attractive, and quite un-Buick-like — gone is any hint of the ventiports on the front fenders. Inside, the Regal CXL — a base CS will be offered next year — comes standard with leather upholstery and other luxury features. Also standard are most of GM's safety features, including stability control and OnStar. Base price of the CXL is $26,245, or $26,995 with shipping.
The preproduction car I drove had a six-speed manual transmission, with the 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. That was one thing about the test car that was different: The standard transmission in U.S. models will be a six-speed automatic. This smooth manual is expected to be offered on the $29,495 higher-performance version of the CXL available this fall, powered by a 2-liter, 220-hp turbo-4.
Buick hopes customers looking at an Acura TSX, Lexus IS or an Infiniti G37 will consider the Regal. I think that's optimistic but not out of the question, though it will take a while.