New Car Review: 2012 Buick Regal E-Assist

Front three-quarters view of silver 2012 Buick Regal E-Assist driving on city street
The 2012 Buick Regal E-Assist.
Four-cylinder Buick.

The phrase can cause some worry...especially among those of us of a certain age who might remember when such things existed before (Skylarks from model years 1980-1998).

Regular TireKicker readers know that things are much better now, from our recent run in the new, small Buick Verano. Today's Buick 4 is far from agricultural...in fact, it's smooth and quiet and gives little indication that it's not a six, apart from perhaps a little lower urgency level.

But that's the Verano. The littlest Buick. This is the Regal. Not only larger, but the one nameplate in the Buick stable meant to evoke a sporting character. And there is at least one legitimate firebreather...the GS (a full review of which is coming soon). But when you go shopping for a standard Regal, the four is what you get. And, for additional cost, you can get it with E-Assist.

E-Assist isn't a full hybrid, but a "mild electrification". It brings automatic stop/start technology, a seamless shift from gasoline to electric power and vice-versa and regenerative braking, the energy from which is used to power the radio, climate control and other power accessories when the car is in auto-stop.

Silver 2012 Buick Regal E-Assist rear three-quarters view parked on city street with woman approaching
The 2012 Buick Regal E-Assist.
Combined with a sleek body (the car is in the middle of the photo, guys), the Regal with E-Assist gets an EPA estimated 25 miles per gallon city/36 highway, which is actually better than the 21/32 the smaller Verano gets.

But as the Regal is a larger car, the price tag is larger as well. Our tester was the two-steps-up-from-base Premium II group...base price $29,515. That gets you the 182 horsepower 2.4 liter four, a six-cylinder automatic transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, Stabilitrak, tire pressure monitoring, 18 inch painted alloy wheels, and front fog lamps.

2012 Buick Regal instrument cluster
The 2012 Buick Regal instrument cluster.
Inside, there are two 12-volt power outlets,  8-way power driver and passenger seat with 4-way power lumbar adjustment, dual zone climate control with air filtration, Bluetooth, cruise control, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, with controls for audio, phone, the driver information center and cruise control, rear parking assist, remote start, HID headlamps and a premium 9-speaker audio system.

Now the options. Check the E-Assist box and there's an immediate $2,000 added to the tab. Your EPA estimated mileage improves by six in the city (from 19 to 25) and by five on the highway (31 to 36). Whether that is worth $2,000 depends on the price of gas, how many miles you drive and the length of ownership. In other words, get out the pencil and the calculator...that's going to be your call. Those 18-inch painted alloy wheels also get swapped for machined alloy 17-inchers.

Another $1,145 went for an upgraded audio and navigation system...AM/FM/CD/mp3 with a 7-inch color touch-screen display...and a power sunroof added another $1,000. This particular car got a $50 deduction from the window sticker for having power mirrors without turn signals built into them.

With $860 for destination charges, the final price was $34,470.

Overall, the Regal is a solid sedan...it looks great, drives smoothly and quietly (even with a four under the hood), handles well and it's hard to knock those mileage figures. But there's no question that the objective is fuel economy. Whatever kicks you find won't be with your right foot. That's what the GS is for. And, as we said at the beginning of this review, that review is coming soon.