2012 Buick Regal GS

Matt Tierney
#Buick, #GS

Comments left on previous articles about the Regal GS generally fall into two distinct groups: those who are irked that the new GS isn't a re-pop of the rear-wheel-drive Grand National they adored as a kid, or those who are irked that GM didn't just import the Opel Insignia OPC's driveline -- peaky twin-turbocharged V-6, all-wheel-drive, and all -- into the United States.

They're welcome to their positions (I also wish the car had all-wheel drive, if only because the roads to my house are a bit treacherous in winter), but it's a shame they can't at least give the Regal GS a try before ranting online. The car is actually pretty fun: the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger produces solid power, and despite its front-wheel-drive underpinnings, handling is surprisingly neutral in most corners. Body roll is also negligible, especially once the adaptive dampers are set in super-stiff "GS" mode.

The only way this particular car differs from the other Regal GS models I've driven is its transmission: early-build cars were available only with a six-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic is now offered as a no-charge option. It's smooth and responsive, but I can't help but long for a clutch pedal and a shift pattern -- especially in a performance-oriented car like this.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor


Buick faces tough competition in the near-luxury segment from numerous automakers -- Acura, Lexus, and Volvo, to name just a few -- that have sportier, more stylish, or more luxurious offerings than the Regal GS. And, although its star is on the rise, Buick still has a way to go before it regains the cachet that these companies have as luxury brands.

That being said, the Regal GS is really quite good and is definitely worthy of consideration. I drove a manual Regal GS last summer and my only complaint about that car has been addressed in this example: the transmission. Although I'd normally take a manual over an automatic in a sport sedan, the Regal GS's shifter had a spongy quality that I was not fond of.

The new six-speed automatic is better suited to the Regal GS's personality anyway. Despite having virtues as a sports sedan, in everyday driving the GS comes off feeling more like a compact tourer, one that is complemented by an automatic transmission.

Jennifer Misaros, Digital Platforms, Managing Editor


Buick has a bit of a mixed bag with the Regal GS. The regular Regal Turbo didn't live up to expectations because it felt way too heavy for 220 hp. The GS offers a lot more power. Unfortunately, at least when fitted with winter tires as on this car, that power overwhelms the front tires and it's possible to get a lot of torque steer. I'm looking forward to trying another GS when the weather is a bit nicer and it's riding on more performance-oriented tires.

Inside the GS there's a nice-looking infotainment system that's sometimes cumbersome to use. It feels like a primitive version of iDrive or MMI in terms of data input, but once the destination has been entered, the navigation system works as well as anything else on the market. Buick could make this system a bit more user friendly, but at least when you're using with the audio system it's easy to change radio stations with an actual knob.

Although Buick is quick to compare power figures with Acura and Audi models, the Regal GS doesn't offer all-wheel drive. Sure, Acura requires stepping up to a TL to get SH-AWD, but that's not a huge jump since the TSX and TL are almost identical in size. Buick has access to AWD from Opel, but it's likely that adding a sufficiently sophisticated AWD system would have made the GS far too expensive. Pity. Offering a good AWD system is exactly what Buick needs to compete with Audi and, despite Cadillac's presence, Audi is a natural target for a brand that's striving to appeal to younger buyers with sporty cars.

The Regal GS is worth a look if you're shopping the TSX/TL or A4. The interior isn't as nice as an Audi, but it's nicer than an Acura. Driving the GS isn't quite as rewarding as an A4, but this turbo four-cylinder is no slouch. Without driving the Acura, Audi, and Buick back-to-back, I'd tentatively place the cars like this: Audi, Buick, Acura.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor


With the new Regal, General Motors has made a valiant effort to revitalize the Buick brand in the States, with help from Opel. However, I still don't like the Regal and would not prefer it over the similarly priced and equipped Acura TSX. But then along comes the Regal GS, offering a sportier alternative than the Acura.

I say sportier because there is no mistaking the GS for a sport sedan, especially equipped with an automatic transmission as this car was. It sapped a fair bit of the enthusiasm for the GS, as it was slow to respond to the manual controls and there were no paddle shifters to be found. (The CVT-equipped Subaru Impreza has paddles, and it's not even trying to be sporty!) My guess is that I would have enjoyed the Regal GS more with the available six-speed manual transmission that left a number of my coworkers pleasantly surprised.

What surprised me was that the adjustable dampers actually made quite a difference between normal, sport, and GS modes. Among the three choices, it was easy to find the perfect setting for whatever the road. And no matter the setting, I was often going a good 5 mph faster than I thought I was. Never thought I'd say that about a Buick.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor


With these super-wide, twenty-inch wheels, the Buick GS looks like a concept car. The huge wheels don't seem to compromise the ride quality very much (this car wore winter tires, though, so that surely helps soften the ride) but neither do they make it a curve-carving sports car. The GS handles very well, but not as well as I'd hoped based on the look of the rolling stock and the car's general mission.

Acceleration is not as incredible as I expected, either. Still, the GS is the sportiest Buick in decades (and you can even get it with a stick shift!). Come to think of it, considering Buick's brand image, the GS is close to the perfect performance flagship for the brand...anything more sharp-edged would be very out of place in the current brand lineup.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor


I drove the Regal GS on February 29, and I was thrilled that Buick fit this tester with Pirelli Sotto Zero snow tires. Like Nordlicht, I found that the adjustable dampers provided discernible differences among the three settings. Unlike Nordlicht, I think the Regal GS, overall, certainly merits being calling a luxury sport sedan. By the way, I sat in the back seat behind a 5'11" adult and found sufficient room and comfort on a brief trip around town.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

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