Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The "Almost Won"

Nothing brings out my inner Scot like evaluating what I want vs. what I need, with an overlay of cost.

As you know, we just took delivery of a Buick Regal Turbo. But that happy moment almost didn't happen.

We were originally driven to the dealership by an advertised lease deal on the 2012 Buick Verano. Not a lot down, short commitment (24 months), and a $200 payment. I had to dig deeper to see if we could live with all the amenities, but less oomph than the others on our list.

Verano is Buick's smallest offering (until the Encore CUV comes out next year), sharing its platform with the Chevy Cruze. But unlike in the days of badge engineering, Verano is its own animal. It has a unique body, interior, and engine. And not that the Cruze is any slouch. I rented one and quite liked it. But the Verano brings more luxe to the table. It's highly refined, remarkably quiet, and very well equipped for the money. It doesn't hurt that it looks great, inside and out.

The whole package reads as a 7/8 scale Regal.

As anticipated, Verano's sub-200hp mill fell of short everything else we drove in our search, so it was hardly an exhilarating ride. A turbo model coming in 2013 will bring more fun to the table (please please please let it come in a manual transmission). But in these waning days of austerity measures, I found myself pulling out my checkbook.

Long story short, if you are looking for a small four door in the $22,000 - $30,000 range, it's ABSOLUTELY worth your time to give it a ride, particularly if you're shopping brands from Japan and South Korea. You will be impressed at what Buick has become.

Ultimately (and obviously), I changed the VIN on the memo line of that check. A twist of fate afforded me the opportunity to land in our larger, more powerful Regal Turbo. Did I mention it's a stick shift?

Had this good fortune not shined up on us, we certainly would have lived well with the Verano. What it lacks in forward thrust it certainly makes up for in overall appeal.

Monday, September 10, 2012

We have a winner

10 months later, it's over. Through home renovation, a bout of illness, and a career change, I finally signed at the X. We drove some great cars along the way, but when we evaluated the one we liked best (Buick Regal GS), and aligned that with practicality, there was one clear winner:

Still scratching your head over Buick? In 2007, the average Buick buyer was 70 years old. But if you've been paying attention to me and the automotive press, GM is in full renaissance mode. Median age has nosedived into the 50's within the last five years. And based on my close encounter with Regal's little brother, the Verano (blog to come), it will continue to drop. Styling, equipment, performance, safety, and pricing converge to bring younger buyers through the doors, without alienating traditionalists.

You're welcome, Buick, for my contribution to your dropping demo.

The German-designed and engineered Regal is sold in Europe as the Opel Insignia, which makes it look and drive like no Regal before it. As you may have read in my chance encounter with a Regal Turbo, we were hard pressed to rationalize the extra thousands on the GS's price tag when compared to the Turbo.

The best new feature for 2012 is the 7" color touchscreen audio system with vastly improved iPhone connectivity. Pairing two iPhones and an iPod were a breeze. This car is also our introduction to OnStar, which we used about 10 times in the first 2 days—especially for navigation. Directions are beamed to the touchscreen and can also be brought up in a display in the center of the gauge cluster. Fabulous.

Our first cruise from Connecticut to Manhattan returned about 31mpg. I was elated. Handling and power were even better than the rental, because ours has a manual transmission. Comfort and quiet are top notch. Bravo, Buick, for great seats, with full adjustability for driver and front passenger alike. We love this car already.

If you're listening, Buick, consider driver seat memory, easier toggling between dual and single modes for climate control, and a gear indicator in the gauge cluster.

Kudos go to John Beckish from Parsons Buick in Plainville, Connecticut—and not because he's the only salesman we met who actually read and responded to my blog. He's a gentleman with an encyclopedia of Buick knowledge in his head. I thoroughly enjoyed our multiple visits to his dealership, and the test rides of all three Regal engine examples.

And Kudos to you for joining me on this trek. Now that I'm traveling all over the place, look for blogs about everything I rent, details about our Buick experience, and the search for the next new ride. Our Regal lease ends in October, 2014—so I should probably start blogging the pre-selections for its replacement in a week or two.