I was pissed off. Roman Mica (TFLCar.com’s headmaster) told me he made arrangements for me to go to a “fun” Buick press event. I was dumbstruck.
What the? Fun in a Buick…was he kidding?
It’s not that I hate the brand. Buick has always been one of the best automotive branches for quality and reliability in GM’s tree. “Youthful,” “fun,” “energetic” and “cool” was never part of the Buick lexicon. That didn’t stop Buick from trying – hell, they had Tiger Woods drive a few – right?
I thought Roman was mad at me for making fun of Barry Manilow or show tunes.
Forget the image of the past. This new Buick is so impressive I wondered why Cadillac didn’t snap it up to build a baby brother to the CTS-V. Seriously, it’s THAT good and I have been eating crow since my first solo drive up in beautiful Northern Michigan. This car made me ask, “Why aren’t more GM products built this way?”
Here are the top 10 reasons why the 2012 Buick Regal GS is the sweetest Buick – ever!
10) The turbocharged 270 horsepower Ecotec 2.0-liter engine is mated to an excellent six-speed manual transmission… yes – I said MANUAL! Just as impressive, the GS makes 295 lbs feet of torque. Limp pencils and bed-wetters got 7-seconds with their 0 to 60 mph times. Proper drivers got into the mid 6-second range.
The manual has a reassuring snickety-click-click to each gear and the reverse release is a trigger at the back of the curved stick-shift knob. I like the trigger as it feels like I could fire hidden 50-calibur machine-guns that pop out of the chromed hood vents. A Buick that has me imagining heavy weaponry? That’s a good thing!
9) Remarkably precise, well executed handling and rewarding steering feel can mainly be attributed to the new high performance strut, or “HiPerStrut” front suspension. This suspension setup changes the geometry of the front strut allowing for maintaining negative camber during cornering and it significantly reduces torque steer.
The overall result from HiPerStrut technology is one of the most connected feeling front drive sedans I’ve yet experienced. The only torque steer I felt (the sensation of a FWD car yanking the steering out of your control with overabundant torque) was when I deliberately maxed out the steering and slammed on the accelerator. Otherwise, the steering remains light, easy to control and provides feedback nearly unheard of in a car of this bracket. It makes the 3,710 lbs Regal GS feel light on its toes while being planted. It’s a great feeling.
8) There are three driving modes with three distinct personalities. The regular setting (one that there is no button for) is basically a comfort setting. Leaving the other settings alone, the Buick Regal GS rides very comfortably with but a hint of body wallow. It’s good for passengers, like grandma.
The “sport” setting livens things up. The suspension tightens a bit and the package feels sportier. Once you punch the “GS” button, you’re off to the races. Cornering is incredibly flat and feedback is fantastic. It is a front drive performance sedan that will stupefy just about any sports sedan costing $10,000 to $20,000 more.
7) Standard, four-piston Brembo brakes clamp the front discs and were clearly the best choice for the Buick Regal GS. I could feel the brakes clamp through the steering as I entered a corner too fast.
Turns out I didn’t even need the brakes given the excellent grip the Buick Regal GS has. All the same, when I needed to stop, the might of the brakes yanked out some of my nostril hair.
6) I suppose the 19-inch wheels that come standard are nice enough. Do yourself a favor, if you like sexy esthetics and want what’s best for this machine – get the 20-inch polished alloys. They look outstanding and add just enough bling for admirer’s to understand that you’re at the helm of something unique.
The Pirelli performance tires on the 20s were so sticky they tried to suck my shoes off my feet when I walked near.
5) The Buick Regal’s body has always been striking. No, it’s not as eye-catching as an over-styled Acura TL or TSX (The GS’s main competition).
It is a sophisticated design with tight lines, no flab and a smooth silhouette. I especially like the rear quarter-panel forward look. When you add those slick looking 20-inch wheels, it fills the empty spaces of the wheel arches and gives the sophistication some balls.
4) After being letdown by cheap GM interiors of yore – the 2012 Buick Regal GS is a revelation. It’s not Audi, but the quality of the materials and excellent fitment are very European. The seats, along with many of the vehicle’s components, are based the Opel Insignia OPC (built in Rüsselsheim, Germany). Knowing the propensity for Americans’ large asses (like mine) Buick enlarged and slightly softened the cushions. It still grips nicely while providing long-term comfort. They look good too.
3) Most of the electronic controls are neatly placed on the monotone center stack surrounding the navigation system. It’s a good location, although I can see some people getting confused about what each button does. Fortunately, the buttons that are most important, which include, “Sport,” “GS” and stereo controls are easy to distinguish.
2) Back seat comfort is not too bad. I was able to squeeze behind someone who was about 5’10” inches tall. As this is a European based vehicle, headroom is great. Shoulder room is at a premium in the back and I would only use the center of the rear seat for brief commutes. On the other hand, the trunk has great space. I was easily able to stuff all 250 lbs of my chunky carcass into the trunk with room to spare.
1) Prices start at around $35,000 for a well equipped 2012 Buick Regal GS. That’s very reasonable. Buick says you’ll be hovering at about $40,000 for a fully loaded GS – which is more than competitive. MPG for a six-speed manual sports sedan is subjective. If you drive like a bald-headed granny, you might get about 30 mpg on the highway. If you drive like an ignorant fool (me) expect mid 20’s on the highway (I’m working with my rabbi to fix this glitch). Normal folk should expect a combined total of around 23 mpg.
Flaws? Yup, there were a few small flaws. I don’t think having an electronic parking brake on a sports sedan with a manual transmission is a great idea. I know, I know – – – it saves a lot of space south of the gear lever… but it saps a bit of sportiness in my book.
Educated gear-heads will note that the vehicle the Regal is based on has an all-wheel drive variant that is wicked fast – the Opel Insignia OPC. Some may long for it over this car. I can understand that, but you have to realize a car like that would be VERY expensive. This Buick Regal GS is a bargain considering what you get and its sales will reflect that. If you slap on all of the Opel Insignia OPC goodies, the price will be deep into Audi A4/S4 territory where it will never compete properly in our market.
Those are the only issues. Not too many gripes – right? It’s frustrating for an automotive journalist like me. It was so easy to make fun of geriatrics in Buicks; I never expected to fall in love with one. Damn-it. Now I desperately need one to drive in the Rocky Mountains on my own – for a proper evaluation.
I’ll end with a funny, absolutely true story about the 2012 Buick Regal GS.
While testing a few Buck Regal GSs on the back roads of beautiful Traverse City, Michigan we came upon a Porsche Cayman S. I love Caymans, but this douche was driving way too slow. The GS in front of us was sick of the Porsche’s slow pace and flew past him in a flurry of dust and leaves. The Porsche driver, aggravated, punched it to catch up to the Regal GS. He never really closed the distance and backed off. The moment he did, my Buick Regal GS was filling his rearview mirror.
“Dude, you just got passed by a bunch of Buicks!”
Aw hell, I had so much fun throwing the 2012 Buick Regal GS around corners; I began to sing show-tunes. What a sweet, fun, excellent car. I hate to say it but – I love it and so will you.
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE.
Check out our first drive video review of the 2011 Buick Regal below: