- The 2018 Regal GS is a made-mostly-in-Germany sport sedan with the soul of a Buick.
- That means it combines value, practicality, style, and performance.
- It’s a compelling alternative to the competition from Audi,BMW, and Mercedes– but it shouldn’t be completely defined against those brands.
I am – and always have been – an unapologetic Buick fan. And, in particular, a Buick Regal fan.
I got through high school behind the wheel of a lovely Regal two-door, powered by a V6 engine and outfitted in an elegant brown velour interior. Very, very elegant!
As a car writer, I’ve richly enjoyed pretty much every single Buick I’ve sampled – and even pressed a LaCrosse and its heated seats with lumbar support into service to treat an ailing lower back.
But I reserve a special place in my heart for the Buick Regal GS, a version of the car that once actually claimed the General Motors top-speed title from Corvette, however briefly (I speak of the legendary turbocharged GNX). My last crack at the Regal found me relishing the Opel-based previous generation, but some notable changes have arrived for the 2018 edition, also a rebadged Opel Insignia manufactured in Germany.
That’s right, the Buick Regal GS is a German car, for the most part – but it offers an intriguing alternative to vehicles from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, at a lower price point and with much, much better infotainment technology than what the Teutons have on offer.
My tester arrived in a dashing Sport Red paint job and tipped the cost scales at a well-optioned $US44,115 (the base is about $US40,000). I drove it around for a week. And as is typically the case with Buick sedans, I didn’t want to give it back. Yes, I’m showing my hand here, but the Regal is still my kind of car.
Behold! The 2018 Buick Regal GS.
The weather was rather less favourable on my last go-round with the Regal GS.
For what it’s worth, the Regal lineup now boasts an actual wagon — and a good one, at that.
As you can see, much of the fascia on the GS has been reworked: new grille, new headlights, and notably, no more ventiports in the hood.
The Buick tri-shield has been restored to tricolored glory, and the blacked-out grille has picked up a flash of angular chrome. The overall impression is a wider, sleeker car.
The GS badging pops out of the grille.
The profile of the new Regal GS is more shapely, with the surface curves accentuated. The front and rear are in proportion, but if I might offer a complaint, the hood could be longer.
In keeping with an industry trend, the GS has a fastback hatch.
Pretty modest Buick nameplating!
The red GS lettering returns on the rear but gets a bit lost in the paint job.
There’s a small spoiler on the rear decklid.
You access the cargo area by pivoting this rear badge.
Speaking of the cargo area …
… there’s plenty of space back there. My family and I used the Regal GS to make a run out to the East End of Long Island, and our gear didn’t stress the car in the least.
So let’s check out that motor.
In this day and age, a straightforward, non-turbo 3.6-litre V6 is an oddball. The Regal’s makes 310 horsepower and brings 282 pound-feet of torque to the party. Fuel economy is fair: 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined.
Let’s step inside.
It’s a purposeful interior, nothing too fancy, but handsome in ebony.
The seats are among the best features. The Regal GS’ are racing-derived.
The bolstering can be tweaked to really hug and support the driver.
Plenty of options.
The rear seats are less snazzy, but they’re comfortable, and legroom is good.
The driver is presented with a pretty basic set of analogue gauges and a small information screen in classic Buick blue-green.
The steering wheel feels great, is leather-wrapped and perforated, and offers buttons to the left …
… and buttons to the right. But no paddle shifters for the available manual mode. Good riddance I say! And I say that with the understanding that the Regal GS has a dandy twin clutch transmission that might justify paddles. Honestly, it’s more fun to just drive the GS and not shift gears like and F1 pilot.
The topstitching is among the few overt luxury details.
Climate controls are minimal and easy to use. In Northeastern summer heat, I welcomed the cooled-seats feature.
The Regal GS’ horsepower is piped with an all-wheel-drive system by a nine-speed automatic transmission. You can manipulate the gears yourself using the shifter.
Three drive modes: Standard, Sport, and GS. The real action happens with GS, which noticeably tightens up the steering, firms up the ride, and intensifies the shifts.
The Bose audio system is part of a $US945 upgrade package. It’s terrific — and that’s why it won Business Insider’s Audio System of the Year award in 2017.
The infotainment system runs Buick’s IntelliLink interface on an eight-inch central touchscreen.
It provides capable navigation and media options, with all the usual AUX/USB options, plus 4G LTE wifi connectivity.
But a new addition is GM’s Marketplace, which integrates retail partners.
For example, ExxonMobil is a partner, meaning that you can use the infotainment system to locate gas station and buy gas without having to mess with a credit card.
You can also order McDonald’s on the go.
All this connectivity is delivered through Buick’s venerable OnStar system, which can also provide communications and make emergency calls.
And now for the verdict!
Well, you already knew that I loved the car, right?
Did I love it as much as the previous generation Regal GS? No. Not quite. But I still thought the latest gen was a fine automobile and a great value relative to the competition. (The previous-gen was peppier, more of a pure sport sedan.)
Some might say the Regal GS is underpowered for a sport sedan, with those mere 310 ponies. But the power delivery of the 3.6-litre V6 is linear rather than turboed herky-jerky, so once you grow accustomed to modulating the throttle in your preferred drive mode, you can engage in some smoothly spirited driving. (And if the horsepower complaints keep coming, Buick can always slap a turbo on the 3.6-litre six banger and call it a Regal GSX.)
At stoplights, the auto start-stop engages by default and can’t be switched off. This will annoy some drivers to no end, but I’ve now experienced it in several Buicks and can report that one gets used to it quickly, thanks to its unobtrusive operation. It cuts down on emissions and improves fuel economy as well.
What’s really great about the Regal GS is that it’s just as compelling as a long-range cruiser as it is a short-range fun machine. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes have a more difficult time on this front because their customers demands a crisp sporting presence no matter what. Softness is weakness.
In Standard mode, the Regal GS, by contrast, feels classically Buick: pliable and easygoing. In Sport, it perks up, and in GS mode, it snarls. This makes it the ideal all-purpose sport sedan, and with that very nice sub-$US50,00o sticker price, an authentic value proposition. I like BMWs and Benzes as much as the next guy, but if I’m going to drive a car seven days a week, I’d rather have the Buick.
OK, sure, I’m a bit of an oldster and therefore primed to prefer the Regal to an Audi. But who cares? It’s nice to know that Buick has my needs in mind and can leave the youthful pleasures to those who are required to serve them up.
The breeze-to-use infotainment system clinches the deal for me. While the Regal GS is more near-luxury than true luxury, its infotainment setup handily beats out what’s on offer from Mercedes and BMW and challenges Audi’s (our two-years-running Infotainment System of the Year). For the most part, it works better, with an interface that’s intuitive and a pleasing lack of intricate Germanic decision trees, beloved by engineers and detested by people who aren’t engineers.
Remember, too, that the Regal GS is at base a German ride. But it represents a hybrid of American thinking about interface design and European ideas about how an automobile should perform. Basically, it has a secret, but it’s a good one.
It’s the best of both worlds, and that’s why the Regal GS is a winner.
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