2011 Buick Regal CXL in New York City's Soho district
This is not a Buick.
At least, it's not a Buick if you haven't paid attention in the last three years.
Before that time, Buick was the car for funeral directors, geriatric drivers, and Florida retirees who disliked the newly edgy styling of Cadillacs. Four years ago, its customers had an average age of 68. The endpoint of that story is well-known: Your customers all die.
Now the 2011 Regal is just the latest in a line of far more appealing and competitively styled Buicks that--most important--handle and are featured like cars of the current century. It's a tall order, but GM wants Buick to compete across the board with Lexus.
Cars like the Regal offer the potential of changing Buick's image from geriatric to gotta-have-it. The product renaissance that started in 2008 with the big Enclave crossover SUV seems to be doing just that: Buick is now the fastest-growing brand in the U.S. market.
If our 2011 Buick Regal was any indication, the brand has a far brighter future ahead of it than anyone would have guessed just a few scant years ago. And note that it's the smallest Buick since the demise of badge-engineered GM compacts like the Skyhawk.
After putting almost 300 miles on a Regal CXL in Granite Grey Metallic over a day and a half, we liked the handling and performance, loved the styling, and had reservations about the control layout.
The 2011 Regal is the sleekest car Buick has sold in many years. Its sloping roofline and the hockey-stick accent line in the doors add up to a handsome, athletic shape that's sporty without being boy-racer-ey.
The Regal looks a little smaller than the typical U.S. midsize car (think Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion), but Buick hopes it will compete against sportier contenders like the Acura TSX (and sit between the Lexus ES and IS) rather than those more mass-market sedans.