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Buick to Bring Back Regal

13th November 2009

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Buick announced details of its upcoming Regal sedan, which will go on sale in the second quarter of next year. Regal, a name that carries a performance heritage of the Grand National from the 1980s, has not been used since 2004. This latest iteration is based on the new Opel Insignia, which has won many awards, including European Car of the Year. Before Saturn was cancelled, rumors were that the Insignia would be the new Saturn Aura in North America. Now Buick gets it.  And what it gets looks pretty good.  The Regal is not just “based on” the Insignia, it is the Insignia, with minor styling changes to make it a Buick.

The Regal will have a 182 horsepower 2.4L I4 engine as its base powerplant.  This engine is also the base engine in the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.  It is expected to get 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.  Arriving later in the year will be the 2.0L turbo making 220 hp and getting 18/29 mpg.  No V6 or V8?  This is Buick, right?  Home of the land barges that come with their own ZIP code?  This ain’t your father’s Buick, kids (apologies to Oldsmobile).  In the land of the 35 MPG CAFE standards, the turbo 4 will have to do.  The standard, and only, tranny will be a 6-speed auto.

Buick’s intended targets are the Acura TSX, Volvo S60, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat and says that it has a longer wheelbase and greater trunk volume than those vehicles, along with standard features – including the six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and OnStar – that aren’t offered standard on either competitor.  If Buick really intends to compete with these great vehicles (and you can probably add the Audi A4), it should realize that a true sports sedan at least offers a manual transmission (the 6-speed auto isn’t standard on these vehicles because a manual is standard).  True, the take rate of a manual will be low, likely less than 10%, but a car that hopes to have street cred among the intended buyers in this segment needs to offer the stick.  That’s why Caddy offers it in the CTS.  And because the Regal is an Insignia, the engineering to offer a manual is already done (at least paired with the 2.0L turbo).  So except for stocking service parts and other indirect costs, offering the manual is FREE.

The Regal will only be offered in top-of-the-line CXL trim at first, with a CX model to follow.  Buick gave the following list of some of the equipment to be offered:

  • All-new Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) available with the 2.0L turbo, offering driver-selectable suspension settings and automatic driver suspension setting adaptability
  • Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel anti-lock braking system, brake assist and electronic parking brake
  • Standard StabiliTrak stability control system and full-function traction control
  • Standard dual-stage frontal air bags, side-curtain air bags and pedal-release system; rear-seat thorax air bags available
  • Available navigation system, Harmon Kardon sound system, internal flash drive (1GB), hard drive with 10GB for music and USB port
  • Standard 18-inch wheels (19-inch wheels standard with IDCS)
  • Standard 12-way power, leather and heated driver seat; leather and heated passenger front seat; Bluetooth capability; XM Satellite Radio and OnStar.

In an effort to get the Regal to market quickly, it will be made in Russelsheim, Germany alongside the Insignia for the first 15 months.  After that, production will shift to a yet to be named North American plant.  A good bet would be the Fairfax, Kansas plant that makes the Chevy Malibu, as both products are based on the global Epsilon platform.

At the end of the day, the Regal will be a success if customers don’t mind that it is a Buick.  It is an attractive, well-equipped European sedan that will likely be priced very competitively.  The only thing getting in the way is the Buick’s image.  Personally, I don’t care about a brand’s so-called “baggage”.  A good-looking vehicle, with the right equipment at the right price is what I want.  I’ll leave the interpretation of what that means to my image to others.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Thanksgiving Eve Update:
Autoweek magazine has reported that the 2.0L Turbo will also include a 6-speed manual transmission when it is introduced, making the Regal a legitimate competitor to the vehicles listed above.  Buick’s announcement 2 weeks ago said nothing about a manual.  Maybe they read The Slandy Report?  Also, GM announced this week that the Regal will be built in their Oshawa, Ontario plant in the first quarter of 2011.  Why Oshawa, which presently makes the Chevy Camaro and Impala, and not Fairfax, which already makes the Malibu and LaCrosse (made on the same Epsilon platform as the Regal)?  No idea – Oshawa will then have 3 vehicles all made on distinct platforms, pushing the envelope on complexity of the Oshawa plant.

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