Performance

The Regal I tested packs the base engine — a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's good for 182 horsepower. There's no way around it: This is a sedate engine. You probably won't notice that it lacks power during typical around-town driving or during your commute, but once you hit even a moderate hill, the engine groans with disapproval.

Let's just say this isn't an engine for driving enthusiasts.

When passing on the highway, the six-speed automatic transmission kicks down somewhat aggressively, creating a lot of engine noise, but at least it gets to the right gear. Even in this base configuration, the steering and handling shine. The large, leather-wrapped steering wheel is tightly sprung, as if it were loaded with a few dozen large rubber bands. It offers a European feel without being heavy to turn. In sharp turns, the Regal snaps around bends like a true sport sedan, and it feels well-planted. Fans of BMW or other rear-drive cars might find the back end a bit light.

The terrific handling doesn't compromise ride quality. On various surfaces, the Regal exhibited little road noise, with none of the floaty ride I found in the redesigned LaCrosse. The Regal's short wheelbase is not a detriment here.

While the power is nothing to write home about, the mileage — at 20/30 mpg city/highway — is quite good, matching up well with the Acura TSX's 21/30 mpg. The TSX is the Regal's closest competitor in terms of price, power and size, and while that car's 201-hp four-cylinder is a brilliant Honda engine, the TSX has lackluster steering and a rather floaty ride. Maybe we could get the two together on Match.com?

I did get to drive an early version of the turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that will go on sale toward the end of 2010. You can read my thoughts in a drive report here. An even more powerful turbo model, called the GS, will go on sale sometime in 2011.

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