2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo Manual

2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo Manual 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo Manual
Short Take Road Test

The basic question here is analogous to one we’ve all encountered in the course of the dating game, to wit: If the package is exceptionally attractive, is the disappointment proportionally greater when substance fails to match appearance? Buick’s recent offerings have been striking, with sexy sheetmetal implying hot performance. The Regal certainly registers well on the eyeballs, its skin stretched tight and smooth over the underlying hardware, suggesting adventure, maybe even love.

And what do we see inside the handsome cabin of this turbocharged Buick? Could that be a manual-transmission shifter protruding from the center console? Yes it could, and it directs a six-speed gearbox of GM's own design. A shift-it-yourself Buick—imagine that.

Hold the Excitement

The promising powertrain combo—GM’s 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo four spins the gears in that six-speed with 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque—had us anticipating a little more gratification than we distilled from the turbo automatic, which finished third of three in a recent comparison test.

Our expectations made the actual driving disappointment that much keener. True, the manual's numbers best those we recorded with the automatic version: The 0-to-60 mph run took 6.8 seconds versus 7.5, and the quarter-mile was dispatched in 15.4 seconds at 93 mph, which is 0.3 second quicker and 2 mph faster. But the experience wasn't commensurately improved.

The manual’s gear ratios don’t seem well matched to the engine’s power band. There’s a substantial spread between the 2000-rpm torque peak and max horsepower, which comes on at 5300 rpm. Careful rowing is required to keep the four-banger from feeling as if it were lugging. That would be more tolerable if the rowing were a source of pleasure, but it’s not. The six-speed is vague, notchy, and resistant to any suggestion of haste. Its general reluctance is suggestive of a gearbox from another era.


Although the powertrain leaves something to be desired, the rest of the Regal’s dynamic score card seems to be at least acceptable in the edge-of-luxury sport-sedan market it aspires to.

In a class where high chassis rigidity is a minimum for entry, the Regal’s unibody has an exceptionally solid feel—which may account for its hefty curb weight—and transient responses are brisk and free of drama. The low-effort steering could provide a bit more tactile info, but with a little experience, the driver can attack corners with confidence.

Ride quality is pleasant on all surfaces, and body motion is minimal; there’s a strong similarity to the BMW school of suspension tuning here. The suspension does a good job of filtering out road noise. There’s also plenty of grip—the Regal manual pulled 0.84 g on the skidpad—and good braking performance to go with it, with the car stopping from 70 mph in 170 feet.

MPG, dBA, and MSRP

The Regal does a good job of damping road noise, but the engine is more audible than one might wish for—and not in a good way. It’s a bit rough around the edges for a car in this class. It was also thirsty in our testing. The EPA rates this version of the Regal at 20 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, compared with 18/28 in the automatic. Our automatic comparo car averaged 27 mpg in a trek that stuck mostly to the highways. We averaged just over 21 mpg with the stick, although that included more suburban and urban driving than in the previous test, as well as perhaps more time near the redline.

And then there’s the money. The base price for this Regal is $29,495, which undercuts cars like the Acura TSX V-6 and Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line, the Buick’s comparison-test opponents. But with $5690 in options, including a sunroof, two-mode suspension, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, HID headlights, and premium audio with navigation, the Regal rolls onto BMW 3-series and Audi A4 turf and loses some appeal—appeal, we must add, that is not enhanced by the manual transmission. No one wants to keep manual transmissions on options lists more than we do, but this one needs some work.

(Update 2/25: This version of the article removes references to the manual transmission being sourced from Aisin. That company provides the Regal Turbo's automatic.)