2012 Buick Regal GS Review: Introduction
In the 1980s, the American automaker Buick built the fastest accelerating production car of all time and introduced high performance innovations like the intercooler to the production line at the same time. This car was the black on black Buick Grand National, and it started out life as plain Jane grey Buick Regal T Type. While some might pine for General Motors to bring the super high output Opel Insignia OPC stateside, the 2012 Buick Regal GS makes one heck of a 21st century Regal T Type. The GS features an aggressive stance and our car rode around on the optional 20-inch brilliant chrome rollers that house a set of purposeful Brembos brakes.
The upgraded stopping power is a good thing, because at the heart of the 2012 Buick regal GS is a 270 HP Ecotec engine that features fuel efficient and power producing direct injection and turbocharging to generate an astounding 295 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0 Liter four cylinder that gets an estimated 27 MPG on the highway, starting at $34,835. The 2012 Regal GS features General Motors’ new HiPer Strut technology, GM’s answer to torque steer, and it works. The weight gain is more than displaced by the enhanced driveability, especially in such a high output front wheel drive application.
The interior is spacious with a well-appointed cabin chock full of electronic goodies like a 7-inch color touch screen with sat/nav and a nine-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system; not to mention a pair of heavily bolstered seats that do the Recaros from the Concept justice, as well as a flat bottom steering wheel that reminds you this is not a standard Regal.
2012 Buick Regal GS Review: Exterior
The Buick Regal GS follows the 21st century fuel saving swooping profile; a round front end leads into a swept back windshield which seamlessly becomes an aerodynamic roofline complete with streamlined shark fin antennae ending with a drag reducing short trunk overhang. From the outside, everything you see on the GS was upgraded from the standard Regal for a reason. Items like the bodywork, as well as wheels, tires, and brakes have been swapped for larger, more attractive items.
The Regal GS has large bubbly headlamps with a pair of blue rings around the HID bulbs and a shiny oversized grill to feed more air across the turbocharged ECOTec while the lower lip is framed by a pair of vertical vents that give the Regal GS a puffy cheek look. This makes the high performance Buick look like it could have come from Disney’s Pixar stable.
The impression that runs the length of the wheelbase, from front fender to bottom of the rear doors, adds to the Regal GS’s aggressive stance which is accented by a set of 20-inch chrome Y spoke wheels that perfectly frame the pair of sexy 14-inch stoppers sourced from Italy. Out back, a subtle rear spoiler sits atop a metallic strip that compliments the exhaust tip surrounds beautifully and add to the GS’s performance nature.
2012 Buick Regal GS Review: Interior
From the moment you step into and sit down in the GS’s highly bolstered driver’s seat, place your feet on the aluminum sport pedals and rest your hands at ten and two around the bulges on the flat bottom steering wheel, you know this is no ordinary Regal. The heavily bolstered, fully power adjustable leather wrapped sport buckets felt a bit too narrow at first, but after a few miles our backside settled in just fine.
The wide wrap-around dash starts with flush mounted metal door handles and painted door pulls that add a modern touch to the interior on one side and a GS badge on the other, just to remind you of exactly which Regal you are driving. The oversized windshield make for a large greenhouse and the oversized gauges are easy to read at a glance, but the best part is that they turn angry when you push the GS’s buttons. The LCD display in the middle was not the easiest to navigate, switching between Navigation and Diagnostic settings was downright difficult.
On the other hand, all of the power accessories inside the GS work wonderfully, from the one-touch front windows to the push button starter, our Regal featured passive entry so the keys never have to leave your pocket; all items that are expected of a car of this price. All of the controls in the center stack are easy to interpret and displayed within reach. In-car entertainment was handled by a Harman Kardon nine speaker, AM/FM/XM/CD stereo being controlled via a seven-inch touch screen display and features USB ports for portable music devices, not to mention a perfect iPhone-size hole in front of the shifter ands Bluetooth wireless hands free connectivity. The only downside is the sleek side mirrors, which might be beautiful from the outside, but they leave a bit to be desired as far as visibility at the extremes from inside.
2012 Buick Regal GS Review: Driving Impressions
The Regal GS is a blast to drive: never before has front wheel drive and too much turbo worked so well from the factory. Thanks to 20 pounds of boost and freer flowing intake and exhaust manifolds, this direct injected turbocharged 2.0 Liter Ecotec makes 270 HP and an astounding 295 lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly the four banger is both powerful and efficient, rated at an estimated 19 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway. We were able to go from Miami to Key West and back on a tank of gas with enough to get around the next day, averaging somewhere around around 23 MPG.
The GS has plenty of power to do whatever you please being channeled through GM’s new Hi Per Strut front axle, an all new and perfectly placed application that combines the simplicity of a traditional MacPherson with the benefits of a high performance double wishbone suspension, despite adding a few pounds of unsprung mass. The General’s new Hi Per Strut allows the spindle to pivot around a now stationary strut, separating steering and driving duties which practically eliminates torque steer, a problem that plagues most high output, wrong wheel drive applications.
The ride is firm enough to keep up with the demands of the drivetrain and ensure confidence while overtaking on the highway, but is compliant enough for the everyday drive to work, thanks to a pair of buttons on the center stack in line with the go button on the high output Regal. The first is marked SPORT which stiffens the suspension by a claimed 20% for an obviously sportier ride, and the GS button makes the 21st Century Regal T Type even more taught. Not to mention that when in GS mode the gauges light up in red for added effect.
WHY TO BUY
The Buick Regal GS is a perfect car for someone with $36,420 looking to upgrade their wheels with a more luxurious ride and still wanting to have some fun from time to time. The 270 HP EcoTec four cylinder is great reason to buy, especially with all 295 lb-ft of turbocharged torque being channeled through GM’s new Hi Per Strut suspension, a system that really works. Combine all that technological goodness with attractive aggressive bodywork being complimented by a set of 20 inch chrome rims ($700 upgrade) that house a set of oversized Brembos and an interior that blends sport and luxury beautifully are all perfectly good reasons to want a Buick Regal GS.
2012 Buick Regal GS Review
There are very few reasons why not to buy a Buick Regal GS, the first might be the price. For around $35K, one could argue that there are more prestigious options out there like a BMW 3-Series, but we feel that the high output Buick competes better against other sporty front wheel drive models, like Acura’s TSX and VW’s CC from Germany. The GS might be too much car for ordinary drivers, however it is a performance enthusiasts dream. From the inside the side mirrors might be a deal breaker due to their stylish impracticality, but are tempted to see if a six-speed manual would more than make up for them. If it does come down to dollars and sense, you can always save $700 on the optional polished alloys, but why would you want to do that?
2012 Buick Regal GS Review: Conclusion
The 2012 Buick Regal GS is a great car at an entry level luxury price point that packs plenty of power and luxury into an American made package. We loved the turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood and the new Hi Per Strut front suspension works wonderfully from a standstill and while going around corners. The adjustable sport tuned suspension is more than capable of keeping up with the engine and the luxurious interior might be enough to make you forget that the GS is a performance car.
Memorable quotes from the road:
“Yeah, we got gas.” [Talking on the telephone over the hands free Bluetooth explaining that we’re continuing on to Key West.]
“It’s OK, we got a turbo.” [Reasuring the passengers that we would get to the wedding on time.]