Looking back over the past few decades, it's easy enough to stereotype Buick as the preferred ride of octogenarians -- but during a few (and all too brief) years in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and 1980s, the phrase "performance Buick" didn't elicit fits of laughter. Those days may soon return, if the Regal GS concept -- which debuts at the 2010 Detroit auto show -- is any indication of things to come.
Conceived as a "21st-century successor" to the vaulted Skylark Gran Sports and Regal Grand Nationals, the show car -- like the production 2011 Regal itself -- has European roots. Much of the car stems from the high-performance OPC version of the Opel Insignia, including the lowered stance, aggressive front fascia, and large 20-inch wheels. Inside, the Regal GS sports an all black interior, highlighted by special Recaro front buckets (donated from the Insignia OPC), and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel.
The GS show car is powered by GM's turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec I-4, but receives a bump in power to live up to the Gran Sport legend. GM says the engine is pumping out about 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to propel the Regal GS from 0-60 mph in under six seconds. Power is put to the ground via a six-speed manual transmission and an advanced all-wheel-drive system, developed in part by Haldex. The system uses an electronic limited-slip rear differential to help push the car through corners, giving it a balanced, rear-drive feel. Further helping to instill that balanced feel are the unique "HiPerStrut" struts up front, which reportedly help to quell torque steer while improving steering feel.
Similar to Audi's "Drive Select" controller, Regal GS show car allows drivers to modify the car's ride control, steering effort, and throttle response through the "Interactive Drive Control System." IDCS has three settings -- normal, sport, and GS -- to allow drivers to tailor the car for soft cruising or hard driving. You'll know if you've selected either the sport or GS setting -- the instrument cluster will glow a soft blue hue.
Although GM labels the Regal GS as a show car, a production model is entirely feasible. Craig Bierley, Buick's marketing manager, says the Regal GS was designed to "explore the appeal" of a high-performance Regal. Undoubtedly, it is appealing to enthusiasts, but better yet, it may be to GM's bean counters: most, if not all, of these features are already offered across the pond, and it wouldn't be too hard to certify them for use in North America.