The Buick Regal GS is a sportier take on the new Regal Sportback, itself a pretty big departure from the automaker's recent crop of luxury cars. Available only with a 3.6-liter V6, a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the GS is meant to attract a younger, more enthusiastic set of buyers.
The Regal GS definitely offers a more emotional design, and packs the latest and greatest onboard tech. But the area where it really needs to succeed -- driving dynamics -- is unfortunately the place where it ultimately misses the mark.
The GS' V6 produces a respectable 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. With normal, Sport and GS driving modes (think of that last one as Sport+), I expect this Regal to have three different personalities. Yet the reality is a car that barely has any personality.
In its standard mode, the GS' nine-speed transmission upshifts quickly, as expected, tuned more for easy commuting and fuel economy than enthusiastic driving. But push the Sport or GS buttons and... nothing really happens. Yes, the transmission will hold gears a little bit longer, but there's no apparent immediacy to the throttle response or transmission's shift mapping. It'd be nice to just shift gears myself, but Buick doesn't offer paddle shifters with the automatic transmission. Don't even think about asking for a manual.
Sport and GS modes are said to stiffen the suspension, with Continuous Damping Control that can adjust chassis characteristics on the fly. The Regal GS can attack turns with enough gusto to satisfy most kinda-sporty drivers, easily soaking up bumps. The ride is comfortable, not firm. But once again, I can't feel any discernible difference between the three drive modes. In fact, the only thing I can feel is steering weight. In normal mode, it's super-light, and in GS, it's got a nice amount of weight.
The GS' stop-start system is mostly unobtrusive, which is a good thing, since you can't turn it off. In theory, this fuel-saving technology should help the Regal GS achieve fuel economy ratings of 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. I didn't see numbers quite that high -- try 19.2 mpg combined -- but I'll admit to trying to eke out every last drop of this car's supposed sportiness.
The pull-me-over Sport Red of my test car is a rich hue, applied to the Sportback's sleek body with curves you wouldn't normally expect from a modern day Buick. The silhouette is reminiscent of the Audi A5 Sportback, and the front fascia's thin headlamps and large air intakes gives off an impression of inherent sportiness.
Unfortunately, the interior isn't so sweet, with cheap-feeling buttons, chunky plastics and an overall dated design. If it weren't for the 8-inch touchscreen, I might think this was a car from the mid-2000s. There's hardly a curve to be had on the staid dashboard, and some of the buttons are just hilariously huge. This is pretty bad, GM.
The front seats, however, are delightful. The GS comes standard with sport seats that are more than willing to cradle your hindquarters. With heating, cooling and massage functions, I never want to leave these chairs. I haven't been hugged like this in a while.
The Regal Sportback body style does wonders for cargo space. You've got 31.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, expanding to a whopping 60.7 with the back bench folded. That's about as much as you get in a Mazda CX-5 crossover and easily bests a lot of other compact CUVs. If you're the sort of person who needs to carry lots of stuff but hates SUVs, the Regal might be of interest.
Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system is housed in that aforementioned touchscreen. There's only one physical button, for the home screen, and everything in the infotainment interface is intuitively organized.
I really like the various apps built into the IntelliLink system, like the short, podcast-like stories from news sources, and the Marketplace function, which shows me my recent orders from Dunkin' Donuts and allows me to reorder from inside the car. The onboard navigation system is easy to use and understands the weird pronunciations of some California streets.
Should you want to skip IntelliLink altogether, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot. Wireless smartphone charging is available, but even without that, the Regal GS has three USB ports -- two in back -- and a 12-volt outlet.
A head-up display is available, with clear, bright graphics and customizable information, projected right onto the windshield. I can even see it while wearing polarized sunglasses.
Every Regal GS comes standard with blind-spot monitoring and a rear-seat reminder. Adaptive cruise control is only available with the Driver Confidence II package, though unlike other systems, it can't be set at low speeds under 20 miles per hour. Once set, adaptive cruise can bring the GS to a complete stop and pause for 3 seconds before disengaging.
The Regal GS starts at $39,995, not including $925 for destination. I'd add the Driver Confidence Package II for $1,690 in order to get adaptive cruise control, but that's about it, meaning my perfect GS is only $40,760.
The closest competitor is Kia's sexy new Stinger, which can be had with a twin-turbo V6 engine and rear- or all-wheel drive. Even the base 2.0-liter Stinger is a hoot, and it starts at $31,900. More expensive alternatives include the Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.
I like the Regal GS because it's functional and comfortable to drive every day, and isn't just another sedan or crossover. I'll certainly applaud Buick for doing something different, even if the end result leaves a lot to be desired.