HOT AND SHAME FREE | Let others roll their eyes — you’ll enjoy driving the revamped Buick Regal if you can get beyond the down-low guilt of a classic with sporty updates.

Don’t let old-man rep scare you off — new Regal is a powerhouse

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

I feel guilty, like a guy on the down-low looking for a trick in a dark alley. A hot body, charming personality, hard romp and a delightful ride through ecstasy wouldn’t erase the fact that I’m crossing a forbidden threshold. It feels dirty, yet somehow invigorating. While I may harbor a certain lust to explore my inner feelings, I’m afraid people will find out. What will they think? What would my partner think? What if I came home with a … Buick??

Best to come clean and confess: I’ve been on a tryst with the new Regal, all fine in handsome dark skin sublime.

I’ve been tempted by Buicks before — the Park Avenue, LaCrosse, and Enclave to name some. I even enjoyed a rendezvous with a Rendezvous. But I was completely seduced and taken in by the German-built Regal. Oh, I love getting in the sack with Germans: Mercedes, Volkswagens, BMWs, and Audis — a little Teutonic romance is delish. I even devoured a couple of half-breeds like the Smart, Mini and departed Chrysler Crossfire. I tend to be turned on by German cars that disguise their upbringing. Few do so better than this Buick.

For a mid-size sedan, the Regal’s body is smokin’. Its hunkered shape with arched roofline looks like it was water-hewn from petrified Black Forest trees. Buick’s trademark waterfall grille, swoosh down the side, 18-in. aluminum wheels, fog lamps and formed-in rear spoiler cut a swath. Chrome puts a shine to the twin exhaust outlets. Red paint would be hot, but I’m warming up to the carbon black metallic.

Interior accommodations meld Bauhaus with Buick. Large analog gauges, an array of buttons for audio, NAV and climate controls, and an Audi MMI-style joywheel for major dash controls are straight from Die Fatherland. Harman/kardon speakers thump you stupid from the USB iPod input. Bluetooth enables hands-free calling while heated leather seats could cook stuffing. If chocolate is an aphrodisiac, then I’m in bliss with the dash, steering wheel, buttons and trim decked in that color.

Automakers often cut pennies on things like steering wheel leather, but the hide in the Regal feels like it came from a Hilfiger calf. It would feel even better heated. Buick hit all of the details like chrome door releases, padded dash materials, thick carpeting and classic style. Everything feels like it could be in a car half-again more expensive.

A front-drive car can never be coaxed into positions rear-drivers flex with ease, but that’s not because the Regal lacks heart. Tickle its front toes with the 2.4-liter engine that generates 182 horses through a six-speed automatic transmission, and it steps off smartly. An available Ecotec 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine generates 220-HP through an available six-speed manual transmission. Turbos only give up one mile per gallon from the base engine’s frugal 19/30-MPG city/hwy. GM’s Ecotec engines are a little rambunctious, but turbos make whoopee as if on a Miami pool lounger.

Putting this in perspective, the renowned Buick Grand National fed its rear wheels from a 245-HP 3.8-liter turbo V6. The 1987 GNX was rated 276-HP and could blast a ’Vette.

CHOCOHOLIC | The dark, rich interior of the Regal is not only beautiful, it doesn’t skimp on simple luxuries.

The 2012 Regal GS, due soon with a turbo-four, will enjoy 255-HP and enhance handling with an adjustable suspension system. Not only is it more muscular than the famed Grand National, but it is a far better dancer.

During development, GM flung Regals around Germany’s famed Nurburgring and tempted Bimmers on the Autobahn. Even without the forthcoming turbo, the Regal has no problem passing triple-digits on open roads. Its chassis, steering and brakes are equal to the task of controlling the sedan at such velocities. The car for middle-agers could stand to lose a few pounds, but is otherwise athletically fit.

Can’t a guy fall in love with a perfectly decent luxury sedan and not feel shame? I shouldn’t have to sneak it into a back driveway so my parents don’t find out. My best friend made all kinds of cracks about arthritis and joining John McCain for early-bird dinner specials. Fair enough — the name Regal reeks of old-fashioned appeal, but one drive stops the jokes. With the exception of plastic Buick badges and a re-worked grille, it is 100 percent pure German sport sedan — an Audi A4 with American comfort (and a Buick price tag). So sue me if I don’t want to pay a fortune for escorts anymore.

The Regal is a good companion, but just a little mischievous with a six-speed manual transmission and turbo. The beautiful body keeps all that fun below the covers. Secure in my manhood, I realize a secret relationship with a Buick is nobody’s business. In no time, gangstas and club queens will be singing Buick’s praises. If not, I won’t give a damn, because I won’t be able to hear any of it from the car’s silent interior.

Cooler than an Electra 225 “Deuce and a Quarter,” Regal is far more than a 60-minute man. You can rock ’em and roll ’em for up to five years or 100,000 miles and still have the powertrain covered. Of course, you can also enjoy the Regal all night long.

Prices start around $27,000 for non-turbos, just under $30,000 with. The ’12 GS will come in around $40k. Ready to be seduced?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.