PROs: Beautifully sculpted body lines, great interior, awesome fuel economy.
CONs: Base 2.4-liter 4 cylinder is a bit weak, spongy brake pedal, cheesy blue radio controls.
FINAL THOUGHT: The 2011 Buick Regal CXL is a great looking, upscale and sporty sedan for those looking to get great fuel economy.
Not too long ago the mid-sized, mid-priced four-door sedan market was ruled by one of three automobiles. There was the Honda Accord, the Ford Taurus and the Toyota Camry. Nowadays though everything has changed and although the same players are still in the game, some new faces have decided to show up to the stadium. One such entrant is the new 2011 Buick Regal CXL, a car that I recently had under my wing for the better part of a week. Over the last 5 years Buick has been trying desperately to change the public’s perception about the brand. It used to be that Buick drivers were those born before 1935, had Q-tip styled hairdos and wore Totes rain hats on a daily basis. That was all well and good, but then something strange happened, you see everyone started to die off and with that Buick saw an opportunity to revamp their image.
Now I haven’t driven a Buick in some time, so when GM told me I was getting a new 2011 Buick Regal CXL for a week I was a little nervous. When the Regal arrived I have to say that my first impression from a pure looks standpoint was that it was truly a great looking car. Its lines are nicely sculpted with soft, yet sporty contours that run from front to back and with its trademark front grille and nicely integrated headlamps it has a decidedly European look about it. Out back my assessment was similar in that the Regal is a very attractive all around visual package. Large 18-inch alloy wheels and a sporty stance also help to give the Regal a great road presence.
Open the doors and you’re greeted to an interior that’s as styled and refined as the exterior, something that I quite honestly didn’t expect. Brushed aluminum accents on the steering wheel and front doors, double stitched black leather trimmed seats combined with well placed glossed black inserts go a long way to give this Regal an upscale look and feel. Dash, center stack and door panel gaps are also spot on in the Regal with no variation whatsoever.
Once settled into the Regal you’ll notice that its 8-way power adjustable front seats are quite comfortable, something that’s amplified even further as soon as you click-on the optional seat heaters. The seats are firm and supportive and provide you with ample back support. The analog gauges are large, easy to read and clearly visible when looking down through the steering wheel. Ergonomics are decent for a mid-sized car, however I noticed that when I had my seat fully adjusted to fit my 6’4″ frame, that any rear seat leg room behind me all but vanished. Normal sized drivers though should have no problem when carting around passengers. I also have to say that I loved the steering wheel as it was just the right size and thickness, which is something that I don’t usually find. There’s also a nice 120v traditional outlet in the back seat which was a nice unexpected touch.
Like the rest of the car, the controls on the center stack are well laid out and very intuitive. However, if there was one gripe to be had it was the cheesy blue-screen readout for the stereo, time and outside temperature that looked as though it came out of an 1980′s Datsun. I mean the rest of the cars interior felt great, but that blue display… ugh… that just cheapened it up for me. Trunk space was also pretty good with 14.25 cu ft of cargo space. If however you need more room, simply fold down the rear seat pass through and wallah!
Starting the 2011 Buick Regal CXL is somewhat uneventful as the 2.4-liter Ecotech 4-cylinder sounds more like a hopped up sewing machine than a true automotive power plant. In stock form this little mill pumps out 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, which is unfortunately just not enough grunt to get this 3600 lb. sedan moving as it should. Around town the 4-banger is ok, but on the highway the power is simply not there when you need it. For example, nailing it from 70 mph, results in more noise than anything else and although the car does move forward, albiet slowly, you feel as though you’re killing it.
On the plus side, if you can stay out of the throttle you’ll be rewarded to some great fuel economy in the way of 19 mpg city and 30 mpg hwy, problem is though staying out of the throttle can be difficult with this thing. I think the upcoming 2.0-liter turbo making 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque will be much better suited to getting you underway.
On the road the Regal rides rather nicely and soaks up bumps and road imperfections with no problems whatsoever. The suspension has a sporty feel to it, but it’s not so overbearing that it gets annoying. I don’t think I’d go so far as saying it feels like a European sports sedan, but it does offer the driver and passengers a good compliant ride with no surprises. Taking exit ramps at speed meant some tire squeal from the 235/50 Michelin tires, but even when pushed aggressively the car stayed nice and composed, never becoming unsettled which was reassuring. My biggest gripe was just that lack of power… God it was annoying!
Then there were the brakes… Now I don’t know if this was because it was a new car (it only had 600 miles on it), or if it wasn’t prepped properly, but man oh man did this thing have a spongy pedal. It was so spongy in fact that I began to wonder if there was something wrong with the car. I got out and did a full once over of the Regal at all four corners to make sure nothing was leaking, and thankfully nothing was. As it turns out this is just one of those cars that has a spongy pedal. Not the most confidence inspiring thing, but once you got used to it the car did stop fine.
For 2011 the Buick Regal CXL starts at $26,245 with the 2.4-liter ecotech engine. This particular model came equipped with the RL5 package which included a sunroof, premium 9-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system (which PUMPED btw), rear-seat thorax air bags and Buick’s comfort and convenience package. The addition of the RL5 package bumped the price to $29,035.00. That’s about the same as a nicely equipped V6 powered Honda Accord, or a base model Acura TSX. Overall I actually really liked the Regal. It was comfortable, handled well and had one of the nicest interiors I’ve seen in quite sometime. If I were going to opt for one however, I’d pony up the extra cash and go with the 220 hp CXL-Turbo, as the base 2.4-liter is just to weak for my tastes. If however fuel economy is more important to you then power and you’d like to go against the grain in a luxurious, sporty sedan then you may just want to give the new 2011 Buick Regal CXL a shot.