2012 Buick Regal Turbo - A Princely Rose By Another Name

Clearly, folks at General Motor's Buick Division have taken William Shakespeare to heart.

For now, the resurgent Buick, darling of the Chinese (dating back to the early last century/ Century),  has added to its North American range that,  which smells as sweet as a "rose", known elsewhere as the vaunted Opel/ Vauxhall Insignia. And to think that this new Buick Regal sedan nearly made it to our shores by the name of Saturn Aura, (before the General's decision to deep six its former "celestial" division.)

Our particular early 2011 Regal CXL Turbo (aka T-Type) sample, was an "import" birthed at Russelsheim, Germany, along side the Insignia. For 2012 North American Buick Regal production moved to Oshawa Ontario just outside of Toronto,  a "flexible assembly" plant shared with the Chevrolet Camaro. FYI, according to 49 U.S. Code  Sec. 32904(b)(2), your Canadian assembled Regal (or Camaro) is considered "domestic."

From the front you cannot miss the arch-typical  Buick waterfall chrome grille. We are happy to report the Buick Regal Turbo has been spared that gratuitous "Buick bling" of the fender portholes. Aft of the B-pillar the 2012 Buick Regal Turbo looks takes on bold styling cues with bulging fenders, sculpted door panels, sloping rearwards roof and high belt-line. Thereafter, the tapering  Regal Turbo backside is elegantly trimmed with a subtle trunk-lid spoiler.  The rich carbon metallic black paint that our Regal Turbo was dipped in evoked the fine finish of an Steinway piano. One "Buick bling" we will buy:  19" mirror finished fan-bladed alloy wheels,  an exterior piece de resistance. In an extreme case of form over function, the Regal Turbo's sleek, narrow side-view mirrors are sure to give some drivers neck pains.

Speaking of Steinways, when your fingers hit the interior center stack of the new for 2012 Buick Regal Turbo you will wish you had kept up with your piano practice as a kid. The infotainment controls alone account for 26 chiclet-sized buttons and two stacked dials, lumped together, not counting the climate system''s 12 buttons and two more dials. How silly of us to expect that the center consoles rotary dial controller would ameliorate button and dial count? Giving the Regal Turbo a handicap of two buttons for the selectable chassis settings,  the Volkswagen CC , sans any central console controller, gets nearly the same job done with an easier to reach touch screen along with  13 buttons and 5 dials.  In a frustrating attempt to locate an interior trunk release on our Regal Turbo we even sampled GM's [included-for-the-first-6-months] On-Star mobile valet service. The totally mystified agent was unaware of even the external touch pad release under the trunk's Buick emblem. By the time we accessed the Regal Turbo's trunk, it appeared to be pretty spacious for class. Except that partitions covering the large hinges and the rear deck speakers,which comprise the fine sounding Harman Kardon sound system, proved that appearances can be deceiving.

We suspect that the enthusiast's twin-cowl helm of the Buick Regal Turbo's cabin will seem confining to the taller or wider population. Front seats, which offer a good range of adjustability and offer respectable lateral, lumbar and thigh support are comfortable for the long-haul.  Outboard rear seats have deep cushions which rise at the edge to offer just adequate for class legroom, while head clearance is scant. Middle rear passengers in the Regal Turbo get even less comfort. To be fair, these days pretty much all sports sedans cater to 2+2 seating.   Interior materials, such as handsome pebble grained leather and real aluminum trim are of high quality. Even all those center stack buttons and dials evoke Teutonic precision. Still, some of the Buick's hard plastic trim, particularly lower door panels and foot-wells, looks "hard". The purse-style front-door pulls are too far forward to adequately control the door from flying open into a wall or worse yet, an adjacent door. We advise Regal Turbo drivers always keep a pair of sunglasses at the ready, better to reduce the bright glare from huge mirror-finished aluminum bezel which surrounds the transmission shifter. Did we mention we are huge fans of the Regal Turbo's beefy steering wheel blessed with stately aluminum inlays and oh-so-intuitive and highly tactile controls? Or of its cabin's isolation from powertrain and outside noises nearing that of an anechoic chamber?

Getting to the meat of the matter, the Buick Regal Turbo is fitted with a turbocharged, direct injected 2.0L inline 4 cylinder [of Saab influence] good for 220 hp @ 5300 rpm. An impressive 258 lb-ft of torque is available low down in the rev band at 2000 rpm, helping the Regal Turbo mid-seven second runs from 0-60 mph. Too bad, then, that the Regal Turbo is  saddled with a glacially shifting 6 speed auto-box. This autobox lacks the crispness exemplified by the Volkswagen CC's DSG transmission. Turbo lag can rear its ugly head when you really lay into the Regal Turbo's accelerator. Where the Regal Turbo does have the VW CC covered is in terms of power and drivetrain NVH.

Our Buick Regal Turbo tester featured "Interactive Drive Control", part of the $1500 Turbo Premium III trim. In touring and, then, normal modes, sawing that wonderful Buick steering wheel to and fro yields leisurely response and the suspension sustains a a bit of roll at the limits, with stability control kicking in early. Yours is a ride well damped against relentlessly rotten Midwestern pavement . Selecting "Sport Mode" (found in that aforementioned morass of center stack buttons), quickens the steering (though feel is still numb), stiffens damping, and delays stability control intervention. The result is a more composed chassis in the face of abrupt driver inputs. In "Sport Mode" the real feat is the Regal Turbo's decent ride compliance especially given those 19 incher alloys which roll on quiet and grippy 245/40 series Goodyear RS-A tires. Large disc brakes (12.6" fore and 12.4" aft), ventilated at each corner are fade resistant, but pedal feel is less firm than preferred. Our overly enthusiastic desire to light up the turbocharger in freeway passing resulted in a reasonable combined fuel consumption of 22 mpg, though it was a bit off the class leading VW CC's 24.7 mpg.

Perhaps the 2012 Buick Regal Turbo doesn't quite terrify the competitive set the way it's American muscle-car progenitor, the '86 Grand National , did. At the register our loaded Buick Regal Turbo, will ring up at $35,400. Undeniably attractive and competent as the Regal Turbo is, it has to contend with some truly worthy front-drive executive sport sedans out there such as the Volkswagen CC, and the Nissan Maxima. A few thousand dollars more makes the segment even more crowded with the entry luxury Volvo S60 T-5 and Acura TSX. Going to Opel for a "rose by any other name" has brought Buick an executive sport sedan that can certainly stand on its own merits. A Direct Shift Transmission, a blind spot warning system, a simpler switchgear array, and less blinding cabin bright-work might well lay the gauntlet back down for the competition.

To those who still have a problem with import re-badging  may we suggest thinking of it in terms of convergence, which may give the surviving American Big-Three automakers a real chance at survival. To others the 2012 Buick Regal Turbo suggests "Get Over It."

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  • From the headline, I thought GM had brought back the late 1970s version. Of course, I knew better.

    And, of course, the question is how it differs from the slightly longer, but same platform, LaCrosse.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack,

    Thanks for pointing out the post title's confusing reference to the Regal T-Type of the former GM G-body's ilk.

    In making comparisons for our "Drive...He Said" evaluations, we do so based on other vehicles we have evaluated which we believe to be comparable in terms of price, dimensions, performance and what we believe is the targeted market segment for the product.

    The 2012 Buick Regal / Opel Insignia sedan was originally designed to compete in the European "D" segment or British "compact executive" segment, against rivals like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. True the 2012 Buick LaCrosse is built off a version of the shared Epsilon II platform, but one stretched by some 5" inches. While the 2012 Regal just barely makes the U.S. EPA mid-size car cut at 110 cu. ft the 2012 LaCrosse is closer to the large car threshold at 116 cu. ft. The LaCrosse is unique to the North American and some Asian markets. The 200 lbs. lighter Regal Turbo (aka T-Type) is clearly more sport oriented than any LaCrosse we know of. And, with the Regal Grand Sport, which can do limited track duty, Buick is clearly targeting a buyer who is a performance enthusiast.

    Here at "Drive...He Said" we appreciate your input regarding cars that readers would like us to review, like the Buick LaCrosse

    Keep a look-out for our upcoming short-take of the 2012 Regal Grand Sport at "Drive...He Said".

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