I’ll say this up front, I haven’t been kind to Buick in the past. Our 2015 Automotive Report Card, in particular, posted a failing grade for General Motors entry-level luxury line. I may have said something along the lines of “the current lineup is devoid of anything really fun or interesting”. I caught a lot of flack for that comment, and the overall assessment of Buick. What car did everyone cite was the reason why I was so wrong? The Regal GS. So when GM offered us one for the week, I jumped at the chance. Redemption. It’s something everyone should have a chance at.
Part of what I like about this job is that it’s cumulative. Unlike a lot of other car review, blog-type, sites, we don’t just give you reviews in a vacuum. That would be difficult with the lack of air and all. No, we are telling a story. An ongoing story that builds on itself. Each car that enters the RFD Garage and sits in our driveway for a week is a new experience. Each car tells a different story, brings with it different ways of accomplishing the same basic thing. So how did the Buick stack up to cars like the Lexus IS350 F-Sport that recently came through? Pretty well actually. It’s not perfect, but few cars are. Take a look at the video and find out.
I’ll start here because, well it’s the most interesting. Fast Buicks have existed in our lifetime, well I guess that depends on how old you are. Names like Grand National, Turbo-T, T-Type and GNX all well respected in car history and have a bit of a mystique about them. Images of big black menacing Buicks are likely dancing through your head. These cars are all part of the second generation Buick Regal’s history. The car became shorter and more muscular compared to the 70s cruiser that was the first generation. Sadly, through the late 80s through the first half of the 90s, the Buick Regal took a drastic turn for the worse. Heck, let’s include the forth generation that lasted well into the 2000s in there as well; it’s a sad scene, and one that built my perception of what a modern Buick was. Thankfully, the misery for the regal Regal was ended in 2004 and the old girl took a five year hiatus, returning with a brand new car circa 2009. Based on the Opel Insignia, we started to see a return to attractive, quick Buick sports sedans. The GS model that we have here was unveiled at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and, admittedly, I noticed. After a 2014 refresh, you’ve got the car sitting in our driveway, ready to drive fast.
But does it? In a word, mostly. I believe that a car is more than the sum of its parts, and taken just on a pure horsepower standpoint, the GS could be better. It’s not light, but few midsize luxury sedans these days are. Buick posts a 3981 pound curb weight, which is a lot for the 2.0 Turbo 4-cylinder to pull around. That’s about the output of my old Focus ST, and as you can imagine, it was significantly lighter. Wait, this is the crap I got in trouble for saying while I was defending Buick’s “F” grade in the report card. Sorry, of course comparing those two cars is apples and oranges, but as I said, we build on our experiences and that’s one of mine. How about this, it’s a couple hundred pounds heavier than the Lexus IS350 F-Sport we had on RFD recently. Oh, and has 47 less horsepowers. Oof. So when compared to some of its midsize luxury rivals, it could use either more power, or less weight. Wait, I said “some of its rivals” right? When compared to some other offerings from BMW, Audi, etc. 259hp isn’t really that bad. Plus, Buick lists the IS250 as its competition, not the 350 we had, which is debatable considering base prices. But regardless, as I said, it’s greater than the sum of its parts. When pushed hard, the GS is a willing dance partner. The AWD system tracks extremely well through twisty roads, and I likely pushed it harder than the average buyer. It made short work of on and off ramps and managed to merge into fast moving DC traffic with aplomb. And that’s what this car will be used for, it’s not a track rat or weekend autocross car, especially now that the manual transmission doesn’t seem to be an option.
Speaking of that, can we get some paddle shifters up in this thing? I’ve never said that about a car before, I even have them in both of my daily drivers, and never use them. But this car has sporting pretensions, and the aforementioned history of being a bit of a badass. Reaching down to the automatic shifter and slotting it to the left and pulling up and down for shifts, just isn’t satisfying. At least in some quick sports sedans, like the F-Sport we just had, you could fancy yourself a race driver and click off shifts with your fingertips. I will say this about the GS transmission, it’s quite obedient. While that Lexus would shift when it wanted, vs. when you wanted, the Buick’s will hold a gear to redline as if it’s saying “alright, finally, let’s do this shit”. So while I wasn’t a fan of the shifting mechanism—and am saddened that they only seem to offer a 6-spd automatic now vs. the previous model year’s manual—it was useful in keeping the car in the correct gear on a twisty road.
I have met the autonomous car future, and it decided I needed to slam on the brakes and perform a panic stop. Unfortunately, the car it saw in my path was turning right and, as a seasoned driver, I knew that I had a ton of space. I even accelerated, likely causing the GS’ brain to become even more concerned about an impending collision. So the big Brembo brakes clamped down and I am sure my face was one of confusion and wonderment. Why was I braking, I just hit the gas? Welcome to the Regal GS Driver Confidence Package! There are two of them actually, fully detailed below in the specifications section, and our test car had both of them. Most elements were unobtrusive, stuff like lane departure warnings (like I had hoped my big Ford truck would have had), backup sensors, lane departure warnings, and the like. But what this Buick adds is something we are seeing on several of our test vehicles: adaptive cruise control. This will keep you locked in at a specified distance to the car in front of you and most systems will even bring you to a comfortable stop without even using the brakes. We’ve tested it in all of the cars that had it optioned, and it works pretty well. What I wasn’t ready for was the front automatic braking. When paired with the front collision warning, it’s an autonomous brain that decides that you need to brake. It’s defeatable, I think, and aside from that one incident, wasn’t obtrusive. The future is here folks, and it’s thinking for us.
The Buick’s interior is pretty sweet. Most of the touch surfaces were quality, although there was a few “hollow” sounding spots that failed the “tap test” around the inside. Generally the interior felt like it was upscale and matched the car’s MSRP. I could do without the flat buttons with no tactile feedback that control functions like the HVAC, heated seats, etc. I felt like I was using an app on a touchscreen device that just wouldn’t recognize that my finger was there. I typically had to tap my fingers across and around the up and down temperature arrow “button” to get it to obey my command. I got better at it the more I used it, but it required a sort of “I’m being fingerprinted” stance to get it to work reliably. I already miss regular buttons.
The seats are excellent in the GS however, and one of my favorite bits. I’m becoming a bit of a automotive seat connoisseur I think, maybe it’s because my ass has graced a dozen different seats in the past couple months. So I’m starting to really figure out what I like. And these seats, I liked. While the Recaros in our Mustang GT were too much for daily driver duty, and even the F-Sport’s bolsters were a bit too aggressive, the GS was just right. The black leather buckets were nicely adjustable and had just the right amount of side bolstering to keep you in place during aggressive maneuvers, or if the car decided to drive itself somewhere you weren’t expecting. It’s a nice place to be.
I really need to come up with some sort of repeatable test for hauling stuff, as it’s one of the 3-pillars of our test regiment at RFD. But I really didn’t put much into our Regal’s trunk, but as you can see in the video, it’s a good size.
Trim: AWD GS
Trans: 6-Speed Auto
Engine: 259hp 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 4-CYL
Drive: All-Wheel Drive
Exterior: Crimson Red
Interior: Ebony w/Ebony Accents
Destination Fee: $925
Packages & Options
Power Moonroof: $1000
Wheels, 20″ V-spoke polished alloy: $700
Driver Confidence Package #1: $1,040
- Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert
- Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
- Lane Departure Warning
- Forward Collision Alert
- Following Distance Indicator
- Driver memory seat
Driver Confidence Package #2: $1,195
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Front Automatic Braking
Total MSRP: $41,845
Buick lists “key competitors” as the Acura TLX, Volkswagen CC, Volvo S60, Lexus IS 250, Infiniti Q50 and Audi A4. I submit that your more mainstream midsize sedans, Accord, Camry, etc. are also on that list. And unfortunately for Buick, they both have more power, less weight, and are cheaper. Of course, that’s not everything, and I haven’t driven the latest iterations of either car. The GS may be a ton more fun on a curvy back road than either of the mainstreamers. My only concern is that, without a bigger output from under the hood, its not going to get a lot of credit as a sports sedan. Regardless, its a hell of a lot more interesting than most of the other midsize sedans, so if you are in the market for something that isn’t going to blend in at the valet, or parked in the garage at work, take a look at the latest Regal GS. It’s not quite the tire-shredding beast its 80s forefathers were, but it’s heading in the right direction.