Review: The 2012 Buick Regal GS is a fine European car in dressed in American style


One suggestion for Buick: Blindfold the cross-armed skeptic who’s dubious of the marque’s new, high-performing Regal GS, spin him around a bunch, tell him he’s about to test-drive a new Acura/Audi/BMW/blah blah blah and stick him in a logo-less Regal GS for a cruise. Then listen to him confess to the folly of making snap judgments, take his money, and notch another sale.

Today’s lesson, if I may say, is to avoid quick conclusions. I finally did. For instance, I wanted to like the square-jawed, imposing, and fast Buick right away, and now I do like it a lot. But the Regal GS has drawbacks. Geeks and knowing lead-feet will require precisely four seconds of logo-less drive time to rightly identify that the Regal is front-wheel drive, which means that the front wheels both steer and power the car.


Unfortunately, if you punch the GS’s accelerator, and therefore call quickly upon the Regal’s turbocharged, four-cylinder engine’s 270 horsepower, the front wheels will almost convulse as they try to both turn and accelerate at the same time (the dweebs will tell you—the dynamic is called torque steer).

Torque steer, the Regal GS reminded me, isn’t great. In everyday driving, however, the fun-seeking dads and empty nesters who will consider purchasing the family- and cargo-friendly GS will slam the throttle, let’s see, next to never. Mr. Snap Judgment can go shop for a rear-wheel drive BMW 335i or fully equipped, all-wheel-drive Audi A4 for thousands more. Or perhaps consider a dated looking Acura TSX with the six-cylinder engine.


Or whimper nostalgically about the Buick Regal GNX, a yesteryear hot rod that by today’s standards drives like a runaway stagecoach. I’ll take the front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual, relatively affordable (my dolled-up tester: $38,155), 2012 Regal GS. Zero to 60 times without hammering the throttle are under seven seconds. Doesn’t take long to enjoy that.


Sit inside. It’s sweet. The ribbed, black leather seats are firm, supportive, and yet comfy and inviting. The handsome cabin strikes a like tone, with silver and black lacquer accents delivering American warmth and style. The entire interior is blingy but not overdone, and transcends Bavarian austerity and Japanese functionality. Also, the stereo/nav/iPod- and cell-phone-friendly entertainment and communications center works great, at least once you’ve channeled your inner Helen Keller and know what the numerous buttons and knobs do without peeking.


Press that one button labeled “GS,” and leave it on whenever there aren’t kids in the backseat, or a dozen eggs enveloped in the trunk’s pocket-netting (that trunk: deep, and bigger than the competition’s; plus the rear seats fold down). “GS” is the adjustable suspension’s stiffest setting, and the difference in cornering and more communicative steering is palpable. Out of GS mode, you’re ready for parking lots and suburbia’s most neglected asphalt.


The Regal’s grille-happy front end looks too much like Lightning McQueen’s car-face, but you’re wise to let that image go while appreciating the rest of the body. The Buick seems shorter than its 16 feet: the curved roof, 20-inch wheels and tires, and a scalloping line running from front door to rear bumper squeeze the form tight. (For the record, I never warmed to the chromed wheels. Too ghetto.) The squared off back and geometric exhaust openings work as well.


The Regal GS only delivered about 17 miles per gallon, and that, at least upon first glance, is a bummer. Making matters worse, the manufacturer suggests that you use premium gas. But, and I promise this’ll be the last time I write it, think before you judge. You’ll get better mileage. You won’t always flick the mostly smooth shifter as I did during my short time with the car, which is to say near the willing engine’s redline. You’ll glide toward stop signs that to me represented excuses to test the Regal’s powerful brakes. You’ll live with this machine, and while the car is plenty quick, you and I both know that happy returns also come to those who don’t always act terribly fast.

Price as tested: $38,155

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

AndrewAndrew Tilin has been a writer and editor for national publications for the last 25 years. He’s been on staff at Outside and Time Inc.’s  Business 2.0 magazines. Andrew is longtime car geek—over the years he’s written car reviews about vehicles ranging from EVs to McLaren’s Formula One cars. His third book, “The Doper Next Door,” was published in the summer 2011.

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