Earlier this Summer, Allan de la Plante spent a week with the already popular new Buick Regal and absolutely loved it. When he headed West after the Toronto Indy, I spent a couple of days wheeling the Regal around town. As great as the car is, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something preventing me from falling in lust with it. With the arrival of the GS model, I am smitten.
Outside, the already sexy exterior has been sportified with the addition of some satin metal trim at the fore and aft ends, more pronounced sill mouldings and a subtle trunk lid spoiler. The most obvious difference from the base model is the optional polished spider web 20″ wheels sporting Summer only performance tires. Our tester on the media launch earlier this week was finished in a striking black metal flake paint, which looks spectacular with the polished spiderweb like wheels.
Gone from the interior are the earth tones and bright chrome bits, replaced instead with varying shades of black and grey which prompted my drive partner to comment that the interior actually looked a bit dour. This got me thinking that this might be THE car for the young Mennonite dude in a hurry. After all, they usually demand black on black, but why shouldn’t they have some fun along the way?
It wasn’t so many years ago that Honda set the automotive world on its ear by building a 2.0 L 4 cylinder engine that created 240 horsepower. That was all well and good, but where that engine fell flat was the fact that it offered only 150 lb/ft of torque and the power came on only once the VTEC kicked in at around 5,000 rpm. What does the 2 seater S2000 have to do with a 4 door Buick? Well, for starters the 2.0 L Ecoboost 4 cylinder cranks out 270 ponies from the same size engine. More impressively, the direct injected GS generates a thumping great 295 lb/ft of torque, with 95% of the oomph coming at just 2,300 rpm.
In recent years, design trends have moved away from offering manual transmissions in even the sportiest of cars. It is refreshing then to note that the first months of production of the Regal GS will be exclusively equipped with a 6 speed shift it yourself gearbox. Beyond tugging on this enthusiast’s heart strings, this decision is the right one because the 6 speed chosen is one of the smoothest shifters I’ve used in ages. Later production models will offer an available 6 speed automatic, but even then, General Motors of Canada is predicting acceptance rate of 50/50 thanks to the type of buyer they are expecting.
Getting back to that sports car comparison, the EPA rates the heavier, more powerful Regal GS at 28 mpg on the highway as compared to 29 for the S2000. We’ve come a long way baby!
On the road, the combination of low down torque and the silky smooth 6 speed makes for quick work of twisty roads. This is a case where the seat of the pants feel is more important than the actual numbers, as the GS feels much quicker than the promised 6.7 second 0-60 time. The lofty 6th gear keeps things so quiet on the highway that I was surprised to discover that I was doing about 80 mph at one point while cruising.
More than just an appearance package with a powerful engine and rolling bling, the GS is stuffed full of the right dirty bits down below too. Stuffed behind the shiny wheels are special high performance struts that are designed with an offset that reduces torque steer to the point where it is virtually nonexistent. Likewise, these struts work with the onboard computers to equalize gas pressure within the strut to ensure a stable ride. On the twisty roads in Northern Michigan during the press launch, we found many turns that tricked drivers but throwing in a hump at the apex. The suspension not only soaked up the hump, but stayed perfectly flat and was nearly unflappable. To keep speed in check, the vented rear discs are complimented by Brembos on the front end, like any serious sports car these days.
The biggest challenge General Motors is going to have is convincing potential first time Buick owners to actually visit the showroom. With the lingering notion that Buick builds cushy cars for old people, many traditional import buyers will need some nudging to drag them into the dealership. Once they can get bums in the driver’s seat though, the Regal GS is going to sell itself. This car really is that good.
Maybe even good enough to convince the odd Mennonite to trade in their blacked out old Impala!