We’ve been really impressed by Buick lately.
Both the Enclave and Encore crossover/suv’s impressed us, and the word has been getting out – Buick is selling well, and appealing to a new, younger, audience.
But the Buick Regal may be the biggest surprise of all.
Yes, the Regal. You probably know the name – it started way back in 1973. Along the way it has soldiered on, some models better than others. One of the high points was the Regal Grand National, with a turbo engine that caught the imagination of enthusiasts and brought back some of the luxury/performance sparkle the brand had in the 60’s.
Well, we’re now into the 6th generation of the Regal, and with the all-new 2018 Regal GS, this is a modern interpretation of Grand Touring that has more in common with BMW and Audi than domestic or Asian competitors. Yes, Buick has Bavaria in the crosshairs. And for good reason – underneath those familiar Buick badges is a solid European sedan – the Opel Insignia.
A Buick that gets pulses raising
That European heritage is clear from the first look. This is a big, modern Euro sedan, cut from the same cloth as the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback. This is a handsome design, with crisp, clean lines, and a muscular stance. Helping our tester stand out was a bold and bright Sport Red exterior – normally we like a more subdued hue, but we kind of liked having people double-take our GS and ask “That’s a Buick?” Just like the commercials….
The GS does its best to make a strong impression over lesser Regalia (sorry), with unique 19” alloys, Piano-black sport grille, unique lower rocker panels, brushed satin accents on the front air scoops, and an integrated rear spoiler.
Designed for Driving
The next surprise comes when you step inside. Bold racing-styled front buckets that look like they come from a BMW M3 or Audi S5. Outside of the fact that the design looks ready to accept a full 5-point racing harness – uh, probably not going to happen – the seats are superb. Ultra-supportive, they’re highly adjustable, as well as heated, ventilated, and even offer a massage feature. Adding to the sport-vibe is a flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped wheel and sport pedals. Nice stuff.
The rest of the interior is high-quality, nicely-designed, but feels less impressive than the stellar interiors of the German sedans – but as we’ll note later, you pay a lot for that extra cushiness. The controls are well designed and simple to operate.
You also feel like you get a lot of goodies for the buck. The 8-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster is clear, easy to set up, and looks ready for business. The 8-inch touchscreen in the center console looks huge, and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Adding to info-overload, our tester had the available full-color heads-up display, that becomes really useful when you start pushing the GS.
Those in the back will enjoy a spacious experience with well-contoured rear seats – sorry no massage for you! Another surprise, the Regal’s hatch opens wide, and with the easy flat-folding rear seats plopped down, you have a monstrous cargo hold with over 60 cubic feet of space.
You probably don’t go for the GS to carry plywood though. In fact, there’s a Regal TourX that’s probably one of the best-looking wagons in existence if you’re looking for a swanky way to get your home-building goods around.
The menu of GS mechanicals should get any enthusiast drooling – new 3.6L V-6 with 310 hp and 282 lb-ft. of torque. Nine-speed automatic and standard intelligent all-wheel drive with active twin clutch. Continuous Damping Control capable of 500 adjustments per second, with Sport and GS modes. Brembo front brakes and a sport-tuned exhaust. Get us a bib…
With stats like that, you might expect a harsh, focused track weapon, but that’s far from the truth – the Gran Sport is a more of a superb Grand Tourer. That new V6 punches out 51 more horsepower than the previous model, and with a world of 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter Turbos, the joy –and sound – of a broad-shouldered V6 is a treat.
From start-up to redline it is refined, with a subtle growl that won’t irritate passengers but pleases the driver. A fat torque curve and the 9-speed automatic means 0-60 shows up in easily under 6 seconds, with the feeling that there’s plenty of punch available any time, any speed.
The ride is beautifully sorted, too. In regular mode, plush as the Buick badge would have you expect, but in Sport and GS modes, firming up for fun on the twisties without being harsh.
This is well-heeled European sport sedan country, and the Buick GS feels right at home.
The all-wheel drive serves up excellent grip, and this big sedan is deceptively easy to drive quickly – good thing the heads-up display is there to let you know how quick you’re hustling. Bad thing that the bright red makes it easy for everyone else to see. In case you grab the wrong kind of attention, the powerful Brembo front brakes (with cool red calipers) scrub off speed in a hurry.
Does it hit the Deutsche – Mark?
Here, the Regal GS leans more to good old American value, and that makes it an attractive buy.
You can get a Regal Sportback – a handsome hatch with a 2.0-liter turbo – for just $25,915.
The GS starts at $39,065, and is well equipped with those great seats, and high-performance running gear. Our tester added the Sights and Sounds Package ($945) that gets you Info-tainment system with Navigation, Bose Premium Audio and HD radio, the Driver Confidence Package ($1,690) with safety gear including Adaptive Cruise Control, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Front Pedestrian Braking and Head-Up Display. Well worth it.
We also enjoyed the Power Moonroof ($1,000) and the Appearance Package ($485) which adds Wireless charging, LED headlamps, Cornering lamps, and Headlamps with auto leveling. All totaled with destination, our red rocket rang in at $44,110.
For comparison, a BMW 440xDrive Gran Coupe starts at $53,000 and easily approaches $60K comparably equipped. The Audi A5 Sportback starts at $42,600 and comparably equipped is $56,400 – but you’ll be running a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder. So, we’ll call the Buick a bargain that will bum out those in Bavaria (and Ingolstadt).
The Regal GS is an intriguing and tempting sport sedan. It severely undercuts the other Europeans, and also should be on the shopping list of Maxima and Genesis G80 buyers.
Surprise! The best premium European luxury sedan for the buck – is a Buick.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.