Sedans

2018 Regal GS: A potent driver's car that happens to be a Buick

The GS Sportback steps up to a more relaxed V6 engine while upping its corner appeal with an adaptive suspension.

Buick

My introduction to the 2018 Buick Regal GS happened in the paddock area of the Atlanta Motorsports Park on a damp Georgia morning. There, we paced the sportback through cone slaloms, reverse slaloms, emergency stops and even a few screeching J-turns. The sporty Buick performed admirably, but never really felt great being manhandled like that.

However, over the next 48 hours, I got to know the new Regal GS much better over miles of mountain roads and really learned to love it. This isn't a brash, high-strung, tire-squealing kind of performance variant. It's just a well-sorted driver's car with a relaxed athleticism that makes it easy to live with when you want to enjoy a country road, but also rewarding when hustling through the hills.

310-horsepower V6 engine

Where the old GS was powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder (that continues to be offered elsewhere in the Regal lineup), the 2018 model steps up to a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6. The larger engine crams 51 more ponies under the hood than the turbo did, clocking in at 310 horsepower.

Surprisingly, though, it comes up short in the torque department. Twisting its crank to the tune of just 282 pound-feet, there are 13 fewer pound-feet than before. Do you notice that on the road? Probably not without a back-to-back comparison. The V6 still feels plenty "real-world" torquey and the new nine-speed automatic transmission makes good use of the grunt that's there with its wide range of ratios.

The nine-speed is a decent gearbox, but I was disappointed to learn that it doesn't feature paddle shifters. The Regal's programming does a decent enough job, but paddles would be preferable for really dynamic driving like the mountain passage during my test. As is, I was at least able use the shift lever to manually choose gears for the twistier bits.

Curb weight is also up, but not as much as you might think; at 3,796 pounds, it's just 71 pounds heavier. With the aid of a stop/start fuel saving system, an active cylinder management system that can step down to four-cylinder operation when cruising and the new gearbox, the V6 GS even matches the old model's EPA estimate of 22 combined mpg (19 city and 27 highway mpg).

Handling upgrades

In addition to the power bump, the GS also gets a handling upgrade. Peeking between the spokes of the 19-inch wheels are the red-painted calipers of the front Brembo sport brakes. The rear stoppers have also been upgraded with larger OEM rotors. Plus, the GS steps up to a Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system that can adjust damping of its strut front and five-link rear suspension up to 500 times per second.

With the vehicle suspension sorted, Buick's engineers moved on to keeping the driver supported, outfitting the sportback with GS-specific AGR-certified performance seats with heated and ventilated surfaces, adjustable side bolsters and lumbar support and a massage function. Don't get too excited about that massage, though. It's pretty lackluster in operation, feeling more like the seat was mushing my torso around than a relaxing massage. Fortunately, the buckets are quite comfortable in static operation.

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The GS gets Brembo front brakes with red painted calipers.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Helping drivers make the most of the Regal GS' equipment are the three Interactive Drive Control modes. Normal is, of course, the baseline. Sport mode adjusts the transmission program, suspension tuning and steering for sportier performance. It also adjusts the all-wheel drive system for more of a rear bias. Finally, GS mode goes even more aggressive on the aforementioned systems with even more of a rear bias for the AWD system.

On the surprisingly well-maintained roads of North Georgia, I ended up spending the majority of my time in the GS mode where I could enjoy the nicely weighted steering. In practice, however, I could see myself popping into the softer, more relaxed Normal mode on bumpy roads or when commuting. In all three modes, the sedan managed to be very quiet and comfortable around town, a nice compromise for what will end up being a daily driver at this price.

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The GS seats are AGR-certified to reduce back pain and feature deep, adjustable bolsters that come in handy for the twisty bits.

Buick

The result of all of this is a well-sorted driver's car that happens to sport a Buick badge at either end. The new V6 isn't an amazing engine, it won't blow you away with its exhaust note but it feels well suited to the rest of the Regal GS' relaxed but athletic performance package. It was a blast to chuck the sedan at corner after damp corner in the North Georgia mountains, enjoying what felt like just the right amount of power and grip for this chassis. (Of course, if Buick wanted to give me more power in a future turbocharged GNX variant, I wouldn't say no.)

IntelliLink tech

Inside, the Regal GS features the same pretty good level of tech that can be found throughout the rest of the 2018 Regal lineup.

Our example featured the 8-inch version of Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system. It doesn't look like much with its aging, rudimentary graphics and slightly dull display, but the interface is well organized and the feature set is a solid one. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features and the optional onboard navigation gets the job done without much fuss.

An optional $485 Appearance package adds a Qi wireless smartphone charging pad to the center console and full LED headlights outside. An additional $945 for the Sights and Sounds package brings the aforementioned onboard navigation, Bose premium audio and HD Radio tuning to the party.

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Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The GS also comes standard with OnStar 4G LTE connectivity with in-cabin Wi-Fi for passengers' devices. However, a subscription is required to retain the service after the initial three-month trial.

An 8-inch digital instrument cluster display sits front and center and is customizable. There's also an optional full-color head-up display that comes as part of the $1,690 Driver Confidence II package. That package also rolls in a solid suite of advanced driver aid systems including forward collision alert with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane-keeping steering assist and adaptive cruise control. It's not a bad loadout but, as we've mentioned before, many of the Regal GS' newer competitors are starting to offer many of these features as standard.

Pricing and competition

The 2018 Buick Regal GS starts at $39,995 -- about $5,000 more than last year, but with the addition of more power and an active suspension. Add options and destination charges to reach our as-tested price of $43,510.

The 2018 GS takes its already a solid foundation of value and performance and then dollops on an extra helping of power and control. I also really like the GS' subdued styling and quiet nature. Unique front and rear fascias make this sportier model stand out among the rest of the Regal lineup, without attracting undue attention on the road.

And I haven't mentioned how much I love the flexible liftback design with its 60.7 cubic feet of cargo volume with the seats folded (31.5 with the seats up). The tall-wagon Regal TourX is more spacious, but the GS' sedanlike silhouette has broader appeal and the beefier performance on road makes this the Regal variant I'd choose.

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The GS is the Regal model I'd chose for myself, but it faces stiff competition from other premium sport sedans.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The decision gets a bit trickier when comparison shopping outside of Buick's stable. The 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec is probably the closest competitor with less power, but a better all-wheel drive system. However, the GS costs less. Then again, if you can live without all-wheel drive, Honda's 2018 Accord Sport is plainly more fun to drive and significantly less expensive than either of these sedans with a very premium level of fit, finish and tech.

Has Buick delivered on its promise of "luxury features at a price more attainable than competitors"? Sort of. Luxury probably isn't the word I'd use for a car with such a plasticky cabin, but the Regal GS feels well-tuned, well-equipped and a heck of a lot more fun on the road than its specs would imply.


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