In 2011, Buick dusted off the Regal nameplate and added it to the lineup for the first time since model year 2004. Unlike previous Regals (1973-2004) that often boasted powerful V8 and V6 turbo- or supercharged engines, the new addition bowed with an engine portfolio consisting of only four-cylinder powerplants. And, this reborn Regal is essentially an Americanized version of the Opal Insignia, a sporty sedan developed by General Motors’ German division and the winner of several awards, including the prestigious 2009 European Car of the Year.
Last year, the Regal followed in the tire tracks of the larger Buick LaCrosse sedan by offering the Regal eAssist model, a $2,000 option on the 2012 model. The EPA estimates the Regal eAssist will travel 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with a combined 29 mpg. That’s a 25 percent increase in fuel economy compared to the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder model and beats most other sedans its size.
For 2013, the Regal again follows the LaCrosse by offering eAssist as the standard Regal model or, the Regal 2.0-liter Turbo model for the same $29,015 price. The base 2.4-liter engine has been discontinued. The 2013 price is a small $370 price bump over 2012 but adds Buick’s IntelliLink as standard. IntelliLink uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver’s smart phone to a touch-screen display radio and stream music from services like Pandora Internet Radio or Stitcher SmartRadio.
Some E Juice In The Engine Bay
A belt-alternator-starter (BAS) mild hybrid system is the major contributor to the Regal eAssist’s fuel economy numbers. General Motors calls it “eAssist,” a name that is quite appropriate. The system enhances fuel mileage by “assisting” the gasoline engine, either by shutting down the engine when the car comes to a stop or cutting off the fuel supply when cruising or decelerating. It can provide some electric assist to the engine during acceleration, but not all-electric operation.
eAssist has a 15-kilowatt liquid cooled motor-generator that generates 79 pounds-feet of torque. It is mounted on the engine in place of the alternator, providing both motor assist and battery charging via a belt-drive system connected to the engine’s crankshaft. A 115-volt air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack bolsters the engine with approximately 11-kw (15 horsepower) of electric power assist during rapid acceleration or on demanding inclines and 15-kw of regenerative braking power.
Under the Regal eAssist hood, the eAssist teams up with a 182 horsepower 2.4-liter direct injected four-cylinder engine that generates 172 pounds-feet of torque. The engine has an aggressive fuel shut-off during deceleration that provides added fuel savings.
A Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission has high final-drive gearing that maintains lower engine revs at highway speeds, boosting mpg. An auxiliary electric-driven oil pump is added to the transmission, which keeps it primed and the fluid flowing when the engine shuts down at a stop. That sustains the transmission’s readiness to perform when the driver accelerates. The engine and transmission are engineered to enable regenerative braking and battery charging during coasting and braking.
Other changes to the Regal eAssist model include an air-conditioning system with a more efficient fuel-economy mode and exclusive 17-inch light-alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires. Also, when stopped on a hill, a hill-assist system captures brake pressure to aid the driver in making a smoother acceleration away from stop by reducing the vehicle’s propensity to roll backward when the engine is in the shut-down mode.
About the Regal eAssist system, the Detroit Free Press says, “eAssist doesn’t change the basic nature of the car. It simply adds very impressive fuel economy to its existing virtues. The engine shuts off when the car isn’t moving and restarts imperceptibly when you take your foot off the brake. The system functions more smoothly than in some $80,000-plus luxury cars.”
Euro Styling, Outside And In
The exterior transformation of the Opal Insignia to the Buick Regal is primarily a transplant of the Buick signature vertical-bar “waterfall” grille complemented by swept-back headlights. Retained are the German car’s muscular, high-shouldered stance, coupe-graceful roof, and distinctive reverse-scoop side sculpting. The gently sloping rear window line, broad C-pillar and prominent chrome window edge form the Regal’s most successful design element, giving the car elegant proportions and drawing parallels with the Lexus GS and Jaguar XF luxury sedans.
Automobile Magazine commented, “There’s also plenty of exterior style to attract American consumers’ attention, with bulging fenders, a steeply raked roofline, and short overhangs.”
Climb in and turn the key and the instrument cluster springs to life with ice blue LED lighting. Simple, elegant, with an intricate scale giving a technical depth to the simple business of speed and engine measurement. An ECO gauge on the instrument panel continuously responds to driving behavior, enabling the driver to drive with greater efficiency. For a more thorough summary, a power flow schematic on the in-dash screen details flow of energy through the eAssist system, such as battery charging from regeneration and electric power directed to the engine.
The interior feel and confidence are clear from the moment you clasp the deeply styled door pull. From the doors, the trim swoops up to the dashboard and across the center console and deep instrument binnacle, before swooping back down again at a shallow angle between the front seats. Switchgear is beautifully crafted and the general build quality is on par with high-end European cars.
Popular Mechanic’s reviewer said, “The layout is tidy, and could be from any one of several European manufacturers. Flowing organic shapes and soft-touch moldings surround you, and the instruments are big, unambiguous dials with a clear information panel between them. The seats—though nicely upholstered and softer than what you’d find in an Audi – prove comfortable, if not completely supportive, for spirited driving.”
As for standard features, the Regal eAssist has a nice array that includes remote keyless entry; power locks, windows, and mirrors; cruise control; tilt/telescoping steering column; leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; leather seating; heated front seat with an eight-way power driver’s seat; dual-zone climate controls; a CD/satellite audio system with an auxiliary input jack for connecting a portable digital audio device; and GM’s OnStar system.
Two option packages are offered that add convenience items like a Harmon Kardon 336 watt audio system, a GPS navigation with seven-inch touch-screen display, keyless start and remote start.
The Regal eAssist is classified as a midsize sedan, but it rides on a 107.8-inch wheelbase, which is about four inches shorter than LaCrosse. This means the Regal is a bit smaller, with a tighter backseat. Trunk volume in standard Regals measures 14.2 cubic feet. It drops to 11.1 cubic feet in the Regal eAssist because the battery pack sits behind the backseat, cutting space and reducing the standard folding rear seatback to a pass-through.
If the Regal’s European styling and driving dynamics appeal to you, then the choice is fuel economy or performance. The Regal eAssist and Regal 2.0 Turbo both have a base price of $29,015 but, eAssist offers a fuel economy rating of 25 city/36 highway while the 220 horsepower Turbo model turns 19 city/23 highway.
The closest entry-luxury hybrids are the Lexus HS 250h and Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid. Both are full hybrid modes and thus offer better fuel economy – 35 city/34 for the Lexus and 41 city/36 highway for the Lincoln. However, Regal eAssist is thousands less than both of these hybrids.
eAssist is another sign that hybrid technology—in all its variety of flavors—will become increasingly commonplace in the auto market. However simple the eAssist hybrid system is, it has impressive fuel economy gains and reduces emissions. And, when paired with the Buick Regal’s Euro styling and handling plus its under $30,000 price tag, it deserves a place on your shopping list.
The eAssist car retains the standard Regal’s dynamic character. It’s reasonably sharp and connected (especially by past Buick standards) and provides an overall pleasurable driving experience—as long as you’re not in a big rush. The steering still has a bit of a dead spot on-center, but that’s no fault of the hybridization.
Car and Driver
The seats are supportive and especially handsome, with stitched leather that’s repeated on door panels. The three-point steering wheel looks and feels robust, as does the saddle-horn-shaped shifter for the 6-speed automatic transmission.
New York Times
The eAssist system aside, the Regal is based on a well-executed chassis that is eager, composed and controlled in corners and at high speeds. The car looks and feels like a taut European sedan.
Prices are manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.