Saturday, November 14, 2009

2011 Buick Regal breaks cover

Buick intends to capitalize on its performance history from over a generation ago in order to push sales for the 2011 Regal. This model is a front-drive sedan that is German-assembled and is essentially a rebadged five-passenger Opel Insignia. Sales in the US will begin in the second quarter of 2010. The Regal name was associated with several high-performance models in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Craig Bierley, the brand’s director of product and marketing, said that the Regal would be what could be considered a performance Buick in the last 30 years. There had been variations but Bierley says that whether it’s a Grand National, a GS, a GNX, it was always its performance brand. The car started production a year ago but already, the Opel version has been given multiple awards including the coveted European Car of the Year. To distinguish the Regal from the Insignia, there are minor cosmetic changes to look out for — Buick’s waterfall grille, the design of the front headlights and some interior trim.

These developments are actually all in line with Buick’s goal to rejuvenate the brand and attract younger buyers. After the Enclave crossover came the LaCrosse sedan. The Buick said that it holds the distinction for attracting buyers who are 70 years on the average. The Regal however, is targeting buyers in their 40s and 50s. Essentially, these potential sets of buyers are those who would be interested in the Acura TSX, Audi A4 and Volvo S60. Bierley said that the Regal, with its performance credentials and capacity to change perceptions, are just a few reasons why it is of value to Buick. To be highlighted by Buick is Regal’s European-tuned chassis and an optional turbocharged engine and driver-selectable suspension system.

The system has three suspension modes: normal, sport and touring. The four dampers are electronically controlled and adjust to road conditions within milliseconds. In addition, the system modifies the throttle response, shift pattern and steering effort for each mode. Two engines are available. Buyers may opt for a turbocharged, 220-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can generate 258 pounds-feet of torque. But this engine will only be available in the third quarter of 2010. Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg in the city and 29 highway.

On the other hand, the base engine is a 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with an estimated 172 pounds-feet of torque. Fuel economy is estimated at 20 mpg city and 30 highway. For both engines, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. A V-6 will not be offered. The Regal will be priced and positioned below the LaCrosse, Buick’s flagship sedan. Sad news for Lucerne fans since the model will be discontinued, possibly as early as 2010 or 2011.