Electric power for the motor is produced by regenerative braking and energy recapture during deceleration. It is stored in a lithium-ion battery behind the rear seat, which shrinks the trunk from 14.3 cubic feet to a less-than-generous 11.1.
The e-Assist package is a $2,000 option that includes lighter alloy wheels shod with tires designed for low-rolling resistance, improved underbody aerodynamics, higher, more economical transmission gear ratios, and fuel shut-off during stops and deceleration. Assuming gas at $4 a gallon, GM says the e-Assist option should pay for itself in 3.5 years of average driving.
Smart, stylish, refined, and agile, the Regal is certainly not Uncle Ned's Buick. It was designed by Opel, GM's European subsidiary, and first saw the light of day as the Opel Insignia, which was European Car of the Year in 2009.
The Regal for the U.S. market is a tweaked version of this car. Its chief styling deviation from the Insignia is the black chrome waterfall grille, which is a bold, even dramatic departure from the less interesting Insignia counterpart.
The Regal is an exceptionally well-proportioned car. Its roofline is an almost perfect arch that allows the sharp rake of the rear window to repeat that of the windshield. Thus, this sedan's roof winds up looking like a fastback coupe's. (The trade-off for that fastback aesthetic is a roof that encounters the head of a 6-foot-2 rear-seat passenger when he sits up straight.)
The test car's pleasing exterior styling resonated inside. Here, the design had a clean, sweeping quality that I found attractive. And it worked well. The instruments and controls were readily accessible and the standard, leather-trimmed seats were comfortable and supportive. In addition to the centrally mounted navigation system display, the tester had a supplementary readout in the center of the instrument panel that told me how far I was from the next turn.
Unlike the 270-horse GS, the e-Assist model isn't going to give you whiplash out of the chute. But with the noticeable nudge it gets from the electric motor, it's lively enough to be fun.
And the car is certainly fun on a winding back road. The suspension is a nicely negotiated compromise between comfort and performance: Firm enough to promote composure and fight body roll in the corners, yet compliant enough to afford adequate ride comfort.
That ride comfort, coupled with the cabin quietude, the car's solidity, and the steering's excellent on-center feel make the Regal a pleasure on the highway.
The Regal Premium 11 model with e-Assist that I tested was well-equipped for a car starting under $30,000. It was built at GM's Oshawa, Ontario, plant.
The Regal also enjoys a luxury-car warranty and earns a Top Safety Pick designation from the National Institute for Highway Safety.
2012 Buick Regal (premium model with e-Assist)
Base price: $29,515.
As tested: $34,470 (including shipping).
Standard equipment: Front-drive, 2.4-liter, direct-injection engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and an amenity list that includes all the usual safety suspects plus comfort features like leather-trimmed seats, eight-way power front seats, six months of OnStar protection, remote start and a nine-speaker sound system.
Options: Include the e-Assist package, premium sound, a navigation system with seven-inch color-touch screen, and a sunroof.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city and 36 highway.
Engine performance: Lively enough.
Ride comfort: Fine.
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.
Contact columnist Al Haas