2012 Buick Regal Review

2012 Buick Regal - Buick goes European with its 2012 Regal GS.


Buick's fast 1965-74  GS (Gran Sport) muscle cars were far more luxurious than some rivals. The 2012 Buick Regal GS revives the "GS" name in fine style.

This time around, though, the mid-size GS is a fast, handsome rival to foreign sedans such as those from Audi and Acura.

The new Regal GS has a decidedly European feel because it was largely engineered by General Motors' Opel unit in Germany. It thus has a taut, supple ride, confident handling and a refined demeanor.

The 2012 Regal also is offered with an 182-horsepower four-cylinder, which makes it feel a little underpowered, and a turbocharged 220-horsepower four-cylinder. The GS has an advanced engine that easily outdoes those motors.  

The old GS models had big V-8s, but the new GS has a two-liter four-cylinder overhead-camshaft engine with direct-injection and a turbocharger. It generates 270 horsepower and an impressive 295 pound-feet of torque, with 95 percent of torque available between 2,300 and 4,900 rpm.

Dialing up the turbo boost pressure and such items as direct fuel injection and a three-inch-diameter exhaust system help provide higher engine power.

The smooth GS engine delivers the highest specific output of any production engine that GM has ever offered. At 135 horsepower per liter, it's the most "power-dense" engine ever certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The result is an 0-60 mph time of  6.2 seconds and neck-snapping torque when you put your throttle foot down. Not bad for a fairly large sedan that weighs 3,710 pounds.

Estimated fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon the city and 27 on the highway. Premium fuel is recommended, but Buick says regular-grade fuel can be used.

Standard is a surprising item for a Buick-a six-speed manual transmission. It works with a light clutch and generally shifts smoothly. However, I found it's fairly easy to shift into third gear instead of into first if I wasn't paying attention when moving from a stop. Also, the shifter occasionally made it difficult to quickly find the right gear when downshifting.   

Don't want to shift? Buick says a six-speed automatic transmission with driver shift control becomes available "mid-model year."

Still, I'd opt for the manual transmission because it fits the generally European feel of the Regal GS, although a fair amount of shifting is needed for the best performance under certain conditions. Fifth and sixth are strictly overdrive gears. Third gear is best for 65-75 mph passing and for quick merges into fast freeway traffic. Third also is most useful for in-town driving.

The all-disc Brembo brakes of the Regal GS haul it down swiftly without drama, and the ride is supple-although some sharp bumps can be felt.

Steering is quick and precise. A rigid structure and an all-independent suspension with raised spring and stabilizer bar rates help make handling quite good. And a stability control system with integrated traction control helps keep the car on the road if a driver overdoes it.

The Regal GS has front-wheel drive, but I detected no torque steer off the line, at least on dry pavement. Buick says a unique High Performance Strut front suspension design reduces torque steer and improves grip and cornering power.

A bonus is a standard Interactive Drive Control System, which  adapts damping and other driving functions to drivers' preferences.

The system's Standard mode provides all-round performance with comfort characteristics for routine driving. Push the dashboard Sport button and you get a firmer level of suspension damping and reduced body roll, although I noticed little difference between it and the Standard mode. But select the GS mode and you're ready for enthusiast-level driving. It changes the suspension settings and steering sensitivity.

The Regal GS sure looks the part. It's slightly lower than other Regal models for a sportier stance and has unique body color front and rear fascias. The front one has prominent vertical air intake slots. The rear fascia has a pair of extra-large integrated "satin-metallic" trapezoidal exhaust outlets.

There's also rocker panel extensions and a rear spoiler, along with aggressive-looking 19-inch (or optional 20-inch) spoke alloy wheels.

The well-equipped Regal GS has an upscale cabin with satin-finish elements on the instrument panel, steering wheel and console. The quiet, well-equipped car's interior also has leather supportive sport seating, heated driver and front-passenger power seats and front and rear ultrasonic parking assist.

There's also a push-button start and a harman/kardon premium 336-watt 5.1 Matrix Surround Sound system with nine speakers and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

But there's a large number of small dashboard control buttons that can be difficult for a driver to use quickly. Tall passengers behind a tall driver will want more legroom. And the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort. The console bin is small, but all doors have storage pockets.

Safety features include eight air bags, including frontal and side-impact bags, rear-seat thorax side-impact bags and head curtain side-impact bags.

Options include a power tilt-sliding sunroof with sunshade.

The large trunk has a low, but rather high, opening. Rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat for more cargo room, although the pass-through area from the trunk to the rear seat is only moderately large.

The hood opens smoothly on a hydraulic strut, but some fluid filler areas can be hard to reach because they're at the back of the long engine compartment.

As with the old Gran Sport models, Buick is after younger buyers with the Regal GS. It promises to capture quite a few of them with this car.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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