The Buick Regal GS is a driver’s car as well as a family car, roomy, comfortable and capable.
By T. Q. Jones
There were two things that most surprised several people who looked at the 2012 Buick Regal GS during the week we drove it. First was the stick shift. Right, it’s a six-speed manual transmission with no automatic feature. Second, it does have two buttons that allow the driver (or an annoying passenger) to switch from GS mode to Sport mode, with the sport setting offering better handling.
Mostly, though, it was the six-speed manual transmission that caught the eye, as in, when did Buick start putting manual transmissions in their cars, a practice they had ended back in the 1950s? Well, right about now, actually. Our take on it is that Americans are beginning to join the rest of the world in looking for better handling and brakes, which also require better tires to really be effective.
Of course, a car that handles well is normally compromised in some other way, such as offering a rougher ride. That’s where the magic buttons that switch from GS to Sport come in, and they allow each driver to choose which setting he or she prefers, (and don’t bet on Mama being the one going for the softer ride).
This 2012 Regal GS is a pretty capable piece in a lot of ways, and is the midsize version of the kind of smaller car with all the luxury touches that is getting increasingly more popular. And, at $38,155 the Regal GS isn’t that highly priced. Even at 38 grand, a third surprise for some was the quality of the interior, even though General Motors has been steadily building better (and better appearing, inside and out) cars for several years. Many of them were on the market as early as 2008, but didn’t attract attention at the time,
This Regal is more sport sedan than anything; it’s just roomier. The stuff under the body is top of the line, from the 270 horsepower double overhead cam turbocharged four cylinder EcoTec engine to the high performance strut suspension and the Brembo front brakes. Naturally it also has stability control, traction control and multiple air bags, though it’s better to use the high performance handling and brakes to avoid the accident in the first place than to count on the air bag, which provide only supplemental protection.
With that kind of equipment, the Buick Regal GS drives as you would probably expect it to, only better. In addition, the car is rated by the EPA at 19 miles per gallon city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway. (Premium fuel is recommended, but not required.) We made one freeway run and recorded 29.2 mpg, while getting 21.8 mpg on a mixed highway and city test.
The GS features distinctive Regal GS bodywork, 19-inch alloy wheels, tire pressure monitoring system (which, along with OnStar, we used to good effect when road debris caused not one but two flat tire, the first we’ve suffered in some 25 years. We really do take excellent tires for granted these days.
The GS had high-intensity headlights, heated power outside mirrors, 12 and 120-volt power outlets, power seats with eight-way adjustment and four-way adjustable lumbar support. It had all the usual stuff, tilt and telescope wheel, and cruise control along with Bluetooth connectivity and navigation. Naturally, these days, it had an upgraded sound system including satellite radio.
The bottom line is that the Buick Regal GS is a driver’s car as well as a family car, roomy, comfortable and capable. The engine and transmission, by the way, came by way of Germany, though the car is assembled in Canada with 60 percent U.S. and Canadian parts content and 15 per cent Mexican parts content.
On a final note, one of the supplied photos from GM shows Buick driver Bill Rietow in a Regal GS at the Milford Road Course preparing for the Silver State Classic Challenge. The Challenge is an authorized open road event run on a 90 mi stretch of of open road in Nevada, which is closed for the occasion. The event has been run since 1988, You think maybe Buick is serious about this performance thing? The Regal GS sure looks and feels serious.