Against all prejudice
When GM was in the midst of restructuring, a lot of people (including me, admittedly) thought Buick should have gotten the boot at the same time as Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer. Then again, the brand is big in China, now one of the biggest car markets on earth, so logically, Buick had to stay.
What is Buick, anyway? Is it a luxury brand? A sports luxury brand? What does it compete against? Who’s the target audience? Is Tiger Woods still their spokesperson? Many unanswered questions. Okay, Tiger and Buick called it quits in 2008, so that takes care of one.
Seven people asked me what I’m driving this week. Within a half-second of my answer, I got the same reaction seven times: “A Buick? Yuck!”
They don’t know what they’re missing.
I must point out that I’m driving a Regal, not a Lucerne which, by the way, is now dead, marking another step in Buick’s rejuvenation process. Note to senior citizens: if you feel stranded by the brand’s change of direction, you can always check out the Toyota Avalon.
The Regal is, essentially, a rebadged Opel Insignia. For 2011, it’s even built in Germany, although next year, production for the North American market will move over to GM’s Oshawa plant. And we all know what German sedans are renowned for, don’t we?
Yes, this is the best-handling Buick in decades, possibly the best in its 108-year history. Its MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension setup provide well-controlled body motions, the car feels solid and confident on twisty blacktop and the hydraulic power steering encourages the driver to actually speed up at the approach of a curve, instead of slowing down and bracing himself or herself for some good ol’ body roll.
This time around, we’re sampling the Regal CXL with the turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four. It develops 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter peaking from 2,000 to 4,500 rpm. A 6-speed automatic with manual mode equips our test car, although a 6-speed manual is now available.
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