EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Spritely lil' bugger, this 2014 Buick Regal GS . It would be the Regal of choice if I was shopping for a Regal. My wife has a regular Regal, so I'm familiar.
I like the GS -- looks better than her standard car. The GS looks a bit lower and I dig the front-end treatment. It's handsome. This is the Opel Insignia in Europe, where GM's German brand offers this look as a wagon. It looks awesome. I don't know that it would sell well here, but I sure wish Buick would try.
The turbo four and all-wheel drive is a nice combo; it's quick off the line and in the mid revs. There's attention to detail evident here in the buttoned-down ride and quiet operation and with all-wheel-drive it makes a terrific Michigan winter car. Also, of course, AWD nearly eliminates torque steer. The steering could be a bit more direct for my tastes, but on the other hand, it's kind of hard to judge on slick, snow-covered roads. That's not to say the AWD didn't handle the roads; it did fine. I just don't want to put the final gavel down on steering until I can try a GS in the dry.
The interior looks good, nice materials and everything fits nicely. I see Buick added haptic touch on some controls. I do not like that. Pushing the seat heater buttons repeatedly to turn it off and on annoys me. And it's the same with raising or lowering cabin temperature.
Overall, I liked it. Personally, I'm not in the market for a Regal, but if I was, this is what I'd get. And if somebody told me they were thinking of getting a Regal I would tell them a GS is definitely worth a drive at least.
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: My first thought upon coming out of this car after trudging home through yet another blast of crappy winter weather: “I could live with this car.” Seriously, coming from me, that's high praise; I don't say that about a whole lot of stuff, even wheels that cost tens of thousands more than this. The 2014 Buick Regal GS is just a really comfortable, solid ride, with all the amenities I really need in a car -- and a few bonuses, like the heated steering wheel. Not a requirement in my book, but man, is it appreciated feature on those really cold days.
The all-wheel-drive system is solid, too, giving the car a surefootedness that even vehicles like our long-term Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec can't touch. The GL's problem lay largely at the feet of its crappy tires, true, but it's not like the Buick had dedicated winter rubber; the system just worked really efficiently at shuttling power to wheels with traction. I agree with Wes, the steering could have a better response on center, but I like the feel of the wheel in hand, the weight and heft, the overall action of the car when the wheel is turned.
As for the center stack, I sincerely appreciate that Buick employs actual three-dimensional switchgear to control most of the major comfort and convenience functions, though the haptic stuff has got to go. The touchscreen itself features much of the same interactive controls as the Cadillac system I so detest, but without the uber-annoying proximity-sensing crap. Overall, it's a system, as I said, I can live with.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The first thing that clued me in to the fact that the Regal GS wasn't just a smaller version of the LaCrosse? My butt. The black leather sport seats were well-formed, supportive, but still comfortable. Almost like something you'd find on a German performance sedan. No wonder GM just reaffirmed its commitment to Opel.
Fortunately, the seats are backed up by non-sedate performance. I didn't expect to enjoy the little turbo as much as I did. It was tough to evaluate any lag, or rather the lack thereof, given the traction-control induced hesitation off the line. Still, the nearly 300 lb-ft of torque were more than adequate for this car, and you'd don't have to wait long to use them all.
Steering wasn't quite telepathic but I'm glad Buick didn't go the route of excessively bulked-up, fake-feeling heavy feedback.
All in all, and while I can't speak about the FWD version, the Regal GS car was fun and sure-footed in the ice and snow. I'd really like to see this car again in the warmer months; there's an accelerometer function built into the instrument cluster, and though I'm not expecting to pull Nissan GT-R-level gs, I'm curious about how mean this rather comfortable sedan actually is.
And it is comfortable, and quiet -- no squeaks or groans from the cabin materials despite the very chilly temperatures. A boatload of features, including a heated steering wheel and heated seats, plus the always-appreciated remote start function, nicely rounded out the package.
Still, Buick is in an odd place right now. GM has proved it can build a real luxury/performance car with Cadillac; it's even made Chevrolet stylish with the Impala. What, exactly, does that make Buick? I'm not fully buying it as a sport-infused brand, GNX heritage notwithstanding. And the Impala's interior is more memorable than the clean cabin of this Regal GS.
Trying to get inside the head of the General has probably driven more than one person to madness, so I'll let myself enjoy the Regal GS for what it is: A comfortable, fairly well-crafted (really, I mean that) cruiser that's actually fun to drive. The only thing I don't like about this car is the price. I'd recommend this over a comparable Lexus, but you're getting dangerously close to Audi territory here.
A quattro-equipped A4, for example, can be had for under $40,000. It's slightly smaller inside, true enough, and you'll pay handsomely to add the many features found on this Regal GS. But I'm not sure a bet that buyers -- especially the younger ones Buick needs -- will trade cachet for a little extra rear legroom is going break in Buick's favor. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: Unlike all my colleagues in Detroit, I didn't get to drive this in the snow. I've driven other cars in the snow in Detroit. I've driven a Mazda Miata in the snow in Detroit. That was fun. When I lived in Detroit they didn't plow the streets at all when it snowed, which made it much more fun to try and get down Jefferson Avenue to work. You've heard of the Scandinavian flick? When I lived in the Motor City I developed the Detroit Hurl, which was a way to avoid the spinning, careening rear-drive dangerous local land yachts by lunging out of the way and missing the curbs by inches. It was blood sport played out with fenders and I'm proud to say I never dinged a single one.
No, I only drove the 2014 Buick Regal GS in Los Angeles. That meant a couple things. First, there was no snow. There wasn't even any rain. There was an earthquake, but it was only a 5.1 and the Buick Regal's suspension soaked it up and kept on going. Second, it meant there was no brand loyalty involved. There is no demand out here that you buy American because your dad worked there and you could get one on the A Plan. My dad did work for Detroit Transmission but that was before my time. Apart from three years in Detroit and five years in Europe I've spent most of my life in Southern California, where brand loyalty lasts about 11 minutes, sometimes 12. Out here, no one even knows what the A Plan is or the proud history of the UAW and the Battle of the Overpass. They just buy cars, often for shallow reasons. In that regard maybe Buick should play up the fact that this is a German car. Plenty of people are impressed with that. You can't open a car door here without dinging a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. German engineering should be a marketing mantra for this. No one has to know that it's an Opel Insignia. But Buick's tried that before (hello Kadett!) to mixed results.
I drove this around snowless LA a little bit before I looked at the sticker price -- sometimes that gives you a whole different perspective on things. I thought it'd sticker in the mid-20s. It wasn't bad at all for 22 thousand and change, I figured. This thing could be quite popular for that. It has a Haldex AWD system just like a real rally car (more or less), facelifted styling on the front and rear that looks nice enough, an “efficient and refined” 259 hp 2.0-liter turbo four and an Intellilink Infotainment system. I tried a 0-60 launch or two and got 7.0 seconds, which isn't sport sedan territory but it isn't great, either. It's just OK.
Then I looked at the sticker and I almost spat out my decaf latte kale shake: $44,775 (the as-tested price of our car here in California)! Eeesh! That's a lot of coin. I mean, this thing rides nicely enough and is great for suburban commuting and the occasional Midwestern snow storm, but for $45K you could get: an Audi A6, BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-class, Lexus IS 350 or Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. And those are just the “imports” that we shallow Angelenos use to impress each other. There are many domestic rides you could get for that much money that would be about 400x more fun: Chevy SS, Chrysler 300 SRT8 and Ford Taurus SHO. Heck you could get a Subaru WRX STI and not only pretend to be a rally champion, you could probably go out and win an actual rally -- in the snow!
The entry level Regal is about $36K, which is still pretty high for what you get. Buick avoided getting the axe in the bankruptcy because of market demand in China, where customers are snapping up over 800,000 Buicks a year. With prices like these, you have to wonder if the division would even exist without China.
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: Buick bills the Regal GS as a performance car, quick to remind us that this is the first Buick with a manual transmission since the Carter administration. (Alas, as take rates go, the manual is only available in the FWD model. A quaint notion.)
OK, then -- I drove it like a performance car.
And what I found was that the throttle response is terrible. It kills the entire notion of the Regal GS -- with its turbocharger, its beefy Brembos, its famous moniker and its giant chrome fangs. And I know it's the throttle response because when I move the shifter into manual mode, the six-speed automatic changes gears quickly and steadily, with just a bit of pull. But no -- the power delivery is uneven, spurred on by the whooshing turbocharger (which you can hear loud and clear with no buildup). Steering has a large drop-off in the center where there's no resistance -- then, it builds with some artificial weight. On the sinewy Ortega Highway, the Regal GS cornered quite well with just a little bit of understeer, and you can feel the AWD system rolling on the power in each wheel. The ride is coddling and comfortable. It is also squishy. Which adds to a car that, ultimately, feels like it is light on its feet but is also disconcertingly bouncy -- a mixed message for a car that isn't terribly quick but doesn't supplement its lack of power with a sense of directness.
The advanced electronics worked as advertised, while the more basic stuff didn't. Adaptive cruise control was flawless and serene and unobtrusive up until the point where it wouldn't turn on. “Not available,” the warning said. Was the programmer on strike that day? Lane departure warning and collision alert both warned and alerted. The map refused to budge when I poked and prodded the touchscreen. And perhaps most infuriatingly, the temperature control -- on a small, black, capacitive panel, the shape of which resembles a Kabuki mask -- decided that adjusting to my inputs was just too much work, you know?
$45,000 is the main reason why Mark Vaughn wasn't thrilled with this car. It did 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds, he mused. For that kind of price, one could buy a Chevy SS and double the horsepower and double the headroom and halve the acceleration times. Only the Euro-iest of the Euro snobs, the poor suckers who miss their Merkur Scorpios, would spring for this car. But the Regal GS and the slow-selling lineup turns around the notion that they have it so good in Europe! Wait, they do.
Yeah, a 321-hp, 5.6-second 0-60, 170-mph Regal GS would hit the spot nicely -- it doesn't even have to be the wagon. I might even pay $45,000 for the opportunity. (Fat chance.) Alas, it's not clear how committed Buick is to this stick-shifted, performance-via-captive-import thing: the Regal GS has the potential to be an unassuming sleeper, but why have this when an Acura TL -- which also comes with a manual -- is just so much more appealing?
I will leave with this, however. I picked up a female friend, who I hadn't seen in a while. The first she let out when saw the Buick was a long, low daaaaaaaaaaang. “That's a sexy car!” she said. Our car did look good, what with its big and airy wheels. Come to think of it, the last time someone under the age of 65 said that about a Buick, Billy Carter was just starting to be a nuisance.
2014 Buick Regal GS
Base Price: $40,195
As-Tested Price: $44,275
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4; AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 259 hp @ 5,300 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,981 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 19/27/22 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 18.0 mpg
Options: Driver confidence package No. 2 including adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation ($1,695); power sunroof ($1,000); driver confidence package No. 1 including sensor indicator, following distance, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, memory settings, driver & passenger seat, outside mirrors, side blind zone alert with lane chance alert ($890); crystal red tintcoat paint ($495)
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