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Rebadging Done Right: 2018 Buick Regal

In other words, the US-spec Opel Insignia.

For too many years, the Buick Regal was a nice, though underwhelming, mid-size family sedan. But beginning with the previous generation, sold from 2008 till 2017, something dramatic happened. In place of the dull and dated front-wheel drive platform that once also underpinned the now deceased Oldsmobile Intrigue and Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick picked up the phone and called its European brand cousin Opel for help. Both Buick and Opel survived GM’s 2008 bankruptcy, but it was the former that truly received a second chance at life.

You see, Opel had also just launched a premium mid-size sedan of its own, the Insignia, and because Buick was short of cash, rebadging the Insignia was the best solution. In fact, the Insignia-Regal relationship could go down in automotive history as one of the easiest and cheapest rebadge jobs of all time. The outgoing fifth generation Regal differed only from the Insignia with – you guessed it – a slightly different front grille and brand emblems. Similar brand-specific elements were done to the interiors and that’s it. Now, on paper, this sounds like a case of Old GM badge engineering. A Chevrolet Cavalier that’s also the Pontiac Sunbird that’s also the Cadillac Cimarron fooled no one. It was embarrassingly bad.

All three differed mostly with their respective brand’s badges, though the Cadillac did receive – wow! – leather seats. However, because Opel is not sold in the US, Americans had no clue what the Insignia was. Heck, a good chunk may still don’t know that Opel even exists. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn some Americans discovered Opel only when GM recently sold the Russelsheim, Germany-based brand to the PSA Group. Before that sale was completed though, a next generation Regal Sportback and wagon, called the Regal TourX, was completed. Like the previous model, the new Regal remains an Insignia clone, and both continue to be built alongside one another in Germany.

Because Buick is not sold in Europe and nor is Opel in the US, the badge engineering works. Who would ever know except geeky car people like us? And this Regal, more importantly, is a car America should be thrilled to have. Let’s start with the Sportback. Although it looks like a sedan/four-door coupe, it’s actually considered a five-door because of the liftback trunk, which provides an impressive 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space, more than double as much as the previous Regal. This premium sport sedan (yes, it deserves to be called a sport sedan), rides on the same platform as the Chevrolet Malibu, but it’s been engineered for a more entertaining ride.

The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. If you go for the all-wheel drive model, torque increases by 35 lb-ft. The standard gearbox is an eight-speed automatic, while a fast-shifting nine-speed is optional. The new Regal GS offers a 3.6-liter V6 with 310 hp and standard AWD. Looking at both the Regal Sportback and TourX, and it’s clear each bodystyle is very much a Buick. There’s real styling going on here. Up front, that traditional Buick emblem almost looks out of place considering the sporty, though not too non-traditional, styling. The GS has slightly more aggressive styling. The LED daytime running lights and optional LED headlights help to further enhance the front end’s low and wide clearance.

From the side, notice the character line cutting straight through the door handles while a second crease makes its mark directly below. Out back, the taillights are nothing new in terms of design, but they work well here. There’s really nothing worse when a car designer doesn’t know when to lift the pen. But where traditional Buick buyers may balk with the Sportback is that it’s really a stretched hatchback instead of a conventional three-box design sedan. Call it a hatchback. Call it a Sportback, if you prefer, but the fact of the matter is that this is a European five-door, and it’s cool as hell. As for the TourX, we were as shocked as everyone when Buick announced its pending arrival.

Just when we nearly wrote off the wagon segment entirely, this thing comes along. The Regal TourX is nearly identical to the Sportback, save for the rear and the additional cargo space (a total of 73.5 cubic feet) it provides. It’s also 3.4 inches longer. However, because the name ‘wagon’ does not sell in the US, Buick wisely added a few slight cosmetic upgrades to make the TourX have more of a crossover look. This was done by simply adding black trim around the fenders and below the front and rear doors, as well as some tweaking to the front fascia. The ride height was slightly increased as well.

These changes make a good enough of a difference for the Regal Sportback to be positioned as a competitor to the likes of the Subaru Outback, Volvo V60 Cross Country, Audi A4 Allroad and even the BMW 3 Series wagon. Regardless of which of the two new Regal bodystyles you prefer, Buick wisely took advantage of what Opel had to offer (for the last time, mind you) and gave America a premium sport sedan. Truth be told, it may just be the best-looking sedan GM has done in years.

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