Buick Regal GS — European sports flavor

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Buick brought back the Regal for the 2011 model year affixing the iconic name on a Euro-bred mid-sized sports sedan. The initial problem — the new Buick lacked a European sports sedan persona.

The Regal is a solid effort, worthy of the Buick name in most respects, but there's a lot more Buick and a lot less BMW under the taut sheetmetal for the Regal to be truly called a sports sedan. That was until the Buick GS entered showrooms earlier this year.

The GS pretty much answers the question, where's the sports? The top trim GS is outfitted with a boosted 2-0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with solid handling and attributes of the European Opel Insignia platform on which the Regal is based.
For corroborating evidence, the base engine has been measured at around 10 seconds 0-to-60 and the base turbo at 8.4 seconds. Sports sedan numbers? Not quite. Neither entry is going to scare a G-Series Infiniti or a 3-Series BMW. But now in the GS guise it truly lives up to what the name implies. It's quick, timed in the low 6-second range from 0-to-60 and with a quarter mile time of 15 seconds at 95 mph. And it stops like it's hitting a brick wall, coming down from 60 mph in just 105 feet thanks to strong Brembo brakes.

While the Regal GS does not have slam-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration, it is rewarding, and when combined with the car's outstanding ability to corner — thanks to a sport-tuned suspension that gives the car excellent body control — you have the true makings of a mid-sized sports sedan. Add to that steering that is pleasingly precise and you’ll find carving up back-road twists and turns is something this Buick very much enjoys.

The GS comes with Buick’s Interactive Drive Control System, which adapts damping and other driving functions to drivers’ preferences. Buick says it is tuned for those who enjoy a higher level of performance adjusting suspension, steering assist and throttle response. We kept it engaged in the aggressive GS setting. If long-distance travel is the order of the day, the system can be dialed back for a more relaxed ride.

Our test car was outfitted with the standard six-speed automatic, but the GS can be purchased with a six-speed manual transmission, a choice not offered in a Buick since 1990 and not offered in a high-performance Buick since the 1987 Grand National.

The Regal has a handsome, but aggressive stance with its arching roofline, rising beltline and polished 20-inch wheels (a $700 option on our test car). The traditional Buick waterfall grille fits in nicely with the overall taut, compact look of the sedan.

The cabin is outfitted with high-quality materials. The interior on our test car came in black leather and fabric with piano black trim, enlivened by splashes of brushed aluminum.

The gauges are attractive ringed in an ice blue and the switchgear is generally easy to use. The one drawback to the layout is too many look-alike audio control buttons, but a helpful feature is standard steering-wheel-mounted controls for both the audio system and the cruise control. The climate controls at the bottom of the stack are very intuitive.

One feature inexplicably missing from the Regal is a rearview camera. It should be standard equipment on a car in this price class. The Regal does come with front and rear parking sensors.

The front seats are comfortable and bolstered enough to hold the driver in place during spirited driving. We found that reaching an optimum driving position with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel and the power seat controls a problem-free experience.

Two adults can comfortably ride in back with adequate legroom. Headroom can be an issue for taller passengers. Trunk space is adequate at 14.2 cubic feet. And the rear seatbacks fold forward in a 60/40 configuration for more storage space.

The Regal is a solid entry-level luxury vehicle offering decent gas mileage and a long list of standard amenities. But it did not live up to the sports sedan image that Buick had envisioned for the car until the addition of the GS this year.

The GS offers the kind of performance that vaults the Regal into the BMW, Infiniti and Audi class. Be prepared to pay the price, however. If you decide to step up to the plate and drive away in a GS. The base price is $35,720 including destination charge; our test car stickered for $36,754.

Base price: $35,720; as driven, $36,745
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 270 @ 5,300 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 2,500 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 107.8 inches
Length: 190.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,710 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 27 highway, 19 city
0-60: 6.4 seconds (Motor Trend)
Also consider: Acura TSX V-6, Audi A4, BMW 328i

The Good
• Sporty handling
• Well-made and stylish interior
• Standard features abound
• Rewarding performance

The Bad
• No rearview camera available

The Ugly
• GS comes with high base price