2012 Buick Regal GS: Introduction
The letters "GS" have long indicated to Buick fans that something special sat under the hood of the automobile wearing that particular badge. The 2012 Buick Regal GS is no different: this is the hottest Buick money can buy, from a performance perspective, and it's also one of the most beautiful designs to be found in the current General Motors lineup. Buick has enjoyed substantial success in convincing fans of Japanese luxury cars to at least give the brand a shot, and the European roots of the Regal platform have now been given the power and handling required to tempt German sports sedan shoppers to put aside their preconceptions and test drive the GS.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Competition
The 2012 Buick Regal GS is a small mid-size car that clashes with premium options from a wide range of different automakers. First and foremost, the Regal GS is aimed at the Acura TSX and the Lexus IS, sedans which aim to combine the same level of sport, comfort, and features. A broader scope reveals automobiles like the Infiniti G25, the BMW 328i, and the Audi A4 hanging around the periphery and boasting a broad range of drivetrain configurations, pricing differentials, and prestige. Some might also consider the Volvo S60 as a likely cross-shop candidate, a dark horse in the luxury segment that essentially represents the flagship of the Swedish brand.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Pricing and Trim Levels
The 2012 Buick Regal GS comes in a single trim level and features an MSRP of $35,720. Though well-equipped right out of the box, the Regal GS can be additionally customized via the selection of a few options, driving the price further north. Adding up all of the items installed on our week-long Buick Regal GS, which was provided by GM Canada, and the out-the-door MSRP just crests the $38,000 mark.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Exterior
The 2012 Buick Regal GS is an absolutely gorgeous car. By far, the Regal GS is the most pleasing to the eye model in the entire Buick stable, and it gives several of GM's sports and luxury cars a run for their money in the looks department as well. The Regal was imported from Opel, where it was sold as the Insignia, and the four-door sedan's elegant lines, softly aggressive curves, and overall package place it in excellent standing when compared against some of the more polarizing - or anonymous - luxury cars in its class.
Everything about the Buick Regal GS' design just works, especially in the white diamond tri-color paint that our test vehicle wore. The GS stands apart from the more pedestrian Regal by way of its enormous and striking 20-inch multi-spoke rims (behind which peek out Brembo brake calipers), enormous air ducts carved into the front bumper, and trapezoidal dual exhaust outlets around back. Other, more subtle touches include extended rocker panels and a rear spoiler, along with a lower stance that is further amplified by the big, big wheels. The vehicle definitely looks primed for the kind of twisty back roads driving the it was engineered to excel at, but it also offers an elegance that makes the car feel equally at home when pulling up to the valet station at a downtown restaurant.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Interior
The 2012 Buick Regal GS provides snug, but comfortable accommodations for each forward passenger. The extra grip provided by the vehicle's heavily-bolstered front seats is well-intentioned, and certainly keeps butts firmly anchored when the car is rotated through a corner, but even those with narrow hips commented on the initial tightness when settling into either throne. In the back, leg room and hip room are more than acceptable, although riding three-across is not recommended for extended periods of time. As with all of the recent spate of mid-size GM sedans, the Regal GS provides ample trunk space.
The Buick Regal GS presents a dashboard layout that will be familiar to anyone who has had the chance to ride in any of the sedan's smaller and larger siblings. A set of four analog gauges face the driver, with the two largest measuring out engine and vehicle speed and the smaller pair focused on fuel level and engine temperature. Centered between the two biggest dials is a rectangular LCD screen that handles the trip odometer, engine oil life monitor, digital speedometer and other vehicle information readouts, controlled by a semi-awkward button arrangement installed on the turn signal stalk. The only real quibble we had with the Buick's instrumentation was the lack of a boost gauge - it would have evoked even more of the GS' high speed heritage, and helped out a bit with the daily drive as well.
The middle of the Regal's dash is dominated by stack of buttons that at first come across as intimidating but quickly resolve into an intuitive collection of entertainment system, navigation system, and heating and cooling system controls. These features are enhanced by the presence of a very useful rotary controller and small array of buttons on the center console itself, making it easy to scroll through menu selections and radio presets. The focal point of the dash, however, is the Buick Intellilink touchscreen LCD display, which sits at the very top of the stack and offers an excellent interface for accessing Bluetooth features, navigation information, or multimedia details. We were impressed by the ease of which the Intellilink system was able to understand and respond to our voice commands, and we had no issues with the feature during our time with the sedan.
There are not very many visual cues throughout the Buick's cabin to indicate to driver and passengers that they are riding in a special edition of the Regal. Aside from the satin black finish of much of the interior finish (a pleasing mix of soft plastics and smooth, almost wood-like surfaces), there sits a discrete "GS" at the far right of the dash. The GS also comes with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, metal-faced pedals (three in our test car), and a GS button that sits alongside the Sport button on the dash that allows access to the vehicle's GS driving mode. Pushing this button also changes the dashboard illumination white - to better show off the red-lit tach and speedometer needles, and to let you know the sedan means business.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
The 2012 Buick Regal GS is equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to grind out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Our vehicle came with a six-speed manual transmission, although an automatic can be had as a no-cost option. Fuel mileage for the Regal GS, which weighs in at over 3,700 lbs, is listed at 20-mpg in city driving and 32-mpg on the highway.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Driving Impressions
The 2012 Buick Regal GS is unquestionably a powerful car. The vehicle's 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Ecotec mill doesn't skimp when it comes to either twist or ponies, and we enjoyed feeling the sedan surge forward with ease…when we were able to pin down its powerband. While the Regal GS is quick, it's not particularly easy to drive due to a certain amount of disharmony between its six-speed manual transmission and the snail sitting under the hood.
It took considerable seat time to puzzle out the shift points for the Regal GS, especially when pushing the car hard in an attempt to squeeze out as much performance as possible. Unlike smaller-displacement turbo motors offered by General Motors, we could feel the lag as the engine revs spun up prior to going on boost. Once the power arrives, it hits not so much like a ton of bricks but rather a firm hand pushing against the small of the car's back - unless you turn off both stability control and traction control, whereupon the Ecotec motor will gladly dump drivetrain-clunking amounts of power to the ground on the one-two shift.
Eventually, we realized that keeping the GS in the right rev range for relatively quick maneuvers required limiting ourselves to the first three gears around town. Cruising in fourth was adequate on secondary roads, but upshifting in search of fuel economy was a no-no in a city environment unless one was comfortable lugging the engine. Fifth and sixth gear were relatively undifferentiated out on the highway, and we did find ourselves dropping at least two gears when wanting to pass quickly. The Regal, like most Buicks, features a considerable amount of sound deadening in the interior, but we very much enjoyed hearing the 2.0-liter turbo spool up when we hammered the gas.
The GS shines when it comes to putting together a comfortable, composed ride that also delivers surprising amounts of grip. The Regal GS features GM's HiPer front struts that are designed to minimize torque steer and improve steering feel despite the sedan's front-wheel drive architecture. In large part the design is successful, especially when combined with the car's Interactive Drive Control System. Hitting the Sport button stiffens the Regal's suspension by roughly 20 percent, while selecting the GS button (nicely done-up with a raised, checkered pattern) adds an additional 20 percent firmer ride on top of that. Heavier steering is also part of what GS mode brings to the party, and the effect transforms the car from commuter to crisper corner carver within seconds. We were able to pitch the Regal GS to our heart's content without ever getting seriously out of shape, and whenever we felt the need to return a less bouncy suspension configuration for longer slogs the car happily obliged.
We also feel the need to comment on the Buick Regal GS' upgraded braking system, featuring 14-inch rotors and four-piston Brembo calipers up front. Stabbing the brake pedal elicited rapid, drama-free stops from the sedan within surprisingly short distance, a welcome feature in any automobile but especially when considering the velocities which the GS is capable of achieving.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Safety
The 2012 Buick Regal GS comes with a comprehensive level of safety equipment, including a full complement of airbags: side-impact airbags front and rear, dual-stage forward airbags, and side curtain airbags that deploy along both sides of the sedan's interior. The Regal GS also comes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control, standard parking assistance, and the OnStar telematics system that can track a stolen vehicle, remotely unlock its doors, and also automatically notify emergency personnel in the event of a serious accident.
2012 Buick Regal GS: Final Thoughts
The 2012 Buick Regal GS presents an interesting combination of characteristics that should snag the attention of anyone shopping for a premium sedan that can hold its own out on the Autobahn. The Regal GS is comfy, quick, handles itself well on both rough pavement and twisty roads, and is quite honestly stunningly attractive from the outside. It may be a stretch to label the Buick a true driver's car, as it takes time to learn the ins and outs of its turbocharged drivetrain, but then again several of its competitors find themselves dealing with various performance shortcomings of their own in an the quest to balance luxury and speed.
The Buick Regal GS is an excellent effort from the domestic brand, and one that sets the mind imagining what it would be like if Buick made the GS' turbocharger four-cylinder its base motor and pursued a more linear six-cylinder mill for its sportiest model.
What We Like About The 2012 Buick Regal GS
- Drop dead gorgeous design
- Respectable power
- The presence of a six-speed manual transmission
- Admirable handling for a heavy, front-wheel drive sedan
We Aren't So Hot On:
- Turbocharged engine's peaky powerband
- Awkwardly-spaced gear ratios
- Lack of boost gauge
- Somewhat expensive pricing