Review: 2012 Buick Regal GS

The Opel Insignia is a pretty good car, but it’s not sold in the U.S. The new Buick Regal, which is based on that same Opel, is also a pretty good car, and it is sold here, and, it’s sold here with a six-speed manual transmission. That’s not a misprint; this is a new Buick sedan that has a six-speed manual transmission.

Yup, Buick decided to root around in GM’s international lineup for a volunteer to serve as their entry in the sports sedan segment here in the U.S., and they seem to have chosen well, because the Regal GS (used to stand for Gran Sport, back in the day), is actually fun to drive. It does not linger, it goes with haste and it is nimble, and it stops very well indeed, courtesy of some very large Brembo brakes. Hey, did I mention that it has a 2-liter, turbocharged engine that puts out 270 horsepower and the car goes from 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds?

Wait, there’s more! The EPA fuel economy numbers for this car are 17 mpg in the city cycle and 27 mpg on the highway.

Amazing, you say? It seems beyond the reach of probability? Uh-huh. Well, grab on to your lug nuts, because the 2012 Regal GS is also a very attractive car. And I mean, very attractive, as in swimsuit model, captain of the cheerleading squad, Brazilian volleyball team level of attractiveness. Beautiful, toned and athletic.

And here’s the thing – it’s better-looking in the metal than in the photos.

Thank you, Germany. Thank you, United States. Thank you, General Motors.

I really liked driving this car around. It was fun, it was a pleasure, and I’d do it again in a second. I’d buy one of these with my own money, and there just aren’t a lot of cars I can say that about. I guess if you’re pressed for time while you’re reading this review, you can stop right there because that kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

I drove a Mercedes-Benz E-Class fitted with their four-cylinder engine (and a manual transmission) for a little while in Europe, and that’s what driving the 2012 Regal GS reminded me of in some basic ways, except that the Buick handled better, had far more horsepower, and stopped quicker. It was not as well laid out inside, and the steering in the Benz was more communicative, and of course, the E-Class is real wheel drive, as opposed to the front wheel drive Regal. We’re not talking apples-to-apples here, but rather, the premise of a comfortable-large premium sedan equipped with a four-cylinder engine. The idea here is to give you the upscale experience of driving a very nice car while getting good fuel economy and all without the hair shirt suffering that comes with an anemic little engine.

What didn’t I like about the Buick GS? Well, the aforementioned interior is very good quality in terms of materials, it’s just not as cohesive from a design perspective as I would like. The steering doesn’t say much to you, and engine is quite muted as well, although in a different way. I would imagine the Buick engineers agonized over how sporting to make the engine sound since this is territory the brand has not been in for a very long time.

There have been grumblings about the shift action and the gate in the car, but I thought it was superb. Good feel, good take-up, notched just right – I can’t understand what the complaints were about. The only complaint I have is the same complaint I have with a lot of European cars with manual transmissions, and that is the my pair of dozens is just too big for heel-and-toe shifting. Of course, perhaps Buick thought that most of their Regal GS buyers wouldn’t be doing that sort of driving, and therefore it wasn’t worth reengineering the pedal layout, and if so, I think they’re probably right.

The Regal GS has just a tad too much avoirdupois at 3710 pounds, but nothing too limiting. There are very few cars these days that aren’t too heavy from my perspective; after the safety engineering, the luxury touches and the electronics are shoved in a car, they tend to get a little heavy.

Yes, this car was loaded – even before the options.

This “White Diamond Tricoat” Regal GS with the black interior I was driving around for a week looked just like the GM-supplied photo of the white Regal GS in this article, and had a standard price of $34,450.

On top of that price, there was added:

AM/FM/CD/MP3 Stereo and Navigation System w/ 7” display – $1145
Power sunroof – $1000
20” inch polished alloy wheels – $700
The aforementioned tricoat paint – $495

That brings the price to $37,790; add in the destination charge of $860. and the total price is $38,650.

I’m sure Buick is guessing at this point as to who the buyers are going to be, and just how many Regal GS models they’re going to sell. Given Buick’s recent offerings, it’s going to be difficult to get people to spend over thirty-eight thousand dollars on this car. Not because it isn’t worth it, but because the competition includes cars from Audi, Acura, Volvo, etc, and if you buy one of those cars, you won’t need to explain your reasons for spending $38,000 on a sports sedan like you’ll have to do with a car that has a Buick badge on it.

Minor failings aside, the 2012 Buick Regal GS is a good sports sedan, and a good value for the money. And did I mention it’s really good-looking? Yeah, well, it is.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t question your opinion of this car, but I also don’t question your opinion of the internal struggle a person is going to go through when trying to decide whether to spend 38 large on a Buick or an Audi, and I think most people are going to go for the Audi because of the brand cachet. That’s going to be a big problem for Buick. It’s a good car that looks great but the lingering stench of what Buicks have been in the past couple of decades follows this car around.

  2. It’s an attractive design, I will say that. I think it’s real purty.

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