There is no doubt that General Motor’s Buick division has found a winning formula with its reborn Regal line-up as I see more and more of the tidy mid-sized sedans on the road every day.
For 2012 Buick has rolled out a more fuel efficient variant of the car in an effort to help ease the pain consumers are currently feeling at the gas pump. The Canadian-built Regal eAssist features a ECOTEC 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine which is partnered with the company’s innovative eAssist fuel-saving technology. Buick’s literature claims that this mild-hybrid system is able to deliver similar fuel efficiency numbers to the full-hybrid offerings of its many competitors but for far less money.
The eAssist system makes use of a 115-kW lithium-ion battery and an electric motor-generator (15-kW) to provide an electrical charge that can help boost the modest engine’s performance capabilities. The goal for this project was to maximize fuel efficiency without robbing the car of the performance levels that make the Regal so much fun to drive. The engine has the capacity to produce 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torques on its own accord, but the eAssist set-up delivers an extra 15 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of torques to the arsenal.
The eAssist system is claimed to improve fuel efficiency by up to 25 per cent over that of the base model Regal which features a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic power train. Fuel consumption figures are a very impressive 8.3 L/100 km city, and 5.4 L/100 km on the highway. The system also utilizes regenerative braking and engine stop/start features to promote efficiency and reduce unwanted emissions.
During my week with the car I never found myself in need of more power as the car transported me and my cronies without complaint and with enough hustle to keep me entertained. While not a rocket ship, sprints from 0-100km took about eight seconds to complete, which is more than competitive in this category. The Regal is a much bigger car than it appears to be in photos, so having a four-cylinder under the hood may make some drivers nervous when it comes time to execute a passing manoeuvre or find the need to tap the power reserves to get out of trouble. I am happy to report however that the car handled everything I asked of it when I stomped hard on the pedal as power delivery was almost immediate even while travelling at highway speeds and with a full load on board. The six-speed automatic transmission performed well under all conditions and seemed more than up to the task when I chose to drive the car with a little more gusto.
If I did have one complaint about the driving experience delivered by the Regal eAssist it would be with regards to the tires. The stock rubber seemed unhappy when cornering as even at city speeds they tended to squeal. Up until the squealing became apparent I had been very impressed with the serenity offered by the Regal’s passenger compartment. Owners of cars powered by four-cylinder engines often have to put up with intrusive engine noise due to the need for such power plants to operate at much higher revs, but this was not a problem in the Buick. In fact, wind and road noises were kept to a minimum as well. If I was in the market for this particular model I would test drive several before putting the pen to paper to see if the tire issue I experienced was just an anomaly. I should also point out that these low-rolling-resistance tires seemed to have a tendency to slip and slide a little too much for my liking on wet pavement. My advice would be to see if the dealer could swap the tires out for a more conventional all-season design before I took delivery.
The Regal ‘s aerodynamic shape may cheat the wind, but it also cheats rear seat passengers of some headroom. As long as you are under six-feet tall you should be able to ride comfortably in the rear compartment, but leave the hat at home. A wide stance and relatively long wheelbase, help bless the Regal with abundant hip, shoulder and legroom throughout.
The interior represents a significant step for the brand. All panel and seating surfaces work well together, and seem to be made of quality materials. Fit and finish is on par with the best offerings from Europe or Japan, and the cabin layout conveys a sense of spaciousness. The front seats offered excellent support during hard cornering, while at the same time proving comfortable enough for long distance touring. All instrumentation and controls were easy to see and reach from the driver’s position, and I found their use intuitive in short order.
There are two trim packages offered for the eAssist model – eAssist and eAssist Leather. Both are well-equipped and feature niceties such as dual-zone automatic climate control, chrome door handle inserts, E-Z Key passive entry system with pushbutton start, Eco gauge, fog lights, mirrors with integrated turn signals and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Technology fans will appreciate the 120-volt power outlet, premium audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, rear park assist and a remote starter. Buyers seeking a little more luxury can order the eAssist Leather package which adds heated leather seats and an eight-way power passenger seat.
Opting for the eAssist will cost you about $4,000 over the price of a Regal Base with the Canadian Comfort Group ($30,480) but the reward is that you may save up to 25 per cent on fuel purchases should you monitor your driving habits very closely.
Technical Specifications: 2012 Buick Regal eAssist
Base price (MSRP): $34,355 – $36,220 (Leather)
Type: 4 or 5-passenger mid-size sedan
Engine: 2.4L inline four-cylinder with direct injection
Horsepower: 182-hp @ 6,700 RPM
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4,900 RPM
eAssist: Belt-driven, liquid-cooled motor/generator unit and lithium-ion battery system
Maximum electric motor torque (electric assist): 79 lb-ft / 107 Nm @ 1,000 rpm
Maximum electric motor power (electric assist): 15 hp / 11.2 kW @ 1,000-2,200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual mode
Brakes: Four-wheel disc
Fuel economy (L/100km): City- 8.3 (34 mpg); Highway- 5.4 (52 mpg)