WARNER SPRINGS, Calif. -- Ripping across the California desert on an arrow-straight asphalt path that swoops into every watershed wash, a sleek new mid-size sports sedan from Buick -- the 2011 Regal CXL dressing in Quicksilver Metallic paint -- rides roly-poly pavement contours with the tight suspension control of a Teutonic touring car.
With each whomp through a pavement dip, the independent suspension elements float and compress then float again in a bouncy rhythm which in time may rattle a rider's equilibrium yet never upsets the balance and poise of this precision machine.
A run on a curlicue road slithering over the San Ysidro Mountains near Warner Springs clearly shows that the new German-designed Regal can hang around a tight hairpin bend while maintaining a flat stance with four Michelin Pilot MXM4 tires tracing an aggressive line.
Such road tricks, while fun to perform yet unnecessary for everyday driving, reveal that Buick's recast sports sedan can maneuver around dicey street situations with the agility of a mechanical athlete.
A zippy engine sends all torque to the two front wheels which also steer, and Regal stocks all of the components to make a responsive sports sedan skewed toward the enthusiast kind of driver.
Log seat time in the new Regal, as one driver does through a series of road tests conducted in San Diego County, and its sporty performance and handling traits will no doubt impress.
But if the notion that Buick builds a German-tight sports sedan does not quite mesh with the memory of past floaty-boaty Buicks, then you must understand that the 2011 Buick Regal is a completely different kind of Buick -- it's actually a German kind of Buick redesigned through the global realm of General Motors.
Its platform -- GM's new global mid-size architecture -- was developed in Europe and underpins other vehicles such as the Opel Insignia, which won the European Car of the Year title for 2009. The platform also underpins Buick's 2010 LaCrosse, only for Regal the wheelbase runs about eight inches shorter.
Production of the new Regal sports sedan commenced in March of 2010 at the Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany, but additional production in North America is slated for the first quarter of 2011 at GM's Canadian assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
A chrome-plated prow flashes aggressive corner lamp clusters with round projector-type headlamps plus the front hood's dual canted character lines.
Fender blisters ripple around multi-spoke alloy wheels, which stand near front and rear corners, leaving curt overhangs on prow and tail.
The roofline remains low, dipping down in front in line with the windshield but mounting a smooth arch over the cabin before tapering to a rolled tail off the trunk deck.
That tail reveals a smooth monochrome slab bumper supporting thick corner taillamps, with twin pipes in chrome protruding below the bumper.
Regal's rigid platform features a wheelbase that's 107.8-inches long and a broad wheel track of 62.4 inches in front and 62.5 inches in back.
The fully independent suspension features front MacPherson struts with dual-path mountings, tuned coil springs and direct-acting hollow stabilizer bar. In the rear the car gets a four-link design with a direct-acting stabilizer bar.
Optional for a turbo-powered Regal is the IDCS (Interactive Driver Control System) continuous damping controls with settings of Normal/Tour/Sport.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel linked to ABS (anti-lock brake system), TCS (traction control system) and GM's StabiliTrak electronic skid control system.
The FWD (front-wheel-drive) architecture applies to every 2011 Regal trim -- labeled CXL -- although there are powertrain options.
GM brings two new high-tech Ecotec engines to the 2011 Regal featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
Standard plant for Regal CXL is the Ecotec 2.4-liter cast aluminum four-in-line which develops 182 hp at 6700 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4900 rpm.
Transaxle is a fuel-saving six-speed electronically controlled automatic with DSC (driver shift control), the Hydra-Matic 6T45 from GM.
The federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this Regal powertrain at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
Optional engine for Regal CXL is a cast aluminum 2.0-liter Ecotec four-pack fitted with a turbo-charger.
The turbo, available late in 2010, links to a standard six-speed DSC electronically controlled automatic (the AF40 by Aisin) or an optional six-speed manual gearbox.
With the automatic transaxle, Regal's turbo plant earns EPA fuel economy scores of 18 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
Regal CXL rolls on standard 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with the Michelin Pilot MXM4 235/50R18 tires, but with the turbo aboard there are optional 19-inch aluminum rollers with Goodyear Eagle RSA 245/40R19 rubber.
Regal's passenger compartment provides seats for five including form-fitting front buckets and lots of amenities.
Regal CXL lists standard equipment like leather seat upholstery, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, heated front buckets and 12-way power for the driver's seat, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes with tab controls for phone/cruise/radio, dual climate controls, a driver information center, anti-theft device, auto dimming rearview mirror, and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3 plus XM Satellite Radio and OnStar telecommunications.
Optional gear ranges from a sunroof and deluxe Harmon/Kardon nine-speaker audio upgrade to a voice-activated navigation system and a convenience package with ultrasonic rear parking assist.
Buick posts MSRP figures for the 2011 Regal CXL beginning at $26,250.