2012 Buick Regal Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

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2012 Buick Regal Buying Advice

The 2012 Buick Regal is the best car for you if an American remix of an uptempo European tune gets your toe tapping.

The 2012 Buick Regal gains two new models -- a 37-mpg mild-hybrid and a 255-horsepower sports edition -- as Buick strives to craft a younger brand image. The Regal nameplate resurfaced on this midsize sedan for model-year 2011 after a six-year exile. The reborn Regal is essentially an Americanized version of the popular Open Insignia sedan from GM’s German division. The 2012 Regal continues as a stylish, front-wheel-drive four-door that embraces some very un-Buick concepts: it uses only four-cylinder engines, for example, and encourages driver involvement with available turbochargers and six-speed manual transmissions. Buick hopes buyers will compare Regal against the likes of the Acura TSX and Audi A4. It sends the 2012 model into showrooms with an estimated base-price range of $28,000-$36,000.

Should you buy a 2012 Buick Regal or wait for the 2013 Buick Regal? Buy a 2012 Regal. It’s got all the styling, tech, and features that’ll sustain this sedan for a number of model years to come. One qualifier to the buy-2012 advice: Buick is toying with the notion of importing the station-wagon version of the Insignia as a second Regal body style. It’s a handsome hauler and would give Buick an entry in the small but hip clique of upscale import-brand sporty wagons that includes the very cars it wants Regal to compete with. A Regal wagon likely would launch as a 2013 model.

2012 Buick Regal Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Buick Regal styling carries over from model-year 2011 -- except for the subtle performance cues making their debut on the sporty new 2012 Regal GS model. Basically, Buick grafts its signature grille on an Opel Insignia, retaining the host car’s swept-back body lines, high-shouldered stance, reverse-scoop side sculpting, and arched roof.

In Buick’s lineup, Regal slots above the new-for-2012 Verano compact sedan, which is based on the Chevrolet Cruze, and below the full-size LaCrosse, which was designed in China to satisfy’s Buick’s large following there. Regal is slightly smaller inside and out than midsize stalwarts like the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. But it seats four adults in comfort as long as rear passengers don’t require copious headroom. At 14.3 cubic feet, the Buick’s trunk volume is midsize-class competitive.

Regal’s roster doubles to four models for 2012. Returning are the base CXL and uplevel CXL Turbo editions. Joining them are the 2012 Regal eAssist mild hybrid and the 2012 Regal GS performance model. Only the GS breaks the styling mold with its own front and rear fascias including, respectively, enlarged air intakes and trapezoidal exhaust outlets and a lip spoiler. The GS also has body-side aero addenda and a slightly lower ride height than other 2012 Regals. All have alloy wheels, with 17-inch rims standard on the eAssist, 18s on the CXL and CXL Turbo, and 19s on the GS. The 19s are available on the CXL Turbo and 20s are optional on the GS.

Mechanical: The 2012 Regal engine lineup stretches to tempt buyers interested in a green driving experience and those hot for extra go. The core powertrains are unchanged and will account for the lion’s share of Regal sales. All are based on fully modern four-cylinder designs and boast today’s most advanced fuel-delivery system, direct fuel injection in which the combustible mix is introduced directly into the cylinder to maximize power and fuel economy and to minimize exhaust emissions.

The most popular Regal model, the CXL, has a 2.4-liter four with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force behind acceleration, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum). The Regal CXL Turbo returns with a turbocharged 2.0-liter rated at 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. 

New for model-year 2012 is the Regal eAssist, which draws its name from the electric-motor assist it lends the gas engine. The small electric motor delivers 15 horsepower and 79 pound-feet of torque to augment the 2.4-liter four-cylinder during rapid acceleration or on demanding inclines. The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack charged through regenerative braking and energy captured during deceleration. The pack is stored in the trunk and reduces cargo volume by 3.2 cubic feet; it also renders stationary one side of Regal’s split/folding rear seatback.

Unlike full hybrids, the eAssist system can’t propel the car on electricity alone. Its principal function is to ease loads on the gas engine, thereby reducing fuel consumption.  Buick also offers an eAssist version of the LaCrosse and the system will be available on the redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. The eAssist system does not alter the 2.4-liter powertrain’s output ratings, which remain 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque.

Also new to the 2012 Regal lineup, the GS model gets a performance-tuned version of the CXL Turbo’s 2.0-liter. It’s rated at 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This output is equivalent to the performance-engine applications in a host of potential GS rivals, some of which rely on six-cylinder engines for this level of power. In addition to its handling-tuned suspension, the GS comes with Brembo-brand front-brake calipers and is available with performance-tread 20-inch summer tires.

Two transmissions are available on the 2012 Regal. The CXL and eAssist come only with a six-speed automatic. The automatic is optional on the CXL Turbo in place of a six-speed manual transmission. The 2012 Regal GS debuts only with the six-speed manual, though Buick says the six-speed automatic will be available at a future date. Regal’s automatic transmission is calibrated to the individual power characteristics of the engine it’s match with and uses a console-mounted floor lever than can be toggled to replicate manual-type shifting.

The expanded engine lineup gives the 2012 Regal a nice powertrain resume, one it’ll need to offset the potential handling deficit imposed by its front-wheel-drive layout. Front-wheel drive masses the weight of the engine and transmission over the wheels that also propel and steer the car. Sports sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G37 are based on the classic rear-wheel drive layout that more equitably distributes weight front-to-rear – and doesn’t require the front tires do both steer and deliver power. The initial Regal GS auto-show concept addressed the “stigma” of front-wheel drive by using all-wheel drive to spread power more evenly. The cost and weight of the AWD system eliminated it from the production 2012 GS, however.

Buick relies instead on its high-tech Interactive Drive Control System (IDSC) to provide the sportiest Regals with top-notch road manners. Optional on the CXL Turbo and standard on the Regal GS, IDSC continually modifies chassis reactions based on driving style and road conditions. It also provides three driver-selectable suspension settings: Normal for a balance of ride and handling; Touring to emphasize comfort; and Sport to tighten the suspension, sharpen steering response, and quicken transmission shifts. Ordering IDSC on the Regal CXL Turbo adds the 19-inch wheels and tires.

Features: Buick pitches the 2012 Regal as an upscale sedan and follows through with a list of standard and optional features befitting the billing. Standard on every 2012 Regal is leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats (with driver’s power lumbar), and remote keyless entry. Also included is a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls as well as buttons for the standard cruise-control system and for the standard Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone link.

A USB iPod interface also is included, as is XM satellite radio and GM’s OnStar security, directions, and concierge service with six months free subscription. Instruments and controls have ice-blue LED lighting and the cabin has a plethora of padded surfaces; most of its plastic panels have a satin-metallic or piano-black finish.

Among standard features on the 2012 Regal GS are bi-xenon headlamps, front and rear audible parking assist, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition. The GS also gets an upgraded leather interior with heated sport-bolstered front seats with additional power adjustments, plus a leather wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel.

Optional on the Regal CXL and standard on the CXL Turbo are rear parking assist and a household-type 120-volt power outlet. Other available 2012 Regal features include a navigation system, power sunroof, and a 320-watt premium harmon/kardon sound system with nine speakers and a hard drive with 10 gigabytes of music storage.

2012 Buick Regal Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Buick Regal had not been released in time for this review but expect a base-price range of roughly $28,000-$36,000. That range would start the 2012 Regal slightly below such entry-luxury cars as the Acura TSX and several thousand under conceivable competitors such as the Audi A4. The range would also mean Buick would catch up with comparably equipped alternatives at the top of its lineup.

(Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Buick’s fee for the 2011 Regal was $750.)

Estimated starting price for the 2012 Regal CXL is $28,000, though it’ll probably climb to around $32,000 fully optioned. Expect the 2012 Regal CXL Turbo to be priced from around $30,500 and hit $36,000 with all the options.

Estimated base price for the 2012 Regal eAssist is $31,000. The 2012 Regal GS likely to start around $36,000 and account for between 5 and 10 percent of Regal sales.

2012 Buick Regal Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage ratings for the 2012 Regal were not announced in time for this review, but the carryover powertrains shouldn’t change and Buick has issued its own projections for the Regal eAssist and GS models.

Expect the 2012 Regal CXL to again rate 19/30 mpg city/highway. That’s roughly comparable with similarly powered midsize cars. The 2012 Regal CXL Turbo should repeat at 20/32 mpg with manual transmission and at 18/28 with automatic.

Buick projects the 2012 Regal eAssist at 26/37 mpg, a significant gain over the base CXL. Buick estimates the 2012 Regal GS at 19/29 mpg with the manual transmission and projects it’ll rate 18/28 with the automatic due in the future. Buick recommends but does not require premium-octane fuel for the 2012 Regal CXL Turbo and GS models.

2012 Buick Regal Release Date back to top

The 2012 Buick Regal CLX, CXL Turbo and Regal eAssist models should be in showrooms by mid-summer 2011. Expect the 2012 Regal GS to go on sale later in the second-half of 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Buick Regal back to top

Buick’s plan to revitalize its image seems to be working: the average age of its buyers has decreased from 72 in the 1990s to 65 (the goal is under 50). And sales are up. Regal is a centerpiece of the new Buick. It’s the brand’s most exciting model, a particularly important point  because part of Buick’s mission is to give disenfranchised fans of the discontinued Pontiac division a destination within the GM family. 

Looking for a quick start on the road to recovery, Buick seems to have front-loaded many of Regal’s planned upgrades. Introduction of the eAssist and the GS models in just its second year are the evidence and leave further changes open to more speculation than might otherwise be the case.

Addition of the station-wagon model would be an obvious next step and would match the five-door body styles offered by the TSX and A4, as well as the BMW 3-Series. Enthusiasts might welcome an even higher output model, perhaps with a V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. Tech mavens would dig more advanced infotainment systems that included control via smartphones and the ability to connect with apps such as the Pandora music-streaming service. Environmentalists might be happier with a greener hybrid powertrain, one that actually could propel the Regal for some miles without using any gas at all.

Of these possible changes, we’d rank upgraded infotainment the most likely to occur before Regal’s next full redesign, which won’t happen before model-year 2015.

2012 Buick Regal Competition back to top

Acura TSX: This sporty front-driver from Honda’s premium brand is similar to Regal in dimension and demeanor, and its availability as both a sedan and wagon could point the way for Buick in terms of body-style choices. The 2012 TSX will return with a four-cylinder of some 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque and a V-6 of some 280 and 254, respectively. Acura has thus far offered the wagon only with the four and automatic transmission, but either body style feels livelier on the road than the Regal thanks in large  measure to design efficiency that saddles the TSX with some 400 fewer pounds than the Buick. Acura’s highly rated reliability is another asset. Fuel economy should remain 21/29 with manual transmission and 22/31 with automatic for the four-cylinder and 19/28 with the V-6 and automatic (Acura requires premium-octane fuel with both engines). Expect the 2012 TSX to sedan start around $31,000 with the four-cylinder and around $33,000 with the V-6; expect the wagon to be priced from around $37,000.

Lincoln MKZ: For Regal intenders who prefer their near-luxury sedan with a domestic label, Lincoln offers this upscale version of the Ford Fusion. Compared with the Regal, the MKZ lists a little more toward luxury and refinement. But prices are comparable and the Lincoln offers similar levels of standard and optional equipment. Base engine is a V-6 and should return for model-year 2012 with 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque working through a six-speed automatic. The MKZ comes with front-wheel drive (rated 18/27 mpg) but offers as an all-weather alternative an all-wheel drive system (rated 17/24). The front-drive MKZ also is available with an extremely satisfying gas-electric hybrid powertrain furnishing a net 191 horsepower and the ability to run to 40 mph or so on electricity alone. It rates a pleasing 41/36 mpg. Expect 2012 base prices of around $36,000 for the front-drive gas model and for the Hybrid and around $38,000 for the AWD version. A drawback: the current-generation MKZ is at the end of its lifecycle and will be replaced by an all-new design for model-year 2013.

Nissan Maxima: Don’t snicker, but legit Regal alternatives would include the saucy Kia Optima with its state-of-the-art four-cylinder lineup. The 200-horse naturally aspirated and 274-horsepower turbo engines both rate over 34 mpg on the highway. There’s also the 206-horsepower full hybrid, which rates 36/40. A base-price range of roughly $20,000-$26,000 is hard to ignore, too. But we’ll concede the Kia doesn’t quite sing the Buick’s upscale tune and submit for your consideration the 2012 Nissan Maxima. It’s larger than the Regal, and a bit pricier, too, at around $32,000 to start and around $35,000 for the uplevel SV model with leather upholstery. But Regal could do worse than match the upwardly mobile demographic attracted to this sporty front-drive sedan’s good looks and lively manner. The 2012 Maxima will again come only with a V-6 that should remain around 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Linking to a continuously variable automatic transmission, fuel-economy should remain 19/26 mpg. Maxima is essentially a thoroughly upgraded Nissan Altima and should follow by one year that car’s transition to an all-new design generation, meaning a redesigned Maxima is likely for model-year 2014.

2012 Buick Regal Next Steps