Entries in Buick (9)

Thursday
Oct132011

Autoline After Hours Tonight 

This week the AAH crew is back from its hiatus and on location in the new studio. We'll be making up for lost time, discussing some of the biggest stories we missed. Cerberus' Bob Nardelli ran his mouth off about the Chrysler-Fiat partnership and had to issue a humiliating retraction. The guy who triggered the Nardelli backlash? None other than After Hours alumus Jason Vines. Also, the Big Three contract negotiations seem to point to the fact that the UAW is in fact running scared. And, some happy news for the Motor City, the Detroit Grand Prix will return in 2012. To discuss this and more, John McElroy is joined in studio by Peter De Lorenzo the Autoextremist with a special appearance by Mr. GreatNoRoCo himself, Roaster Jack a purveyor of fine coffee and a Buick fan.

 

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Monday
Sep122011

2011 Old Car Festival At Greenfield Village

We were out at Greenfield Village over the weekend for their annual Old Car Festival.  You get to see some really neat stuff from the beginning of the 20th Century and some years into it.  This year though they had a 1770 Fardier de Cugnot which was pretty amaizing to see and watch.  Thier were also replicas of the first Daimler car and motorcycle along with Henry Ford's famous 999 car that he set world speed records in on a frozen lake.

We shot a ton of pictures and we have then for you in a slide show below, enjoy!

Wednesday
Jul272011

Reviewed: 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo Sedan

Eighteen months ago, when we had the opportunity to drive the new Buick Lacrosse, it completely blew us away. It completely reset expectations for what a Buick could be.  It truly was the redefinition of a brand.

The follow-up to the Lacrosse for Buick is the new Regal, though it is actually the Opel Insignia redone for North America.  Having been bred in Germany expectations for this car were quite high, perhaps too high.  Much of the enthusiast press had already tagged this car as a performance sedan to go after the BMW Three series, especially in turbo form.  While this car may share similar dimensions with said BMW, make no mistake this car is no Three series competitor. Rather, the Buick Regal is a more than competent sedan, that while not an enthusiast car, certainly won’t embarrass itself when called upon to up the pace. 

As Buick is being reborn and rebranded from GM’s bankruptcy, there has been a question among the press, as to whom Buick is targeting, and what other brands they consider to be competitors.  The two brands that immediately come to mind Buick may be shooting for are Acura and Lexus.  Buick certainly has Acura covered and the quality of their cars are at least as good if not much better than their equivalent Lexus counterparts. On top of that, the Buicks have some style and personality unlike the cars from Lexus. 

The exterior styling of the Buick Regal, while not groundbreaking, nor extraordinary, is nonetheless very pleasing to the eye and does have character. You could say, that the car even has a bit of elegance in its design. Maybe the better term for it it would be graceful. The design language certainly is a carryover from what we saw with the Lacrosse and even a little bit with the Enclave, which was really the first of the new exterior design language. 

Inside the Regal, the quality of the materials are very pleasing and while the leather of the seats was not buttery soft, the material did have a nice thickness to its feel.  The use of hard plastics was kept to an absolute minimum, and the materials had a nice soft touch and good graining. That said, there were some interesting omissions from our Regal test car.  Number one, if there was a trunk release button inside the car it was not to be found.  Number two, at the price level of our test car, which was a fully optioned CXL Turbo model, there was no backup camera, no remote start, nor proximity locks.  While some of this may seem very nit picky, we recently had a  Kia Optima in for review that was $7000 less expensive than the Regal, yet had all of these features.  As competitive as this market segment is, it’s these little things that can make or break a car’s acceptance. 

The Telematics system worked very well we had no problems pairing our iPod, nor our Blackberry phone to the system.  As part of the option package there was a Harman Kardon nine speaker stereo system, and we have to say it’s one of the best factory installed systems we have yet experienced. We tested it with a number of genres including jazz, techno, classical and rock, and it held up well to all of these. For example, we had an old “Everything But The Girl” album playing, and got some looks from how much the system was bumping, all without distortion. On top of that Tracie Thorn’s vocals made you feel as if you were in a small club with her. 

The driver seat is multi adjustable including lumbar and side bolsters. We had no problem finding a comfortable driving position that were sure would be good for 500+ miles.  Back seat room was also very good, a six-foot person would have no problem being comfortable for an extended period of time. The trunk of the Buick Regal is also quite substantial. While it missed out on our bimonthly Costco, Trader Joe, Meijer’s runs we have no doubt he would’ve swallowed all of that with ease.

While many people expected the turbo model to be a performance car, our take away was that much like Hyundai and Kia the use of a turbo four-cylinder is more a replacement for a V6 then it is to be a performance model. While the Buick regal Turbo certainly has good power, it’s not going to blow you away. The level of power is certainly more than acceptable and the four-cylinder engine is very smooth, it never had us wishing that there was a V6 upfront instead. Fuel mileage for our Regal Turbo is rated by the EPA at 18 city 28 highway and 22 combined. Our results sow 21 in city driving and 32 on the highway, which we were pleased with. 

The Regal Turbo gives you the option of two additional suspension settings, a sport mode and a touring mode. The difference between the two can be felt, the sport mode did firm things up, and you certainly felt more of the road through the seat. However, the majority of our time with the car we chose neither. In the standard mode the car rode very well and ate up highway miles, it dealt nicely with the bomb craters that we have for roads in Southeast Michigan. There was no harshness to the suspension in dealing with several large potholes, which, in other cars, have caused unpleasantness.  The steering could have used a little more feedback and road feel, it wasn’t bad but it would have been nice for just a little more. The car was responsive to direction change, and held lines nicely when we tested it on a few off ramps. 

Our test car had a base price of $28,745, the top level option equipment package added $5690 to the total giving and as delivered price including destination of $35,185. The way Buick have decided to option this car is to offer the choice of seven different packages rather than mix-and-match choices, and there were no options that were not included in this car. At 35 grand the Buick is in a tough price range. For essentially the same money you can get a well-equipped though not loaded  La Crosse, which to this day is still one of our favorite cars we tested over the last two or three years. The Regal is certainly a match for any Lexus IS or Acura TL and would probably offer better value for money, but it’s the omission of a few little things that keep us from having the same reaction to the Regal that we did for the Lacrosse. 

At the end of the day the Buick Regal Turbo is a very good effort. While we are a bit disappointed that it not our socks off like the Lacrosse did we were still pleased to see that Buick is continuing its efforts to redefine its brand and deliver quality products that are much more than you would expect.

 


Monday
Feb082010

RoundAboutShow #22 The "From Bad To Worse" Episode

There's this car company--you may have heard of it--but it's having a really bad week, heck, couple of weeks. No, it's not one of the automakers crawling from the wreckage that is the smoldering city of Detroit. Actually, it's that one that all the magazines tell you is the sure buy. First things went bad for them, but lo and behold, they have gotten worse and worse. So, in solidarity we're going to stand by their side and bring you, dear listener, the 'From Bad to Worse' episode.

It was bad when the Pontiac Solstice was sent to the old folks home to retire, it's worse now that it's been bastardized as an ugly, ugly EV. And, when you attempt to right an overturned semi, remember to put the parking brake on. Speaking of out-of-control trucks, we smell a new anti-porn law coming to a state near you. Plus we've got another installment of In the Garage as Zach gets a turn behind the wheel of the Buick LaCrosse and it's everyone's favorite gameshow, The Price is CORRECT!

 
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Tuesday
Feb022010

Reviewed: 2010 Buick Lacrosse 

When General Motors went through bankruptcy and decided to shed some of it’s brands, not too many tears were shed for Saturn, Hummer and Saab, but the the loss of Pontiac rubbed peoples rhubarb the wrong way, when, it was also announced that brands like GMC and Buick would be kept.  Here was the nasty secret that wasn’t getting out to those people, Buick was paying for it’s self and GMC was making money, the same couldn’t be said for any of the brands that were being dropped.

Lets set the argument about GMC aside for another time and drill down on the Pontiac vs. Buick argument.  Many people lament the loss of Pontiac as the performance division of General Motors, but that history was long dead and buried.  Other than the G8 which was a fabulous car, but didn’t really sell that well till it was heavily discounted in GM’s fire sale to shed inventory, Pontiac was badge engineering brand. This WAS an upgrade though of what Pontiac was before that, the pre Bob Lutz era of GM, and that was the plastic body cladding brand.  Performance at Pontiac was about as was a further memory from GM then the Detroit Lions were from being a winning football team that went to the playoffs.

Somewhere in the mid 70’s Buick lost it’s way.  It was, for most of it’s history, the brand you bought when you really wanted a Cadillac but just couldn’t afford or justify one.  It was a respected brand, and if you drove a Buick, people knew you had had a good measure of success in your life.  What the brand evolved into though was one that catered to Septuagenarian and older crowd.  Dealers liked this to a point because they were loyal buyers and there were rarely any issues getting them financed, the problem was, there were less and less of those buyers every year as they moved on to the next realm of existence.  Buick has made a few efforts to trend their demographic to one less than those collecting Social Security, but until the Enclave came out a couple years ago, it was pretty hit and miss.

The Enclave was a Crossover that signaled two important movements for Buick.  The first was strong turn to focus on being what it once was, a brand for those that wanted a luxury car, but didn’t want, or could reach to the Cadillac price point.  The second was a styling direction to have a fluid look with a rounded look and few hard edges.  This also worked nicely as a contrast to the hard edge Art & Science design of Cadillac as well.  

It’s been said that General Motors want to position Buick as a competitor to Lexus, and most people thing that’s a pretty big ask.  One of the questions we had when the Lacrosse was dropped off for review was could they go toe to toe with Toyota’s luxury brand.

One of the reasons we’ve waited to post this review was we wanted to spend some time crawling around the Lexus ES350 and the best opportunity was going to be at the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit.  We’ll get to our conclusion about how the Lacrosse stacked up shortly, but lets dive in and have a look at it.

From a design point the Lacrosse is a conservative design, but it is also handsome.  It has some lines that are subtle but do give the body some character to prevent it from being Toyota like bland and forgettable.  There are also a few angle from a high rear three quarter view which we weren’t able to capture on camera that are very fluid and quite attractive.  Some people have argued about the placement of the portholes on the car, should they be on the fenders as is the heritage of the brand, is it OK to have them on the hood, I would say get rid of them all together.  Fake portholes and vents have become such a fad, that in trying to redefine the brand Buick needs to stay away from anything hinting of a fad.

When you move to the interior you are greeted by a IP that has a spacious feel to it.  Now, depending on if your first stint inside the car is in the day, or at night, it may have to different feels to it.  During the day the interior has an entry level luxury car feel to it.  Materials are of good quality, fit and finish were spot on and even the wood interior trim was tastefully done.

The controls on the steering wheel and the center console are well laid out and are for the most part pretty intuitive.  To get the full measure of the touch screen system and some of the voice command functions, you WILL need to pull out the manual and spend some time with it.  You can figure out about 70% without the manual, but there were a few things that the manual was needed for.

One of my favorite parts of the interior were the seat heaters.  I know it seems odd that I would choose that as one of my favorite things for the interior but hear me out.  First, most of the seat heaters in cars right now, across many brands, take forever to warm up to the point you can feel them, then, what they call the top setting, I call “I guess it’s on”.  Not so with the Buick.  The seats here come up to temp pretty quickly, important since during our week stint with the car the high temps for the days were in the single digits Fahrenheit!  When the seat heaters were on the high, not only could you tell they were on, they were warm enough that I was tempted to grab my cast iron dutch oven and toss in some beef short ribs for a nice braise!  Part two of this is the fact that not only were the seats heated, but so was the steering wheel.  Almost as bad as sitting on cold leather on a 4ºF morning is holding on a leather wrapped steering wheel.  Why this feature isn’t standard on any car north of thirty five grand is beyond me.  

With all the touch screens and small buttons in new cars trying to do anything with gloves on is a near impossibility.  So while voice commands will work for somethings, there is an actual tactile touch that is needed for others and that can’t be done with gloves on.  So when you grab the wheel then on a cold day before the cabin is up to temp, it’s not comfortable.

When the day turns to night and the lights come on, the interior of the Lacrosse takes on a different feel.  There is a cool blue light that wraps along the wood trim from the doors and through the dash.  I was told third hand that it was supposed to give a bit of the lighting feel of a hip South Beach club to the Lacrosse.  Not being a regular on the South Beach club scene, I couldn’t speak to that, however, I did like this mood lighting implementation better than I have liked similar treatments from Ford.

Out on the road the car drives nicely.  The ride is not the sofa lounge feel of large Buicks of the 80’s and 90’s, but it’s not European firm either.  It’s stuck somewhere in that middle ground that as long as you don’t try and fling it around on a track day you’ll be fine, but you won’t be probably won’t be cutting diamonds in the back either.  For 90% of the way most people drive today, the ride is more than fine.  The engine is strong as well.  Ours had the optional 3.6L V6 with 280 horsepower and 259 lb/ft of torque, it’s a retuned version of the motor in the CTS and Camaro.  While both peak numbers are fairly high up in the RPM band, power doesn’t feel lacking.  The only issue is that there is a good amount of torque steer in this car, so you have to be a little careful at lower speeds when you stomp the gas and the wheel is turned.

Lets circle back and bring up how this car stacks up, at least interior wise to the Lexus ES350.  I have to say after spending a solid 10 minutes in the Lexus touching and feeling all the materials and surfaces, then heading back over to the Buick display to double check some things in the Lacrosse, then back once again to the ES350, that hands down the Buick has a far superior interior on every level.  There, I said it.  Go ahead call me mad, but, before you do, go check for yourself, then let me know.

Finally where I think the Buick Lacrosse can really seal the deal against not only the ES350 but against quite a few other cars is on price.  Our loaded up CXS (the top range model) stickered out at $36,755. I don’t think there were many, if any, options boxes that weren’t checked off on this car.  While almost $37K may sound like a lot of money for a car, and I’m not saying it isn’t, compared with many other vehicles we’ve driven lately for the level of content and quality, this is very well done.

For Buick to succeed going forward they have a big challenge in front of them in changing peoples perception of what a Buick is in 2010 and beyond.  The challenges are many, but there are also some fairly easy solutions, and if GM wants to bring me on full time at a reasonable salary, I’d be happy to point them out. 

The first thing that they must do is get people in the door and behind the wheel.  It is only there that potential customers will begin to understand just how far Buick has come in a short period of time.  The Lacrosse should do for Buick what the CTS did for Cadillac, and that’s redefine what the brand is going forward.