Interior

Car shoppers might be confused by automakers using the term "premium" to classify brands like Buick and Lincoln, rather than "luxury," but having two classes is smart. The term "luxury" denotes the BMWs of the world, and that brand hasn't seen a four-cylinder in ages and offers just one sub-$30,000 model — and that's a stripped one that you'll never find on a dealer lot.

"Premium" seems right for this Regal; it's certainly a step or two above the most recent Chevrolets we've tested. The leather seats — standard on the CXL — are high-quality, on par with Cadillac, I think. They're also extremely comfortable. After 200 miles and four hours behind the wheel, I was just as comfortable as I was for mile one — and if you've read my other reviews, you know I have a finicky back.

The LaCrosse has a scalloped dashboard that envelopes the driver and, for me, was a tad claustrophobic. The Regal's dash is more traditional and felt more spacious in spite of its slightly more restricted dimensions.

The backseat was surprisingly spacious in legroom. It has 3 more inches of it than the TSX, and it's noticeable. At 5-foot-10, though, headroom was tight back there; it has slightly less space in that category than the TSX. The sides of the roof curve down toward the windows, so it's easy to bump your head getting in or out. And even though the sunroof doesn't steal headroom in the backseat, my baseball cap was within an inch of the ceiling.

Overall, the materials are well-done, and the two interior color choices — black or two-tone beige and brown — are sporty and sophisticated, respectively. The gauges' numerals are typical, but they also feature an outer metal ring that's etched with interval numerals; the big, lit numbers mark every 20 mph, while the outer rings' smaller, etched, black numerals mark the odd intervals. The red needles reflect off the outer ring, so it looks like a red dot is moving around it. It's a neat effect.

The CXL comes standard with Bluetooth, a USB input for MP3 players, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather seats and 18-inch wheels. The vehicles I tested were also equipped with an optional navigation and entertainment system that's available in the most expensive option package, bringing the total price to $30,280, before destination. That beats the Acura, which starts at $29,310 with similar standard features and $32,410 with navigation.

The Regal's navigation system works pretty simply, with a beautiful display. Entertainment functions are equally well-displayed, and they operate via a control dial similar to BMW's iDrive. A nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system comes with the navigation package, but you can also get the stereo without nav. It produces fairly crisp sound, but is a bit heavy-handed. If you enjoy loud rock or bass-heavy R&B, this is the system for you.

At 14.2 cubic feet, the trunk is plenty large enough without having to fold the 60/40-split rear seats flat. I like how the trunk flings open at the touch of a button; no heavy lifting here. It could easily accommodate a few golf bags — even though the company has divested itself of all its golf marketing.

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