2012 Buick Regal Review

2012 Buick Regal - Buick's new Regal GS is hard to fault and one of the best entry-lux sport sedans on the market.


Vehicle Tested
2012 Buick Regal GS
Base Price: $34,450
At-Tested Price: $27,650
Built in Ontario, Canada and Germany.

Navigation System
Optional Exterior Paint

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Buick brought back the Regal last year and this year the historic nameplate gets some teeth. New for 2012 is the Regal GS. It's a performance model based on the existing four-door sedan that adds a turbocharged 270-horsepower engine, sport-tuned suspension and braking system and interior and exterior accents.

The compact Regal fights with import competitors like the Acura TSX, Audi and Volvo S60 for entry-level luxury buyers. It comes in Base, Premium, Turbo Premium and GS trim. All have front-wheel drive and four-cylinder engines.

Standard on the Base and Premium is a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Optional on those models is a light hybrid engine that adds a 15-horsepower electric motor for a total of 197 horsepower. Standard on Turbo Premium is a turbocharged 220-horsepower 2.0-liter engine. GS models get a 270-horsepower version of that engine. All engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the turbo models is a 6-speed manual.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. A front- and rear-obstacle detection systems and rear-side airbags are optional. A rear-view monitor comes standard with the navigation system.

All models come nicely equipped, but at $34,835, the top-of-the-line GS comes loaded up with just about every imaginable option. Standard equipment includes air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, interior air filter, OnStar assistance system, rear-side airbags, front- and rear-obstacle-detection system, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front bucket seats, 12-way power driver and passenger seat with lumbar adjustment, center console, passenger-seat power height adjustment, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors with integrated turn signals, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keyless access and starting, universal garage door opener, remote start, 120-volt power outlet, Harman/kardon AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection and USB port, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-hone connection, intermittent wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, automatic HID headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, fog lights, sport suspension w/driver-selectable and automatic shock absorber control, uprated brakes, 245/40R19 tires and alloy wheels.

Options include sunroof, navigation system, music hard drive, and special interior and exterior trim. The 2012 Regal has a destination charge of $895 and is manufactured in Ontario, Canada.

Get Up and Go  Though the 270-horsepower rating is less than some auto scribes were hoping for, the Regal GS has great acceleration away from a stoplight and strong passing punch. Most automotive rags peg the 0-60 time at about 6.2 seconds. That's measurably quicker than most rivals.

Power delivery is ultra refined as well. GS gets big-brother's Hyperstrut front suspension and that helps eliminate torque steer. The engine is surprisingly refined and power delivery isn't abrupt as on some high-performance turbo models. The manual transmission is simply a joy to shift and the automatic is well behaved.

EPA ratings of 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway place Regal GS squarely in the crosshairs of most competitors. One drawback is the recommendation of premium-grade gasoline for the turbo engine.

Real-world driving yields impressive fuel-economy averages. Expect about 25 mpg overall in simple suburban highway commuting. Throw in a fair amount of highway driving and you can push that number to 30 mpg. Swap out the highway time for rush-hour slogging and you're likely to net about 20 mpg overall.

On the Road  While the performance specs for the Regal GS are quite impressive, the road manners are simply outstanding. In stark contract to Regal's of yore, the GS features a refreshingly taut and composed ride. There's more impact harshness than a traditional Buick buyer might expect, but the ride is never hard or tiresome.

Regal GS feels nimble and well balanced when tackling twisty roads or curvy on-ramps. The firm suspension limits body motions in quick lane changes as well. Steering feel is direct and linear with great feedback. Brakes have class-leading stopping power and boast a responsive-feeling pedal.

The available Interactive Drive Control System has a Base, Sport and GS mode. It works as advertised. Set in GS, the Regal feels more alive and in tune with driver input. Set to Base, there's defiantly more compliance in the suspension.

Regal is a quiet car. There's barely a whisper of wind and tire noise at highway speeds. Both engines accelerate smoothly and are well-muffled at cruise.

Behind the Wheel  Regal sports a modern and functional interior that's part luxury car part sport sedan. Satin-metal trim and soft-touch surfaces add an air of ambience without being overstated. Another plus are nicely trimmed leather seats.

Drivers face unobstructed gauges with small markings that are hard to read at a glance. Center stack features conventional controls but the sheer number of buttons can be off putting to the traditionalist. The optional navigation system brings with it a confusing console-mounted dial that only complicates matters further. A touch-screen navi display would be a welcome change.

Front-seat passengers get sport seats that have lots of support and are quite firm. Head and leg room are great. The driving position is excellent and outward visibility is good, though the rear deck is tall, making the available rear-view camera much appreciated.

Rear seat room is class competitive, but a far cay from adult comfortable. Knee room is tight if the front seats are pushed more than halfway back and headroom is compromised by the sunroof housing. Three-across seating is compromised by the central floor hump and the overall width of the rear seats.

Cargo room is good and the trunk opening is large. However, there are sickle-shaped hinges that intrude on overall space. At least they are covered to protect items in the cargo area. Interior storage is quite limited, with only a few open and covered bins scattered about.

Bottom Line  Regal GS is a true European sport sedan in every way. It's quick, efficient, nimble and compact. Its $35,000 price tag pits it against some V6-powered competitors, and that might hurt sales. However, the GS is simply loaded with features and so much fun to drive, it's hard to imagine shoppers walking out of Buick showrooms empty handed.

Specifications 2011 Buick Regal GS
4-door sedan
Turbocharged DOHC I4
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
2.0 / 122
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
270 @ 5300
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
295 @ 2400
Height, in.
6-Speed Manual
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
19 city / 27 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
4 years / 50,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
6 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
5 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.