The GS treatment polishes over our complaints about the Regal 2.0T. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder seems to breathe more freely in this high-output configuration and suffers less from turbo lag, though the moment’s hesitation off the line and a faint whistling keep it from quite matching the Audi A4’s excellent four-cylinder. The GS has some of the sharpest steering I’ve experienced in a front-wheel-drive car, and despite the extra power, doesn’t suffer from much torque steer. It dives into corners with almost unsettling quickness and exhibits very little body roll, especially when the dampers are in “GS” mode. The firm ride, progressive brake pedal, and slick manual shifter all further the impression that the Regal is a well thought out European sedan. And unlike the imported Holdens and Opels of yore, the Regal doesn’t have a bland exterior or a confounding interior. The latter does suffer from having too many center-console buttons but this, again, reflects the car’s age more than its origin. Some will continue to question the decision to forgo the Insignia OPC’s turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive. I actually drove that car and find this setup much lighter and more responsive feeling.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I’m glad I was wrong. The 2012 Regal GS might not be the hairy, rear-wheel-drive muscle car baby boomers remember, but it isn’t utter heresy, either. It is, after all, one of the first Buicks in eons designed first and foremost to entertain the driver.
Though GM’s turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine is getting on in years, it still manages to deliver a sweltering 270 hp, which is more than enough to move the speedometer into speeding-ticket territory. The chassis tuning, however, is even more impressive — the so-called HiPerStrut does a commendable job of ironing out most torque steer from the car, although torque steer still peeks out from the shadows when you do something stupid — say, mat the throttle midway through a corner. The adaptive dampers make traditional Buick body roll a thing of the past, especially when set in GS mode, and Brembo brakes also offer great stopping power and little fade, although purists may prefer a little additional feedback. I wish the shifter were a little smoother and less rubbery, but these are nitpicks, issues GM could easily resolve down the road.
GM’s true test isn’t if it can build a high-performance Buick — it’s if it can sell it. Judging by the online response to this car over the past several months, it seems many buyers — especially in the younger, affluent bracket Buick’s targeting — aren’t quite ready to open their minds to such an idea. That’s too bad, because the Regal GS costs about the same as both the Volkswagen CC and Acura TL yet is undoubtedly the most fun of the three.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The clutch is heavy but precise. The gears are well-spaced and the shifter is quite accurate, and the act of driving this car, slow or fast, is easy. It’s a pleasant place to sit, because the seats are extremely well bolstered; the car is comfortable (this is, after all, a Buick), and highway cruising is calming.
This Regal has another trick up its sleeve: push the GS button (I call it “hyperspace control”), and the car turns everything up a notch. Now, it’s eminently capable, efficient and quick, a true sleeper car. I’m sure the line of cars I passed on the freeway this morning weren’t expecting to get carved up by a Buick. And letting the driver hear plenty of turbo whistle instead of tuning it out? Bravo, GM.