By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/7/2011
Mention the name Buick Regal to your grandmother and you'll get an earful about the soft, cushy ride, marshmallow-like seats and the sweet-sounding 4-speaker AM/FM radio. Well, to paraphrase Oldsmobile's once famous tag line, the 2012 Buick Regal sedan is definitely not your grandmother's Regal. In fact, Buick has built a mid-size sport sedan so sleek, so alluring it has on numerous occasions inspired attempts among our test staff to steal the car away for an extra night or two. With its big 19-inch wheel and tires, 270-horsepower high-output 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and 6-speed manual transmission, the top-of-the-line 2012 Buick Regal GS clearly means business. Or, if you're more about fuel economy than performance, you can get the same great looks and interior features on the "light electrification" Regal eAssist hybrid model. Sure, the 2012 Buick Regal sedan still has a lot of work to do in bringing over younger buyers looking at such competitors as the Volkswagen CC, Nissan Maxima, Hyundai Sonata and Acura TSX. But, if ever a Buick could win the battle for younger hearts and wallets, the 2012 Buick Regal sedan is the car to do it.You'll Like This Car If...
If you've grown tired of the generic-looking mid-size "one size fits all" crowd, and you think it might be time to give a domestic manufacturer another chance, the 2012 Buick Regal will definitely help convince you that just because a car has four doors doesn't mean it has to be boring.You May Not Like This Car If...
While the 2012 Buick Regal's styling is dramatic, older Buick fans may not take to the European-inspired design. If you fancy the GS trim, you best like only black, gray, silver or white, because for some strange reason those are the only colors offered.What's New for 2012
Two new variants join the 2012 Buick Regal sedan lineup. First is the Regal eAssist hybrid that uses a small electric motor attached to a lithium-ion battery pack to assist the 2.4-liter gasoline engine. The second addition is the stellar opposite of the hybrid, taking the form of a 270-horsepower sport sedan dubbed the Buick Regal GS (Grand Sport). Other changes of note include E85 capability on the 2.4-liter engine and the addition of Buick's IntelliLink Bluetooth-enabled infotainment system (late availability) to all Regal models.Driving It Driving Impressions
To get the best idea how good the 2012 Regal platform is, we tested a range of Buick Regal models starting with the most basic Regal with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. We found the 2.4-liter engine to be smooth and responsive, feeling very Honda-like in its refinement and power delivery. The steering is a bit vague, but not awful. When we moved to a 2.0-liter turbocharged model, we were impressed not only by the additional power, but also by the vastly better steering feel from the variable-assist power steering. Of course, this is a Buick so the company has added plenty of soundproofing to create a serene cabin. The ride is also less harsh than in some sport sedans we've driven, but the handling doesn't suffer from it. Jumping into the GS brought a whole different attitude from the Regal. The high-output 2.0-liter Ecotec engine makes 270 horsepower, which can be run through either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode. The GS moves with some serious swiftness and yet there is hardly any discernable torque steer. The 2012 Buick Regal GS sedan gets a tauter suspension with standard Interactive Drive Control System that lets you tune the shock and steering feel to three levels of compliance. The 2012 Buick Regal GS sport sedan also has a lower ride height and sticky 19-inch all-season tires. Buick offers a 20-inch wheel/performance tire package, but we found this setup a bit harsh on rougher pavement. Although the 2012 Buick Regal isn't as spry as the Acura TSX or the Volkswagen CC, it is sportier than any Buick of recent memory and perfectly willing to have a little fun.Favorite Features
2.0-liter Turbocharged 4-Cylinder Engine
While the Volkswagen CC also offers a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, Buick's 2.0-liter powerplant offers more horsepower and torque.
Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS)
A first for Buick, this system is available with the turbocharged engine and allows you to choose from three different operating modes that modify the vehicle's suspension, stability settings, throttle response, shift pattern and steering sensitivity. What does that mean for you? Choose Standard when cruising around town, Tour for a softer ride when on the open highway, or Sport for more dynamic driving on a curvy section of asphalt.
If ever there was an area to prove the 2012 Buick Regal sedan's premium car credentials, it's inside the passenger compartment. All of the Regal's switchgear have a smooth, nicely weighted feel and while it is obvious some of the Regal's interior bits were borrowed from the larger Buick LaCrosse, Buick designers have tossed in enough unique parts to make the 2012 Regal look and feel a bit more European. The Euro influence can be seen in the BMW/Audi-like console-mounted joystick (it controls the available navigation and audio functions), console-mounted power lock switch and steering-wheel-mounted thumb wheel for scrolling through various functions. If the 2012 Regal sedan falls down in one area, it's rear-seat headroom. Due to the low-slung roof and raked rear window, anyone over 6-feet tall or just very long in the torso will likely find his head bumping against the headliner.Exterior
While Buick's signature waterfall grille and porthole louvers remain intact, the rest of the 2012 Buick Regal sedan is unlike anything we've seen from the Buick division in a long, long time. Based on GM's European Opel Insignia, the 2012 Regal has a heavy, solid look that borders on hyper-aggressive. The wheels are pushed to the car's outer corners while the body drops low to the ground, almost as if the Regal were preparing to hug the pavement. There is only the slightest gap between tire and wheel well, further enhancing the Regal's sporty attitude. A distinctive side scallop that begins on the front door and fades rearward is the Regal's most definitive styling detail, but smaller things, such as an integrated trunk-lid spoiler and integrated side-mirror turn signals reveal that a lot of thought went into the Regal's design.Notable Standard Equipment
Inside the 2012 Buick Regal you'll find leather upholstery (unlike the Volkswagen CC, which has leatherette as standard), an 8-way adjustable power driver's seat, foglights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth and a 7-speaker audio system with USB port. Motivation is supplied by a 2.4-liter in-line 4-cylinder engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission (with tap-up/tap-down shifting), and power is put to pavement via 18-inch alloy wheels. The turbo model adds a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and an available 6-speed manual transmission, while the GS trim adds a high-output 270-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, 19-inch wheels and a sport suspension. To help keep you safe, six airbags are standard on each 2012 Buick Regal, as are stability and traction controls, Brake Assist and the latest OnStar system with Automatic Crash Response.Notable Optional Equipment
The 2012 Buick Regal sedan's options are broken down into package groups. On normally aspirated Regals, there are two groups: Premium I and Premium II. The turbo cars feature a Premium III group, while the GS and Regal eAssist are considered their own models. Among the many available options spread throughout the groups are a 9-speaker harman/kardon sound system, a hard drive-based navigation system, rear parking assist, an 8-way power adjustable passenger's seat, power sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, E-Z Key passive push-button start, HID headlights and a 120-volt outlet. Those with safety on their minds can get rear-seat thorax side-impact airbags. Extras for the exterior are limited to 19-inch machined alloy wheels.
The 2012 Regal is the first Buick to be offered exclusively with only 4-cylinder engines. The standard 2.4-liter in-line four produces 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, and delivers fuel economy in the range of 19 city/31 highway mpg. Those looking for more power can get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which delivers 220 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque for a small penalty in fuel economy – 18 city/29 highway. The Regal GS gets a high-output version of the 2.0-liter turbo pumping out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. All three engines can be mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with tap-up/tap-down shifting, although paddle shifters are available with the turbocharged engine. The turbo models can also be equipped at no charge with a 6-speed manual transmission.
2.4-liter in-line 4
182 horsepower @ 6,700 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/31, 15/22 (E85), 25/36 (eAssist hybrid)
2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4
220 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/32 (manual), 18/29 (automatic), 15/22 (E85, manual), 13/22 (E85, automatic)
2.0-liter high-output turbocharged in-line 4 (Regal GS)
270 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (manual), 18/20 (automatic)
The 2012 Regal sedan's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts right around $27,500, nearly $3,000 less than an automatic-equipped Volkswagen CC Sport, $4,200 less than a Volvo S60, but some $3,000 more than a Hyundai Sonata SE. The Regal Turbo starts around $31,000, while a fully loaded Turbo Premium III goes for around $35,500. The GS starts around $35,000. To make your best deal, you can see what others in your area have paid for their Regal by checking the kbb.com Fair Purchase Price. As for resale, we expect the 2012 Buick Regal sedan to prove resilient in resale value, which should make it even more competitive with its Japanese and European rivals.