First Drive: 2018 Buick Regal GS

Testing the “sports” part of the new sports sedan in Georgia’s hill country

ALPHARETTA, Georgia — The hilly region north of Atlanta is an emotional landscape straight out of a Bob Ross painting. Nestled among its happy trees are smooth, winding roads that lend themselves to spirited driving, which we’re here to do in the new 2018 Buick Regal GS.

A well-proportioned sedan, the Regal GS is clad in finely sculpted bodywork with visual cues that differentiate it from the standard Sportback, including unique front and rear fascias, 19-inch wheels, and red Brembo brakes. It’s a fine fit for this region of the south-eastern U.S. as they showcase the best of what’s up and coming for both Buick and Georgia.

GM’s long-standing 3.6-liter V-6 powers the Regal GS, making 310 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque in this application. The powerplant is coupled with a relatively new nine-speed automatic transmission that shifts quickly and never hunts for gears. The combination delivers smooth acceleration over a linear power band sent to all four wheels. A torque-vectoring, twin-clutch rear differential similar to the one Buick uses in the Regal TourX wagon also makes an appearance.

In the Regal GS, Buick offers three preset driving modes. The car drives in a default mode that favors comfort and more economic driving. Sport mode increases steering weight, quickens shifts, makes the AWD system more rear-biased, and stiffens suspension. The third mode, GS, has a shift schedule that holds gears longer, even heavier steering, and the firmest suspension settings.

Despite its preference for aggressive driving, GS mode didn’t fatigue me beyond the weighty steering. What really impressed me was how capable the default mode was on even the most technical sections of the mountain.

In the middle of the day, we stopped by Atlanta Motorsports Park, where we participated in a series of parking lot test exercises. These included forward and reverse slaloms, acceleration and brake tests, and a fun 180-degree turn spin. Even with tires intentionally over-inflated past 50 psi, braking, grip, and chassis control felt solid.

Much of the comfort and quiet of the Regal Sportback carries over into a package that also feels sporty and athletic, even with the forfeiture of Buick’s signature “Continental ProContact with ContiSilent quiet tuning” tires in favor of all-season sport tires. It was easy to hold a conversation at highway speeds, which is notable given the insulation disadvantage liftbacks have versus traditional three-box sedans.

Drivers cannot disable engine start-stop, but chief engineer Martin Hayes says his team fine-tuned the system. A key change is what he called a “McDonald’s drive-through algorithm,” which prevents the engine from shutting off again until the vehicle exceeds about 7 mph after restarting. We encountered some traffic on the final leg of our drive and the system checks out in stop-and-go as well.

There’s plenty of safety tech to go around in the Regal GS. Our tester had the optional Driver Confidence Package. It includes a competent adaptive cruise control system, unobtrusive but effective lane departure warning, and forward collision alert and braking. The heads-up display is also part of this safety suite and was highly legible even through polarized sunglasses.

Starting at $39,070 the 2018 Buick Regal GS is a great value proposition for those looking for a blend of performance and technology. Our tester rang in at $44,110 after destination charges, more than $1,000 less than the Acura TLX A-Spec—and the difference is even greater between it and the Lexus IS F-Sport AWD, which starts at $47,825. Not only does the Regal’s V-6 kicks out more power than both, the package offers plenty of luxury to vie for the front of the pack in the tough segment.

The 2018 Regal GS shows that although crossovers may be the mainstay of modern Buick, the brand also offers a capable sports sedan that delivers a comfortable and quiet experience on the freeway that’s also joyful when it’s time to rip through the corners among the happy trees.

2018 Buick Regal GS Specifications
PRICE $39,070/$44,110 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.6L DOHC 24-valve flat-6/310 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 282 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 19/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 192.9 x 73.3 x 57.3 in
WHEELBASE 114.4 in
WEIGHT 4,270 lb
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec (est)

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2018 Buick Regal

2018 Buick Regal

MSRP $24,990 ISV FWD Sportback