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2014 Buick Regal

General Motors

Five years ago, grandpappy's Buick brand was saved during General Motors' bankruptcy thanks to booming sales in China (810,000 cars sold there last year alone). Now in 2014, in what can only be described as the shock of shocks, Consumer Reports is in love with a Buick.

"The (Buick) Regal is a thoroughly developed and satisfying mid-sized sports sedan that's more reminiscent of a German sports car than the softly sprung luxo-barges that Buick was once known for," said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of automotive testing, in summing up recent testing.

There's more. CR found the Regal the equal of the Mercedes-Benz C250 and just a point behind the world-beating BMW 328i. And you can get a Regal with its 2.0-litre turbo four and smooth six-speed autobox (0-100 km/hour in about 7.6 seconds) and for thousands less than the Bimmer or the Benz.

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I do not expect the wealthy car nuts from Rosedale (Toronto), Westmount (Montreal) and Kerrisdale (Vancouver) to fill their garages with Buicks. Not yet, anyway. The snob appeal of the German brands remains powerful.

But elsewhere, a lot of people are jumping on the Buick bandwagon. Last year Buick delivered 1,032,056 vehicles in China, the United States, Canada and Mexico. Buick has never sold that many cars in a single year in all its 110-year history.

Credit products like the Regal for the sales surge. The LaCrosse is a very good, slightly upscale intermediate sedan, and a worthy rival to the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300.

I have shoes bigger than the little Encore SUV, but it's a big hit in China, where sales matter most to Buick. The Verano is quite a good compact near-lux sedan, and the Enclave SUV/crossover is quieter and more comfortable than a Mercedes-Benz ML, and does everything a non-diesel ML does for thousands less.

Buick's product pipeline looks to be decently stocked for the future, too. This month GM in Shanghai confirmed that a mid-sized crossover slotted between the Encore and the Enclave is coming next year, as Automotive News reports. The Envision should come to North American later next year as a 2016. We're also hearing talk of a two-door Buick convertible based Opel's two-door Cascada.

"We invested heavily in Buick (coming out of bankruptcy), and it's starting to pay off," Mark Reuss, GM's head of global product development, told the industry publication.

Just ask Consumer Reports.

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