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The Buick Regal seems to have shrunk a bit on the outside, but it still seems like your standard, all-American sedan. And I say this knowing that for the CXL model I tested, 40% of its parts were sourced from Germany. Only 21% of the parts were from the U. S. or Canada, the transmission came from China, and the car was assembled in Germany. Makes me curious what percentage of the price tag covers shipping and handling.

I drove the car for a week without looking at the spec sheet and assumed by its acceleration that there was a V6 lurking under the hood. Perhaps I should have factored in the mileage, which hovered around 26 mpg for mostly city driving. It turns out the Regal carried a four-cylinder 2.4-liter Ecotec engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. Together, they put out 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. The EPA rates the Regal’s mileage at 20/30 mpg city/highway. (A turbocharged version pushes performance to 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.) The DOHC engine features spark-ignition, direct-injection (SIDI) and variable-valve timing. SIDI technology increases the price of the engine, but also improves the engine’s power-to-weight ratio, increases mileage, and cuts emissions and noise.

Inside, the comfortable front seats — in all-black leather, courtesy of the CXL trim — and adjustable steering wheel make long hauls a snap. The XM radio with optional nine-speaker sound system helps as well. The dashboard-display panel seems unsophisticated and relatively small compared to those in other cars I’ve driven. However, you can glean the info you need — speed, mileage, or available range — at a glance without any cutesy symbols or dancing icons cluttering your view.

The Regal is one of the first American-badged cars I’ve driven with an electric parking brake. It engages when you step on the brake pedal and pull up a small button or switch on the center console with your finger. A light on the dash illuminates to confirm the brake is really on. And don’t bother looking for the release switch. Just put the car in gear, step on the gas pedal, and the brake releases. Compared to traditional drum-in-hat parking brakes, the electric brake is supposed to be more reliable, lead to fewer warranty claims, and trim weight by about 15 lb. Auto companies predict about 10% of U. S. cars will have one by 2015. The feature is much more popular in Europe where manual transmissions are the norm. Drivers can set the brake when stopped while on a hill, then depress the clutch without worrying the car will roll backward. The brake conveniently disengages once the driver puts the car in gear and applies the throttle.

The Regal comes with an arsenal of safety equipment, standard. The air bags, stability control, ABS, and designed-in crash worthiness earned the car the Top Pick Award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Regal also collected the 2011 Car of the Year Award from NADAguides, a company that provides consumers with vehicle information. They based their award partly on the car’s Ecotec engine, the smooth ride provided by the four-link independent rear suspension, and its use of Bluetooth, OnStar, voice-activated navigation, and a USB port for MP3 devices.

The Regal carries a $26,245 price tag. A $2,790 option package adds adjustable front seats, a 120-V power outlet, power sunroof, rear-seat air bags, upgraded speakers, and ultrasonic rear-parking assist, The one option I wish were available is ultrasonic assist on the front end. You can’t really see the front of the car from the driver’s seat, and I’d hate to run it into a wall or low-lying obstacle. When you add in the $750 destination charge, the total cost is $29,785.

— Stephen J. Mraz

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.