A Buick debut in South Florida. Makes sense, right? Only we're not in West Palm Beach eating dinner at 3:30 pm and talking about canvas-topped Park Avenues but rather, in hopping South Beach to attend the official debut of the 2012 Buick Regal GS.
First things first: many will be crestfallen to learn the GS will not come with the turbocharged V-6 and all-wheel-drive setup found in the European Opel Insignia OPC. Instead, it will rely upon a higher-output version of the Regal Turbo's four-cylinder powering the front wheels only. The primary reasons we've heard from GM for this milder configuration have to do with weight and fuel economy. We're sure cost concerns also played a role, along with the larger question of where the brand should be positioned. Buick will not announce pricing until closer to the car's late 2011 launch, but we'd be surprised (read: very disappointed) if it started for more than $35,000.
What do you get with the GS? For starters, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's been amped up from the 220 hp in the Regal Turbo to 255 hp and an impressive 295 lb-ft of torque. That power will travel to the front wheels via an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual (a six-speed automatic will be available shortly after launch). Buick promises a 0-60 time "under seven seconds." We hope that's well under seven seconds, as most workaday six-cylinder family sedans, not to mention the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, can do the sprint in closer to six-seconds.
The decision to stick with four-cylinder power should pay dividends terms of handling balance. And although torque vectoring all-wheel-drive is out of the picture, the GS still has some tricks up its sleeve courtesy of the Insignia OPC. A new strut design up front, seen on our shores earlier this year on the V-6-powered LaCrosse, will purportedly improve steering feel and combat torque steer -- a good thing since the latter already plagues the less powerful Turbo. In addition, the Regal will employ adjustable active dampers with three settings, "Standard, "Sport," and "GS." These settings will also adjust steering effort. Nineteen-inch all-season tires or optional twenty-inch summer tires and Brembo front brakes round out the package.
No surprise, the GS looks very similar to last year's concept car, which itself borrowed heavily from its OPC older brother. In addition to the aforementioned big wheels, the GS has unique front and rear fascias, a lowered stance, and dual exhausts to let you it's the fast version. The interior sparkles with Germanic charm, featuring heavily bolstered black-leather front buckets, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and satin trim. All very nice, but would it have been too much to ask for a few cues to Buick's own performance heritage, such as a blacked-out front grille and a retro turbo badge?
We'll need to drive the GS before we can determine whether it truly belongs with the tight-shirt-wearing masses on South Beach or if it's still more at home in a Century Village parking lot. Given its appealing powertrain and no-so-appealing front-wheel-drive configuration, we predict it will fall somewhere in the middle. Like say, a high-end strip mall in Boca Raton. Stay tuned for more information and insight on the vehicle later tonight.