Buick Regal GS — Performance and style

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Built in Germany, Buick designers have completely rethought the Regal GS for 2018. Sedans have been replaced with a sleeker, coupe-like hatchback that Buick calls Sportback to mimic — we suppose — such German stalwarts as the Audi A5 Sportback. Despite the loss of a trunk, the GS remains every bit the driver's car.

And while the Regal GS is not outstanding in any one area compared to other entry-level luxury sedans aimed at drivers who like to feel engaged in the on-road experience, the total package of performance and handling is noteworthy.

For 2018 in addition to the body style, the engine/transmission setup has been changed in the GS. While brands are moving in droves to turbocharged four-cylinders, Buick decided to go a bit "old school" for the GS installing the tried-and-true General Motors 3.6-liter V-6 making 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque mated to a new nine-speed automatic. The direct injection engine offers cylinder deactivation and start/stop technology. Buick says its V-6 provides more power than an Acura TLX A-Spec or a Lexus IS350 F-Sport and can cruise on four cylinders. And the V-6 engine is complemented by a sport-tuned dual exhaust system.

The GS also gets a sport-tuned suspension, larger 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, sport seats and a more aggressive look.

We found the GS a solid straight-ahead performer capable of a 0-to-60 run in 5.4 seconds and with the ability to finish off a quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 mph. What this shows is the GS can not only flash off the line but pass and merge with confidence giving the Buick a true luxury feel. On our favorite winding roads, the Regal GS felt tight and responsive with excellent steering. The big Brembo brakes pulled the Regal down in a commendable fashion.

Every Regal GS also features Buick’s Interactive Drive Control, allowing the driver to tailor the car’s dynamics based on different drive experiences through normal, Sport or GS modes selected via the center console. Interactive Drive Control utilizes Buick’s second-generation Continuous Damping Control (CDC), which is able to adjust suspension damping up to 500 times per second.

“With the all-new 2018 Regal GS, we set out to make a driver-focused, engaging and entertaining sport sedan without sacrificing the smooth ride and refined character expected of any modern Buick,” said Martin Hayes, chief engineer for the Buick Regal GS. “Our new V-6 and nine-speed transmission, intelligent AWD and CDC all work to deliver excellent driving performance.”

People who at first blush are disappointed that the Regal sports a hatchback should be quickly won over on closer inspection. Buick stylists did a marvelous job creating a gently sloping rear end giving it the look of a modern sedan with a trunk while in reality providing a large hatch opening and a massive dose of new-found practicality.The hatchback design allows for 31.5 cubic feet of storage behind the second-row seats, considerably more than in a same-sized sedan. With the rear seats folded, cargo space expands to 60.7 cubic feet.

At the same time the new Regal GS offers passengers a pleasant riding experience including new-found leg, hip and head room for four passengers compared to the outgoing sedan.

Inside, the remarkably supportive driver’s seat faces a sweeping, horizontally oriented dashboard. Massive pockets carved into the lower doors visually open up space. Button placement is logical with intuitive infotainment and climate controls. And the GS features sport seats that include heating, cooling and massaging functions as standard equipment.

A very puzzling aspect of the GS when we first became acquainted with it — how do you open the rear hatch? The minimalist keyfob did not have an obvious button for the rear lid. And there was no way to open it from the outside — or so it seemed. A reading of the owner's manual solved the keyfob problem, but did not address the outside issue. We figured it out ourselves — press the center of the Buick badge. Another oversight — although the hatch is large and heavy, a power liftgate is not available.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the very desirable GS is its pricing. Its base price including destination charge is $39,995, about $6,000 more than a well-equipped top trim Essence with the standard 2.0-liter engine. Our test car with the optional navigation and premium Bose sound system ($945); Driver Confidence Package ($1,690), which includes such safety equipment as adaptive cruise control and forward collision alert and braking; and a moonroof ($1,000), carried a bottom line of $44,115.

Base price: $26,840; as driven, $44,115
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 310 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 282 pound-feet @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.4 inches
Length: 192.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,796 pounds
Turning circle: 41 feet
Luggage capacity: 31.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 60.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.3 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Acura TLX, Audi A5 Sportback, Lexus IS 350 F-Sport

The Good
• All wheel drive standard on GS
• Energetic V6 engine
• Large cargo space
• Solid handling traits

The Bad
• Difficult-to-use keyfob

The Ugly
• High price for the good stuff