Driving the 2011 Buick Regal Turbo

I had the arduous assignment of flying to San Diego to review the all-new 2011 Buick Regal sedan. The model just now reaching dealers is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder CXL, the base powerplant, which returns 20/30 mpg city/highway. A full review of that car is in the works, but Buick also let me test an early prototype of the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that joins the Regal lineup at the end of this year.

Besides a few steering tweaks and hammering out some engine noises, this is the turbocharged Regal you’ll be able to buy for less than $30,000, and it’s pretty darn good.

The 2.4-liter’s strength is its crisp handling and pleasing ride, which is not always a combination you’ll find in pseudo sport sedans. There is none of the float found in the redesigned LaCrosse, yet road imperfections are well-muted.

Moving to the turbo and the steering may be different, but the ride is just as superb despite standard 19-inch wheels versus the base's 18s. Buick engineers are still fooling with the steering, according to the automaker. While it's hydraulic like the 2.4-liter, it's also speed variable, which means at low speeds the steering isn’t as sharp as it is at high speeds. However, it’s still rather numb and loose even when pushing it hard. That’s definitely the feel Buick knows it doesn’t want, especially considering that the base model's steering wheel is highly sprung. The base CXL’s wheel reminds me of a Volkswagen in some ways but with more rubber band elasticity.

Once the steering issue is addressed, drivers will likely rave about the turbo. Pumping out 220 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque, it’s a perfect complement to the Regal platform. On curvy mountain roads the turbo accelerated with ease on ascent. There was the tiniest of turbo whine intruding into the cabin. As with the steering issue, Buick noted that this was an area they were planning to tackle before the turbo goes on sale. Otherwise, both models are surprisingly quiet with little road or wind noise intruding on the cabin.

The base 2.4-liter feels competent in most situations, but it strained to accelerate uphill and made a hoarse groan on mountain roads. The turbo not only managed these situations, but at highway speeds it passed and ran through 60 to 70 mph with vigor.

It’s the type of fun driving experience you’d expect from a turbo powertrain, and it feels right fitted to the midsize Regal. It’s the opposite of the V-6 Acura shoehorned into the TSX, the Regal’s closest rival, I reviewed last year.

Buick expects this turbo to get 19/29 mpg, giving up just 1 mpg to the base model while delivering the added power. It will cost $28,745 before the destination fee. Buick mentioned the just-announced GS will top the range with even more power — the auto show car put out 255 hp — so this turbo doesn’t need to be the ultimate Regal driving machine.

Even in its unfinished state the turbo exhibits few compromises while delivering an engaging drive at a relatively low cost.

I have to wonder how many shoppers will wait on a Regal purchase until they get to test drive both


By David Thomas | May 27, 2010 | Comments (52)



"...hammering out some engine noises...". That's all I need to know and the fact that it sports the name 'Buick'. Not interested.


Hey thomas you
do know that it's a preproduction model
and almost all manufacturers still work out the final bugs untill the final weeks? So please don't just hate on it because it's a Buick. I advise you to go take a test drive of the lacrosse and then tell me what you think about buick and GM.

The whole article is prefaced by the fact that these were pre-production models that Buick is still working on. In fact the "noises" are pretty much just turbo whine at peak acceleration...which some enthusiasts actually like. But in a Buick will detract a bit.

UK Diesel Driver

I drove a rental fleet Vauxhal Insignia Diesel (same car, different badge) and found it to be ok but not special.

What really surprised me is how small the back window was and that it almost made me feel claustrophobic.

Maybe this is because I have a stationwagon with a light interior. Maybe it is a credit to the car I pick on something that small.

Overall it was ok, similar to the standard fare (Passat, Mondeo, etc), but still below that of the MBs & BMWs of this world...

Buick is really coming out with some classy looking cars!


There is no such thing as a Buick engineer.

Buick is not a car company. It is a nameplate. This was supposed to be a Saturn, remember?


All I can say is, stop being a Buick hater! Try it before you knock it! Looks like a hot little car to me! Can't wait to test drive the turbo! Would be kinda nice to turn in my 2002 Buick Regal GS and get a 2012 Buick Regal GS!


We'll see if some of the early hype of the GS holds true. If Buick delivers it with a manual and AWD, I will definitely test drive.
Otherwise, meh.


Haha, Whats funny is if it had a Honda or Toyota nameplate American car haters like Thomas(probably drives what his daddy did) would be frothing at the mouth. Its amazing how they still post on websites JUST to show their ignorance..go drive it Thomas and then you can whine..


Alec and Ron,
well said. Both of you right.

What kind Buick is this? What king Honda, Passport was?

You need to know each particular car from each manufacturer. Who designs it, who makes it, who supplies parts?

This one seems to be the Opel. And I wouldn't trust Opel a bit. It will probably have bad reliability and besides, who needs 19'' wheels? Of course it handles! It better handle if you have to have $900 tire job every 2 years...


This is surely a great car in many ways, better than any car heretofore sold as a Buick. But brand image is a problem. Buick is a damaged brand, as GM once acknowledged. Is this really the legitimate successor to the prior Regal? If it were to me, GM would have killed Buick and GMC, left Cadillac and Chevy and introduced Opel in the US as an entry-lux VW competitor. European brand cache with no baggage in this market... that would have given this worthy car a better chance. Why rebadge Opels to prop up Buick?

I think both Enclave and LaCrosse have shown that new Buicks can sell well. I believe the new LaCrosse is selling as well if not better than the Acura TL.

Buick is a stronger brand globally than Opel so it makes sense to keep it here if they're expanding the brand in places like China.



You are speculating based on your warped opinion on Buick. The Lacrosse has been outselling the ES and TL all year and its a success. Buick's sales are UP and their average owner age is down. They are headed in the right direction. When the Enclave and Lacrosse came out we were told by people like you that Buick would never be able to attract new buyers. That turned out to be false and its still false with regards to the regal.



Alec, you forget that most Americans have never heard of Opel. It would take years and hundreds of million in advertising to establish Opel as a credible brand in the US. You also fail to mention Buick has godo reliability scores in the US so introducing a new brand and giving Buick the axe would've been foolish.


Buick = Geriatric crowd

First they compared Olds to Lexus and now they compare Buick to Lexus. At least GM still has a sense of humor. I guess you need one when you sell rental cars.


Actually we have owned all imports in the past and recently looked at both the Lexus ES and Buick Lacrosse and hands down agreed the Buick was the winner. All of the new products coming from Detroit lately have been hits (Equinox, Terrain, Lacrosse, SRX, Fusion, Taurus, Camaro, etc. etc.) and even doubling and tripling sales numbers from a year ago. They are on a roll!


That was a really funny post. Have any other jokes?



When was olds ever compared to Lexus? Never. Exactly how are the LAcrosse and Enclave inferior to their Lexus counterparts?


What Karl said is more or less accurate. The Lacrosse, Camaro, Equinox and Terrain have been hits since they debuted. It's not a joke although your response may be one.


Thomas "That's all I need to know" is an idiot.


All third party buff mags., when comparing the new Lacrosse to Lexus, give Buick the nod. Expect the same when comparing within Regal's segment. These new Buicks are in fact home-runs!

Gov't Motors

Obama and the UAW thank you for your continued patronage with Government Motors.


You're way out of line.
Oldmobile and Buick built world leading cars when BMW was a joke that built crummmy clown cars that couldn't get out of their own way. Today, BMW builds overpriced crummy clown cars that are faster, until they break down and you have to have them towed to the shop.


Gov motors:

This is made in Europe right now. No UAW there. German products are made by unionized labor so that means you should swear off VWs, BMWS, Audis, etc. if you hate unions that much.


Olds was never positioned as a brand to take on Lexus. Sure a few models may have been aimed at Lexus but never the entire brand. The Aurora was definitely a Lexus fighter in its day. Olds as a brand was never priced or set up to do battle with Lexus. Buick is being set up to compete with Lexus in the under $45k segments. Cadillac will have to do battle with the more expensive Lexus models. You can laugh at Buick all you want but the sales increases speak for themselves.


"Sheth: When was olds ever compared to Lexus? Never."

Have your mommy click on the youtube link I posted above as I'm done giving you a dope-slap.


I checked both links you provided. Olds was not designed to be a Lexus competitor. You found videos in which ONE model was shown to compare favorably with the Lexus ES. That's fine but Olds was not going against Lexus after its products were revised and largely well received by the press. The last Olds models were designed to compete with affordable imports like Toyotas and Nissans. The Aurora was really the only model that was priced and appointed to do battle with Lexus models. Both Aurora models could have easily been compared to the LExus ES. It doesn't matter because your point is moot anyway. You are trying to suggest Buick isn't capable of rivaling Lexus because Olds models from 17 years ago weren't taken seriously as Lexus competitors. The part you are missing is that the press agrees that the last 3 Buicks are comparable to Lexus models.




When I asked that question I was asking when did the media ever consider Olds a Lexus competitor. The answer to that is "never". In 2010 the media believes that 3/4 Buick models successfully copy Lexus' formula and deliver the goods for less money. See if you can follow that.


Again: "Sheth: When was olds ever compared to Lexus? Never."

The YouTube video shows an Olds commercial comparing an Olds to a Lexus. BUSTED


Lexus is a Tier-1 luxury brand that produces $100K+ automobiles, not to mention the forthcoming LFA. It is also a global brand, represented in almost every market worldwide.

Buick is nothing more than a nameplate of badge-engineered cars sold only in NA and China. Don't get me wrong: I like the Insignia (sorry, "Regal") quite a bit, but I can't bring myself to buy a Buick. The brand is simply not confidence-inspiring; it has no staying power or brand equity. There's no guarantee GM won't axe Buick next month or next year. Remember the "rebirth" of Saturn just a few years back?



Lexus has been successful in NA and thats about it. The brand is sold in other countries but it has been been successful in Europe where people are not really interested in pricier Toyotas. I don't even know if Lexus is sold in Japan or China. Its very clear that Buick is competing with Lexus' VOLUME products like the ES and RX. Buick is not competing with Lexus' pricey RWD products like the GS, LS and GX and that is fine because no one buys those anyway. The FWD Lexus models plus the IS make up most of their sales. The one six figure Lexus (LS600h) has been a flop. Lexus does most of its sales at $50k and under. It does not command the type of price premium as MB or BMW.

Buick only really exists in NA and China but that is fine because the US and China are the two largest markets in the world. Buick doesn't need to be sold elsewhere because platform sharing means that Buicks are essentially sold as Opels and Vauxhauls and Holdens in other parts of the world. the upcoming compact will be a Buick version of the Opel Astra. Buick isn't going to be axed because its one of the top brands in China. This is why the brand was saved in the first place. GM doesn't need Buick to have huge volumes here in the US to survive as long as its doing great in China. Basically, nothing you said lines up with reality. Now that GM has fewer brands it has more resources to pour into Buick and there are two more products on the way within 2 years. Maybe you should figure out what Buick is doing before claiming the brand has no staying power.


You need to mature quite a bit.


The fact that GM can slap-on different labels on different cars in different markets is the height of condescension. Badge engineering is what helped bring the company down, and apparently it still hasn't learned its lesson (explain GMC's existence if you will). Buick stands for nothing; it has zero identity. The Insignia ("Regal") is a great car, but can anyone (youngish) proudly say they own a Buick? The answer is no. That'll keep most people from signing on the dotted line.


"Buick is not competing with Lexus' pricey RWD products like the GS, LS and GX and that is fine because no one buys those anyway."

Very measured statement. A member of my immediate family drives one of those 3 cars, amongst many others. I personally don't know anyone under retirement age that drives a Buick.

BTW, the LS routinely outsells the S-Class and 7 Series in the US.


i love how that 550i loser can say buicks nothing but a rebadge company. Please, PLEASE, tell me how lexus and acura arent redabged toyotas and hondas with leather seats and more sound deadening. Cause thats ALL Lexus is, rebadged. (and poorly done at that, its patheticly obvious of thier toyota counterparts) Not to mention BMWs are the most troublesome, expensive to own, "fancy" junk heaps on the road next to mercades. BMWs just about come standard with the check engine light on....


"BTW, the LS routinely outsells the S-Class and 7 Series in the US."

Flat out lie. The LS has never been able to supplant the 7 or S from the top of the sales charts for an extended period of time. he current LS is a SLOW seller even though its cheaper than the competition.


Flat out lie? Check your facts before you spew out misinformation.

Year-to-date information, through May:

Lexus LS: 4911 units
Mercedes-Benz S-Class: 4856

And recall that Lexus halted LS sales for the steering issue.

Facts are such stubborn little things.



What about the 7 series? The S class is 4 years old and will be replaced in 2012. You said the LS routinely outsells the 7 and S class. Where did you get the MB data?


In May 2010,

Lexus LS: 944 units
BMW 7: 624

Happy now? The S-Class just received a major facelift plus a hybrid, and it's sales are UP. The LS is almost as old as the S. And remember that Lexus HALTED SALES last month for the steering issue...

Still want to mention Buick in the same breath as these brands? I agree, Buick can compete with cars like the ES and RX, but the "true" Lexus models are the RWD ones, and those are far beyond Buick's reach...

This looks like a great car! I bet it drives really smooth.

C Wells

I also rented a RHD Vauxhaul Insignia diesel in the UK. It was pretty unremarkable, but I drove a Regal before I left for Europe on 20 May. Dealers received one EcoTec for demo. The us version was a completely different ride, much better. In germany I stopped in an Opel dealer and picked up some parts too for my future 'buick'.
The grill is too large to put on my desk to photograph. Anyway I read an IG Metall newsletter that was at the dealer (I read German) and it said their were 400 different parts in the US version. Many suspension changes, airbag, cataylst, etc. I realize these are world cars, but this car is already on sale in China as a chevy and thus the Regal gets a Chinese gearbox in the Ecotec. I will buying the 6 speed turbo in the Fall. I hope it is from Ruesselheim too. I only had to spend $175 to turn the Regal back into an Opel Insignia. BTW only 2011 comes from Germany, 2012 will hail from Canada.

C Wells

Speaking BMWs and Lexi I came up on a new 750iL and thought for sure it was a Lexus. The back end of the that whale looks like a Lexus.


I'm 32. My wife is 33. I own a BMW, she owned a Lexus GS 350. She traded in her 2007 GS for the 2010 LaCrosse CXS, and we both love it. Now it's time for me to ditch my 8 y/o 3 series and I'm thinking Buick. I might hold out for the GS, but if not, the turbo Regal might be worth a test drive. Looks great to me, a bimmer owner. Don't know how, but out of some miracle, their models for 2010/2011 look fantastic and our CXS is a heck of a lot better than our Lexus GS was. It's roomier and more attractive, and a similar caliber car for a better price...though the CXS was NOT a cheap car, nor is it cheaply built.

When you say the Buick brand is damaged, maybe it WAS, and maybe it was for a long time, but it doesn't seem to be the case now. Five years ago, I NEVER have considered a Buick. Now me and my wife are really loving what we're seeing with the Buick brand.

I think Buick is doing fine, and will continue to thrive in the years to come. They're finally getting it! Btw, I wouldn't compare Buick to Toyota, Honda, Ford. Chevy and Dodge may be competitors to these everyday driving cars, but Buick, with the price tag on it's models (typically over 40k), I would compare more to Acura, Lexus, Infiniti. Not to mention that Buick seems to be kicking their butts. Seems ridiculous to compare Buick to a Ford or a Honda given Buick's price point in comparison to the whole Honda, Toyota, Ford cadre (cheap cars for everyday people).


Btw Alec, the LaCrosse may ostensibly compete with the ES, and the price is similar, however, we feel we traded up from the GS to the CXS. Bigger, better vehicle, nicer styling, and the performance (handling rather than accleration) is better than the GS was. Just our opinion. RWD or FWD. Doesn't seem to make any difference that we can see.

Great news to hear the production of these cars.The new production means jobs restored for employees.

Wow.. This is great! I can say that this car was awesome! I really like the design.. I wish I could drive this... Anyway, thanks for sharing and I definitely visit here more often.


I'm 24 years old, Just purchased a 2011 Buick Regal Turbo in Carbon Black Metallic and I absolutly love the car. Everytime I tell a friend I bought a Buick they automatically think "old boat", until they see it. Once they lay their eyes on it their perception completly changes, and once they come for a drive in it that's when they are amazed at what buick has built. No matter what, your always gonna have "haters" and they're just jealous they can't afford one. :P


GM just murdered the Regal name and Image. Im a proud owner of a 1987 Buick T. Why doesn’t GM stick to creating history like before, not destroying an Icon. They need to drop a LSx power plant or at least a V6 single or dual Turbo. GM needs to read up on their history, and remember why the “Regal” was created. Sorry to say, but this vehicle is an embarrassment to the ’80s Turbo Buick name, traditions and image…


You guys should be looking at real turbos like subarus wrx or sti. That car is something my grandma would drive.


As an owner of a real Turbo Buick, my ears perked up when I heard the commercial and went to see what they were talking about. I was hoping for a 25th anniversary edition of the greatness that still turns heads. But alas.


First of all, its been quite enjoyable reading all the bickering back and forth, and frankly, they are all good points with emotionally invested opinions.
One thing I would like to point out though, is as a 27 year old male, I do recognize Buick as an appealing label. Buick has a storied history in the american auto industry, and anyone who doesnt reconize that clearly doesnt understand domestic motoring legacy. I am not naive and realize its not difficult to distinguish yourself in a market comprised of GM, MOPAR, Ford and Packard. The issue for me with Buick, is that they are so content to re-badge products throughout their oversized vehicle line - and deem it appropriate for the iconic Buick. This burned them in the past, and more resources and development should be dedicated - far beyond re-badging a shitty Opel. If GM stops cutting corners (hopefully trimming the corporate fat may be a step), the Buick nameplate could see a resurgence with my demographic - just like grampa!


I traded a suv veh and test drove the 2011 Buick Regal 4cycl turbo it drove like a dream...interior is worth a long drive; very quiet interior......I have not looked back since; the look is conversative and sporty--just right for me.....I LOVE MY TURBO BUICK REGAL!!!


Conservative and Beautiful......Buick You Win....Go 2011 Buick Regal turbo.......PERFECT!!!!

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