Buick Regal GS AWD — Stylish and fun to drive

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Regal GS has lost some of its luster within the Buick ranks, but it still remains the hard-edged driver's car that brings European-like performance to the General Motors brand. It's not that the GS has actually lost anything — in fact, it has gained even more competence with the addition of an optional all-wheel drive system — it's just that Buick has elected to put the same performance-happy turbocharged four-cylinder engine in nearly all of its Regals.

Buick introduced the Regal GS in 2012 bringing a true sports sedan presence to the lineup with a 270-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Since then, the engine has been slightly downsized to 259 horsepower without a loss in torque. We didn't notice any difference in performance, and published 0-to-60 and quarter mile times back up our seat-of-the pants perception. In fact, published times are slightly faster than three years ago at 6.2 seconds to 60 and 14.7 seconds in the quarter mile.

What Buick has done is install the 2.0-liter turbo engine in most Regals, which is great news for people shopping the brand. Adding the option of all-wheel drive is even more attractive. It gives shoppers a performance-oriented, fuel-efficient and stylish option when shopping compact entry-level luxury to the likes of Volvo S60, Mercedes CLA250, Cadillac ATS and the revised Acura ILX.

Also available is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a mild hybrid system called eAssist. While gas mileage is better than the turbocharged engine (26 city, 36 highway) the hybrid's combined 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque are not up to what we consider Regal standards.

So what now — with things equalled up — sets the sporty GS trim apart from the rest of its brethren? For one thing, 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 the driver-adjustable suspension 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. The GS is also endowed with larger front Brembo brakes and wider tires.

The Regal has a handsome, but aggressive stance with its arching roofline and rising belt-line. 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. An eight-inch touchscreen comes with the IntelliLink infotainment system that features gloriously large icons. It has voice command functionality, which unfortunately we did not try out.

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.

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 might 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.

All Regals have the usual standard safety including a full complement of airbags, antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control and rearview camera. Some of what we think is worthwhile safety comes as options. Driver Confidence Package #1 for $1,040 brings forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, blindspot alert, and memory setting for front seats and outside mirrors. Driver Confidence Package #2 for $1,195 adds adaptive cruise control and automatic collision preparation. Unfortunately these options are only available on the Premium II and GS trim levels.

Pricing starts at $27,990 for the base eAssist model and rises to $40,735 for the GS AWD model. All-wheel drive comes as a $2,425 option on all trims with the exception of eAssist. Our top-line GS test car with AWD and a few other options carried a bottom line of $44,670.

The Regal is a solid entry-level luxury vehicle offering decent gas mileage and a long list of standard amenities. And the GS offers the kind of performance that vaults the Regal into the BMW, Infiniti and Audi class.

Base price: $40,735; as driven, $44,670
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 259 @ 5,300 rpm
Torque: 295 pound-feet @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 107.8 inches
Length: 190.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,702 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 27 highway, 19 city, 22 overall
0-60: 6.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Acura ILX, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz CLA250

The Good
• Sporty handling
• Well-made stylish interior
• Standard features plentiful
• All-wheel drive now available

The Bad
• GS needs bigger engine

The Ugly
• GS comes at high base price