Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
270 HP / 295 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
6.7 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,710 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
14.2 CU-FT
MPG:
19 City / 27 HWY
A Great Sport Sedan With One Big "But"



Of the remaining General Motors nameplates, Buick is the one that's most difficult to wrap your mind around. On the one hand, it's supposed to be a premium brand, but on the other, it's selling vehicles with sticker prices that tend to start in the $20,000 price range, seemingly encroaching on Chevrolet territory. To wit: The Buick Verano is a bit over $23,000 and the Buick Regal starts just under $28,000, while Chevy sells its Cruze, Malibu and Impala in that same range. Even the Buick LaCrosse, whose price shot up nearly $4,000 this year, starts at $31,045. Indeed, GM must be using a mandoline to price the different versions of its sedans clustered around the $25,000-$30,000 price range.

But it's over that threshold where things get really perplexing. Because whether we understand GM's strategy or not, a twenty-some-thousand dollar Buick makes sense. You look at all the boxes you have to tick on a mainstream brand product to get the amenities that Buick offers and you dump that and all the data about the premium competition in a spreadsheet, and you can probably justify a Buick as a wise purchase. If you're an actuary or an accountant, all the better.

A Regal GS with a $35,310 base price (or an as-tested cost of $38,155 like ours), however, has stepped onto an entirely different playing field, like a junior varsity kid getting bumped up to play on Friday night. This isn't the sort of car you research over the Internet and lease after a five-minute test drive. It's purportedly a driver's car, something to seek out and manhandle. We thus find it rather disingenuous to compare it with cars from Acura and Volvo – the Regal GS is really scrapping with vetted sports sedans like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, and even its kissing-GM-cousin, the larger Cadillac CTS.
2012 Buick Regal GS side view2012 Buick Regal GS front view2012 Buick Regal GS rear view

Lacking a similar performance dossier or brand cachet, the GS needs to deliver an exceptional driving experience, which we're happy to report it mostly does. What it doesn't do, however, is mess too much with the basic Regal package. That's neither here nor there, as the Regal is a middle-of-the-road car that claims just as few fans as it does critics. The addition of monstrous air intakes and chromed dual exhaust tips to the new front and rear fascias isn't likely to change that, though perhaps the optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels might. They're both pretty (thank you, chrome) and aggressive looking, showing off big, 14-inch front rotors and Brembo calipers up front.

Inside, the upgrades are similarly substantial and focused on performance. A big, flat-bottomed steering wheel feels great in your hands, while the sport seats are worthy of cuddling. We've written before about our problems with the poorly designed gearshift lever for the six-speed manual, and our opinion there hasn't changed. Neither has our dislike of Buick's infotainment system.

2012 Buick Regal GS interior2012 Buick Regal GS gauges2012 Buick Regal GS instrument panel2012 Buick Regal GS dash badge

But all of this is really beside the point. The reason to buy a GS is what lurks underneath, starting with its 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With just two liters of displacement, GM says the Regal GS can lay claim to having the highest specific output of any production engine it's ever sold, which is pretty cool. It's certainly something to throw out there when your BMW-driving friends ask why you bought a Buick. (Its 22-mile per gallon combined EPA rating you can just keep to yourself.)

The little four makes 295 lb-ft of torque at just 2,400 rpm, which is enough to make this car pretty quick, with instrumented testing by our friends at the buff books showing 0-60 times just a few beats over six seconds. Now, with all that torque, you would think that the GS would be a mess to launch, with torque steer all over the place. But that's not the case. In fact, this Regal is one of the least problematic front-wheel-drive cars we've driven when it comes to being able to put the power to the pavement. Handling in dynamic situations is similarly well composed, with body roll all but nonexistent if you have the car's suspension set in either "Sport" or "GS" mode. Unlike some vehicles that feature sport modes, the Regal's is actually noticeable in the way it firms up the suspension and tightens up the steering effort. That switching to GS mode turns the instrument lighting "white hot" is a small but effective touch.

2012 Buick Regal GS engine

GM deserves plenty of praise for its HiPer Strut suspension system, which effectively separates the steering and suspension components in the MacPherson strut assembly, really helping the GS' steering to feel more like that of a rear-drive car. The penalty to HiPer Strut is that it weighs about 18 pounds more than a conventional system, which no doubt adds to the weighty steering feel of the GS. While the conventional hydraulic steering isn't the most communicative about what's going on at the tire-road interface, it's far improved from the electric unit in the standard Regal, and it isn't ponderous, as the car turns in as quickly as anything wearing 20-inch rubber can. The Regal GS boasts cornering abilities that far outpace what you'd expect to use on public roads.

The GS is a relatively heavy car at 3,700-plus pounds, and indeed, it feels substantial in a good way. The upgraded touchpoints like the seat, wheel, and steering combine to make the car feel worlds different than the base Regal. Of course, there's also that good old fashioned "stick shift" protruding between the front buckets, and as much as it's a thing of wonder to see one in a Buick, it's not quite as satisfying as it could be. While the clutch on the GS feels nicely weighted and easy to modulate, the shifter has long throws, which lead to an imprecise feel. The brakes, though, are a phenomenal upgrade for the GS, and they give it real stopping power in line with the rest of the package. In total, the GS is a really well balanced car, and it gives the impression that GM put considerable effort into tuning so that its disparate systems work well together. Even the large 20-inch wheels, which on paper struck us as overkill, seem absolutely appropriate once you get a chance to wring out the GS a bit.

2012 Buick Regal GS headlight2012 Buick Regal GS hood vent2012 Buick Regal GS wheel2012 Buick Regal GS taillight

But as much as we liked the mechanical setup, there's room for improvement, and we're not just talking about an extra 50 horsepower and all-wheel drive. The exhaust on the GS is just too quiet, lacking much in the way of growl, resonance, or even mean-spirited wail. Along the same lines, the thing that most bothered us is that the GS never really blows you away with its performance. Given that most people who are in the market for a front-drive sport sedan are probably looking for a Q-ship anyway, maybe this isn't a problem, but the GS seems like it should be more fun to drive than it is. While we wouldn't want to upset the nice balance between power, braking and handling, the dial on the GS clearly does not go to 11.

That muted feeling is even there in the aesthetics of the car. Although we like what Buick has done with the steering wheel and the seats and the wheels, we'd like to see a little more panache. For instance, while we're not a huge fan of gratuitous contrasting stitching or seatback embroidery, the GS could use just a bit of color to brighten up the any-color-as-long-as-it's-black interior. Then there's all the monochrome Buick badges, both inside and out, which are the same as those on the standard Regal. Buick has a pretty cool looking red, white and blue tri-shield logo – how about dusting that off to spice up the GS?

Because when you get down to the inevitable number crunching, even if the GS is the most entertaining new Buick we've ever driven – which it is – it's not exactly pushing any boundaries once you look past the traditionally myopic Buick brand. The Regal GS is still a Buick built for rational people. And that's exactly why it's hard to imagine choosing it ahead of a 3 Series, an A4 or a CTS.

2012 Buick Regal GS

Second Opinion: 2012 Buick Regal GS
by Chris Paukert

Sabatini has it right. As much as I like the way the GS goes about its business offering striking good looks and an appealing handling balance, I just can't wrap my head around this car's value equation. Part of that may be because I've driven the model that GM more-or-less promised U.S. enthusiasts – the Opel Insignia OPC, and it's an altogether more serious piece of kit. Rifle-bolt gearshift, seats by Channellock, snarlier 325-horsepower 2.8-liter V6 and a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system add up to a massive personality shift for the better. The OPC feels something like a cut-rate Audi S4, while the Regal GS feels like... a Regal with a really good sports pack and a row-it-yourself gearbox.

If it were otherworldly quick or stupendously luxurious inside, maybe they'd be on to something, but it's neither.

For my money, GM has miscast the Regal (and indeed, much of the Buick brand) as a premium product. Inside-and-out, that means the standard car stacks up against more mundane sheetmetal like the Ford Fusion and Kia Optima, yet it's much more expensive. A base Regal starts at nearly $28,000, a frankly bewildering sum for a brand that has yet to earn back any premium cachet. This GS offers more of the same questionable math, starting at nearly $36,000. If it were otherworldly quick or stupendously luxurious inside, maybe they'd be on to something, but it's neither.

For example, the Hyundai Sonata Turbo offers similar power, a larger interior with similar quality and appointments, and superior fuel economy for right around $25k. No, you can't get a manual, and yes, the Buick certainly handles better (few would call the Sonata 2.0T a sport sedan), but those two things fail to justify the massive pricing discrepancy on my mental ledger.

Ignore the price tag, and the Regal GS is a great car – one of the most impressive sport sedans ever offered by an American brand ... but who ignores the price tag?


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 275 Comments
      Basil Exposition
      • 2 Years Ago
      God Bless Buick for putting a manual transmission in the Regal.
        Jerry
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        But its so poorly executed...
        Glynn Hadskey
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        Hope it sticks around. Ha Ha. When an Autoblog reader for crying out load special orders a GS with an automatic, the stick is doomed.
        Jahou Sacks
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        That's because it's a european car badged to fit the american market.
      Cruising
      • 2 Years Ago
      Comparisons and prices aside I respect Buick for trying to give the brand some passion and soul and shake off that old man image. If Mercury was still around they would be envious of the Regal GS.
        Jahou Sacks
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Cruising
        You mean repect for GM for labeling a german car as a Buick. I'd like to know how much of Opel-knowledge is reused for american rebadged cars.
          Jerry
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jahou Sacks
          WAYYY too much
      STIguy
      • 2 Years Ago
      This could have been the car to fill the void left by the last gen Legacy GT, but no awd and less than 300hp at that price is just a shame, too bad because it looks great and sounds like it a grey car...disappointing
        ICantDrive88
        • 2 Years Ago
        @STIguy
        I had an '06. Loved it, still excited when I see one on the road, great looking car too with an interior that's still hard to beat!
      TMTexas
      • 2 Years Ago
      One of the better vehicle reviews I've read in a long time, well done AB crew. And bang on, I may add. Love the new Regal/Insignia (having had the pleasure of renting a diesel/6MT/AWD Insignia in Europe for two weeks I can honestly say I REALLY REALLY enjoyed the car) but the GS does not stack up to it's OPC counterpart. It's unfortunate GM missed an opportunity to really make a splash with the GS. It would've started putting Buick back on the map as that domestic quasi performance/luxury brand that made the original Grand Sport and T-Type such awesome concepts.
        CBJMNWLD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TMTexas
        Here we go with the infamous AWD, Manual, diesel. Where do they make you guys? Are you in some union or club that mandates you post the same request for EVERY car mentioned at AB? These cars do not sell but wankers like you INSIST in asking for this...
          TMTexas
          • 2 Years Ago
          @CBJMNWLD
          Huh? I was merely sharing the particulars of the Insignia I spent two weeks with, so as not to confuse the issue. But since you mention it, yes the AWD, manual, diesel was great. The fuel economy was fantastic and impressive to this gearhead, as was the amount of fun I had driving it on open highways and tiny Italian cities. Perhaps it is wankers like you that need to go drive one . . .
        TBN27
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TMTexas
        According to GM, it wasn't supposed to be like the OPC for it needed to be more fuel efficient.
          TMTexas
          • 2 Years Ago
          @TBN27
          Seems a bit silly for a low production "performance" model, no?
      Luis
      • 2 Years Ago
      Man, I don't want to put Buick down for this car since we need a lot more companies to take risks and bring us cars that are fun to drive. That being said it seemed like they were going for it and just quit half way. How can this car be so heavy without AWD and why did they do with this engine which is good for a lighter car but on this fatty it just doesn't perform? This should be competing in the Volvo T6, Acura TL SH-AWD and Legacy GT category so pricy cars without the shine of the top brand names. But it really doesn't stack up against those cars, it just needs to lose about 400 pounds or at least gain AWD and not gain any weight, plus it needs a more capable engine. Those 270/295 numbers just don't move this car quickly which is a shame because I like the look and apparently the platform and suspension set up is plenty sporty.
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      progress... i have to give them huge credit... what buick could logically you compare to Subaru Legacy GT (turbo), Audi A4, or ANY BMW ? thats quite an achievement in itself... now is it flawed? surely. Few if any cars have no flaws or compromises. especially when dollars are in the equation. I say kudos to buick / GM for finally bringing this to market. Maybe in the near future or next -generation Regal / Insignia, they can give North Americans the features of the euro market's more competent OPC... former saab's turbo V6 and / or at least AWD in lieu of this Hi-per Strut tech as much as it does for this present Regal GS
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        what buick could logically you compare to Subaru Legacy GT (turbo), Audi A4, or ANY BMW ? **5, 10, 15, 20 *** years ago
          Darius
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nick
          Good thing you didn't say 25 years or else the Buick GNX would have bit you in the ass.
      sycotimmy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Okay, let me say this again. If you want a full on performance car, buy a CTS-V. If you want a nice, comfortable, different, sporty, fun to drive car, the Regal GS is great. Yes, the engine is watered down, but the athletics, handling, and braking are there. I always wondered why they didn't do Brembos on all four corners. Drive a GS through a parking lot and brake and it's apparent. You almost go through the windshield they grab so good with just the fronts. The car is a step in the right direction for Buick and I really don't mind being a guinea pig at all. This car slices through corners just like my Cooper S did and if you think straight line speed is everything, then you don't know what true driving is. Sometimes it's better to drive a slower car fast.
        m3brad
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sycotimmy
        Well said. I've got 1600 miles on my GS and have not found a real downside. 0-60 numbers are so overrated. Rolling acceleration is quite dramatic and I'm comparing that to a BMW 335 and an Audi S4, which I have both driven extensively. Reliability, or lack of sent me packing from both Audi and BMW. I'm sick of paying the outrageous prices for repairs once your european vehicle is out of warranty. They are both overrated, IMO.
      IOMTT
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really like this car and the 6spd is a bonus. Just a bit too salty though. Perhaps a GS version on the Verano?
      fulredy
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car doesn't stand a chance of competing in the class of cars in this price point.
      Gator
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've driven this car yes, if you look at the price tag, there are so many better cars out there. But the beauty here is GM is heading in the right direction in the performance department. Hopefully they realize that the Regal GS is in the wrong price point and lower the cost. On another note, the interior feels mid 2000's, that another thing that GM has over looked.
        SYJ
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gator
        Lower the cost to what? Have you seen the standard equipment on this car? Only the TSX and TL offer this much stuff at this price in this segment. When cars like the 328i come with 19s, HIDs, premium sound, push button start, 12 way seats, Brembos, etc. STANDARD then maybe I can believe the GS is overpriced.
      reattadudes
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm not normally one to criticize writers, but this is one of the most disconnected reviews I've ever read. "the Regal claims as few fans as it does critics". you might want to pass that knee-slapper onto Buick. they are selling as many Regals as they can build. and when can we count on "critics" to buy cars? know can you make a judgment about how people buy cars by making statements inferring that "it's not a decision made by an internet search and a five minute test drive?" oh really? in the last twenty five years, I've owned over 80 new cars. I've never test driven a single one. I know what I want, and buy it. I've never been disappointed. it seems your genuine disappointment was that the car was competent. you were hoping for wild torque steer, like some '86 Buick Skyhawk turbo, yet none was present. you act as though there is nothing but rear drive, like a front engine driving the rear wheels via a pole is somehow progress. when you had a Radio Flyer wagon as a kid, did you push it or pull it? not all of us are concerned with testing the limits of handling, and I'm sure many who live in colder climates question the alleged "progress" in the return to rear wheel drive. at least the manufacturers of snow tires are happy. and I've saved the best for last. please let your readers know what $38,000 will buy in an A4, 3 series BMW, or CTS that you're comparing the Regal to. since horsepower is so important to you, the only car that will match this one is the CTS. the BMW 318i has only 230, and the Audi, only 211. after that, all goes to hell. you had a loaded Regal for $38K, and that money with any of the others will get you vinyl seats, no sunroof, no "infotainment", no performance tires, no performance or luxury anything. so where is the confusion, besides the fact that you didn't like the car, despite it's competence?
        Jerry
        • 2 Years Ago
        @reattadudes
        Actually the Regal is missing sales targets miserably... And I suggest that you break tradition and drive one of these cars before you buy it.
        Rick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @reattadudes
        I would attempt to take your arguement seriously if you would....capitalize the appropriate words besides the cars you stated as if they're a higher power. Also, owned three cars a year? If you had that money you wouldn't consider a Buick. Maybe you meant twenty five cars in the last eighty years, which would explain your passion about the brand.
        simianspeedster
        • 2 Years Ago
        @reattadudes
        Check the BMW stats again. The 328i (not 318i) may have lower power ratings than the GS (240HP vs. 280HP), but it's faster than the Buick and gets far better mileage. The power ratings for BMW's turbocharged engines can be misleading because the power peaks, both HP and torque, are quite broad -- they pull at almost every point in the tach in almost any gear with almost no turbo lag.
        clquake
        • 2 Years Ago
        @reattadudes
        Eighty cars in twenty five years? Are you the boring car fan version of Jay Leno?
      ZULF
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car is epic fail. OR you can have G37 328hp RWD sedan for $1500 extra.
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