The 2011 Buick Regal is on its way, and here's how Buick has described it:

"Armed with turbocharged horsepower, a driver-selectable suspension system and a firm, European-tuned chassis, it delivers a driving experience that rivals the best import sport sedans in the segment."

Cue the eye-rolling, snide remarks and overwhelming skepticism.

Sure, we're big fans of the Buick Enclave. And the Buick LaCrosse really is a viable alternative to the Lexus ES 350. But when GM's softer side starts throwing around words like "turbocharged," "European-tuned," and "sport," our filters get all clogged up.

But then we drove it. And now we're okay with Buick and sport in the same sentence.

The 2011 Buick Regal isn't just European-tuned, it's really a European car: a lightly massaged version of the well-received Opel Insignia. And for the first year, anyway, the Regal will even be built in Germany and imported to the U.S.

Our test Regal was outfitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, six-speed manual(!) transmission and driver-adjustable suspension. On specs alone, this Regal truly is nothing like any other vehicle Buick has given us. Performance from the flexible engine was quickly felt at nearly all rpm ranges. As we jumped on the throttle at mid-range in second gear, the Regal leaped past slower vehicles. The shifter is a bit notchy, but otherwise the six-speed manual is quick and sure, with a useful gear-ratio spread.

The 2011 Buick Regal handled every hard corner we threw in its direction with confidence. Although our short test drive didn't include any track time, we wished it would have. Go figure.

Buick cites the Acura TSX and Volvo S60 as key competitors for the front-wheel-drive Regal, which is set to arrive Spring 2010.

Better hold on tight to your preconceptions.

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