2011 Buick Regal CXL: Roam'n Numerals

After GM's reshuffling, its mid-size German-made Opel Insignia debuts stateside donning Buick's Regal nameplate.  It's an alternative to VW's now defunct-for-the-USA Passat, its still hip CC or high-end trim mid-size sedans.  In a sense, this is Buick revival; it sold Kadetts, Mantas and even an Isuzu-built Opel decades ago.

"I like its curves," said Karen, my coffee-joint regular, praising this ride's coupe-like profile.  But driving GM's latest swoop-silhouette sedan, tosses the left-front occupant a few curves: good and bad.  For example, it usually ambulates with quiet European composure.  Only modest tire patter and faint low-rpm engine thrum intrude.  The power train, however, is emotional challenged; it apes an InSinkErator when cold.

Interior trimmings are swell: soft-touch dashboard, glossy door-panel inserts.  A sculpted swoop flows from front doors into the windshield's base.  The dash pad covers instruments and elevates the center stack.  Its contours, however, don't complement.  Buick's glossy black concave dash and door inserts fit snugly.  There's too much bling surrounding the shift lever.  Panel overlap, transitions from padded to hard-plastic bits: neat.

Rear headroom is squashed. Six-footers are verboten.

This Buick has psycho switchgear.  For example, the trip computer's K-Mart blue menu (driver information center) is tweaked with a twist of a difficult to locate directional stalk ring.  You wend your way menus.  Resetting the odo, involves pushing the reset button at the lever's tip.

Vexing: this car's center-dash push-point smorgasbord.  It's below and bears no particular relationship to the navigation screen above.  That screen neither has touch control nor dedicated adjacent switches.  Instead, you must decipher tiny numbers inside little boxes, locate equivalent radio presets and then press them.

There's a redundant dial and switches aft of the shift lever.  Entering some items proved difficult; pushing a bright surround dial on the dash enters but you push the knob center on the console.  Voice recognition works (it prompts too) but it couldn't recognize words beginning with ‘b.' Maybe if I barked "Bay ick"... And it steadfastly refused to accept some valid addresses.  Consulting its points of interest reveals many lapses.

Solution:  On Star.  Press the blue mirror button and a friendly operator sends directions.  Its hands-free cell phone dialing is sweet too.

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