As one of four brands that survived GM’s bankruptcy last year, Buick is now undergoing its own metamorphosis. Long identified with large, cushy, but humdrum and ungainly cars, Buick is fighting to modernize its image in an era when drivers are looking for more responsive cars and better fuel economy. Two examples of that are the new Regal and redesigned LaCrosse sedans (both available to subscribers). Both are based on the same platform, share the same four-cylinder engine, and retail for $28,000 to $29,000. But they have distinctly different driving characters.
The Regal is a European import with the type of agile handling, taut suspension, and solid feel that reminds us more of an Acura TSX or Audi A4 than, say, a Roadmaster. It’s essentially a rebadged Opel Insignia, from GM’s German subsidiary, that was intended to be the new Saturn Aura. When Saturn was discontinued, Buick adopted the car, resurrected a name that had been retired in 2004, and is using the Regal to test the waters in a category where no Buick has gone before.
The LaCrosse is a larger but thoroughly modern cruiser with the roomy, quiet interior; comfortable ride; and low-effort steering that has appealed more to traditional Buick drivers. Earlier this year, we tested a 2010 LaCrosse CXS with a V6 engine (see the January 2010 issue, available to subscribers). For this issue, we tested the less expensive four-cylinder CX model, which delivers 3 mpg better fuel economy but is notably slower and less quiet.
Because of the cars’ different personalities, we’ve listed them in Ratings categories that best reflect their direct competitors (see Ratings, available to subscribers). Although both cars achieved very good overall test scores, they still fall short of the best in these highly competitive classes. And both models are too new for us to have reliability data, so neither is recommended.