Auto Review: Sharpening the Regal

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Fri., Feb. 17, 2012
- Contributed Photo

This certainly has been a strange 2012 so far, at least in terms of weather. Winter seems to be wintering in Europe, and as a result, I’ve been getting some local motorcycle seat time in the middle of the season. This is unusual, to say the least, and in keeping with this trend of atypical occurrences, I’ve also enjoyed seat time in a Buick that’s a very different creature compared to the big, floaty luxury cars we used to expect. The luxury and features are present in the new Regal GS, true, but this is also a true sports sedan and far more of driver’s car than the Buick name used to imply. GM has been hard at work trying to tweak the marque’s image and broaden its appeal, and the new GS is a great example of how serious they are and how athletic a Buick can be when you let the engineers focus more on performance that has been the rule in the past.

Power for the front-drive Regal GS comes from a high-output turbocharged 2.4-liter Ecotec Inline Four, that, despite its modest size, pumps out 270 horsepower. This is a really satisfying engine in that it delivers a good flow of power without the peakiness some turbos display, especially as you transition to higher RPMs. The transmission is a tight, well-engineered, 6-speed manual, which allows you to exploit the engine’s capabilities to the fullest. An optional 6-speed automatic transmission is in the offing for later this year. Exploiting the GS’ suspension is also made easier thanks to a unique Interactive Drive Control System. This three-mode system (Standard, Sport and GS) can tighten up suspension damping and reduce roll in the Sport mode, and things get tighter still in GS mode, where the electronic steering alters effort for better road feel. As a result, this most sporting edition of the Regal family is a joy to hustle around challenging pavement, and the cherry on the sundae are the four-piston Brembo front brake calipers that deliver serious stopping power, even under extreme conditions.

The aggressive nature of the GS performance résumé is continued into the cabin, with very supportive leather seating and a traditional analogue instrument cluster. The optional Harman Kardon sound system has a Multi Media Interface knob for navigating through various sub-systems, but the process of manually shifting can sometimes interfere with it, if you’re not careful (I changed radio stations accidentally more than once). The rear seats are firm, in keeping with the car’s sporty character, yet comfortable and accommodating, in keeping with Buick tradition. Workmanship is excellent, and there’s 60/40 trunk-through access to the rear seats to expand the trunk’s 14.2 cubic feet of hauling capacity.

It seemed unlikely at first, but GM’s desire to make Buick a more diverse nameplate with a competitive sport sedan seems quite successful. Thanks to the drivetrain and suspension technology, it’s even unique. The 2012 Buick Regal GS is EPA-rated 19 MPG city and 27 highway, and has a base price of $34,450. With options, out sticker came to $38,350.

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