Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider
If you think for one minute about the type of car your grandfather would have preferred, the shape of a huge Buick Park Avenue will probably come to mind.But Buick wasn’t always that way. In the past, Buick built stealthy cars with a GS badge, which stood for Gran Sport. This denoted the highest performance offerings from the brand.
Click here to see how the Buick Regal GS stacks up >
As time went by, the GS badge disappeared from Buicks and the large, bloated cars firmly took over.
After years of lackluster products, GM made an investment in the brand to up the quality and grow it here and abroad. Since Buick is one of the top selling brands in China, it was a natural choice for GM to improve the company.
Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider
Buick borrowed a small sedan from German sister company Opel to create the new Regal. The car it is based on, the Insignia, has been lauded around the world. Likewise, the new Regal has been a critical hit for Buick, even if it isn’t a massive commercial success quite yet.Thankfully, the GS badge also returned on the Regal. Regal is actually one Buick name that has always been closely associated with performance. In the 1980s, the Regal Grand National and GNX were Buick’s mainstream hot rods. They still have a cult following today.
Buick recently let me spend a weekend with a Regal GS to check out its performance chops. I took a small road trip and hit the twisties to see if this car could live up to GS badge.
The GS has a turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 270 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque. Those are impressive numbers for such a small engine, with or without a turbo. Originally the car was only available with a six-speed manual transmission, but my test car had the brand new automatic.
Even without the manual transmission, it's a quick little car. There is very little turbolag and just a touch of torque steer when you step on the gas.
Once you get up to speed, you'll have no issues stopping. The Buick has Brembo brakes in the front that can make your eyes pop out of your head. They are seriously that good.
There are three settings for the suspension, which I came to know as 'stiff,' 'really stiff,' and 'back breaking.' It was amazing just how hard it could become. When I was driving fast on back roads, it was appreciated. When I was on pothole-laden roads or rutted highways, it was annoying.
The GS adds unique front and rear fascias. My test car also had the optional 20-inch chrome wheels.
Personally, I think the car looks great from the front and rear, but I wasn't crazy about the wheels. I think they're a fine design, but they are just too big for the car.
The wheels are clown car large. Comically large. Large.
Big wheels also might be a factor into the harsh ride quality and if you scrape a curb with one you are in for a hefty replacement cost. If it were my car, I'd opt for the standard 19-inch rims.
There are no complaints here.
Buick has given the GS one of the finest interiors I have ever sat in. Everything is soft and pleasing to the touch with quality materials and great looking piano black accents.
The flat bottom wheel looked and felt great and the gauges were easy to read.
It's just a nice place to be.
Other than the wheels, the transmission was the issue.
GM's automatic gearbox wouldn't give me full control in manual mode. If I shifted before it wanted me to, it actually displayed a message that said 'Shift Denied.'
If you're giving drivers a manual mode, let them do what they want with it.
There were also no paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which seems like an oversight for a performance oriented ride.
I think that the Regal looks great inside and out. It's aggressive yet understated. In the corners, it also has a lot of grip with just a modicum of understeer.
But the best part about this car? Exclusivity.
Other than the one I drove, I've never actually seen a GS on the road. That's probably bad news for Buick, since that means that aren't selling all that many.
But the people that buy a GS are not going to be pulling up next to another one at a stoplight very often at all. I know I'd love that.
With a stiff suspension and huge wheels, Buick's traditional older buyers won't be heading for the Regal GS anytime soon.
At a starting price of $34,000, a few options can push the GS close to $40,000 in no time. That's Infiniti G37 and BMW 335i territory. Will people that shop for those rear-wheel drive cars consider the GS? I'm not sure.
There is one other niggle with the GS. In Europe, Opel's performance version of the Insignia (the car the Regal is based on), the OPC, has a 325 horsepower V6 and all-wheel drive. We have to make due with 270 horsepower and front-wheel drive.
I understand that if that exact car were in the USA it would be incredibly expensive, but it just makes me wonder how much better the already great GS could be.
Still, if you want a unique ride that you won't see on every corner that has performance chops, the GS is a great choice.
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