Strengths and weaknesses:
- need to drop two or three gears for fast pickup
GS delivers performance of Regal proportions
"Pushing the “GS” button sets up the car for dynamic driving with better steering feel and even more suspension damping."
The 2012 Buick Regal GS ain’t your grandpa’s Buick – unless I’m your grandpa.
Buick’s appeal for the older set was once mainly its size and its boat-like ride. Now the marque is aiming for a younger audience, but as one who I’m told has officially passed into geezerdom, I’m here to testify it has appeal for today’s older set who still have a youthful enthusiasm for vehicles.
The GS has a sleek profile with a European flair. It sports a front fascia with large front air intakes and small fake side air intakes along with rectangular dual exhaust tips and rear deck spoiler. In homage to Buicks past, designers have stuck plastic fake portholes on the hood, the only downside to the styling.
My test car ups the ante with optional 20-inch chrome wheels behind which lurk Brembo brake callipers. Its body is clad in a coat of premium white paint that’s gorgeous but costly.
Inside, there’s soft black leather and piano black trim to go with all the usual amenities I expect to find in a luxury auto, including navigation, heated power seats, and a comprehensive driver information centre that’s easy to navigate.
Gauges are easy to read while buttons and switches fall readily to hand.
Seats, especially up front, are well-bolstered and offer firm support for driver and passengers. The rear of the centre console has a standard plug-in for a laptop, game console or phone charger.
The multi-function steering wheel has a slightly flattened bottom and is constructed so the driver has to grip it at 9 and 3 o’clock to feel comfortable. Nice move.
But here’s the neatest thing: there are three pedals on the floor. This year, you can’t get the GS with anything other than a six-speed manual shifter and this geezer loves to row his own gears. The clutch feel is light and linear and the stick flicks quickly through the gears.
This fun stuff is connected to a direct-injected 270-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder high-output turbo engine that develops 295 lb.-ft. of torque at full howl.
The last time Buick had a turbo was way back in the late 1980s. This one is smaller but waaay more refined, not to mention more economical to run. There’s a bit of turbo lag and I find there’s not a lot of grunt in sixth gear, meaning I have to downshift at least two gears to make a quick highway pass. It’s not a big deal but you need to be aware of it should you suddenly need a surge of power.
On the centre stack just to the right of the understated start button are two Interactive Drive Control System buttons capable of bringing a smile to your face: “GS” and “Sport.” Each brings a new level of fun to the table.
If neither is selected, the default is a suspension setting on the comfort side. It’s not floating, but the ride is definitely more sedate. Good for cruising.
Engineers put in a lot of work to come up with what they call HiPerStrut front suspension which is designed to eliminate torque steer and produce flatter handling even when pushed hard. A beefier sway bar adds to stability.
GS springs are 20% stiffer than in the Regal CXL Turbo, the ride height is a bit lower
Selecting Sport gives me firmer suspension damping that reduces body roll if I decide I need a little more precision.
Pushing the “GS” button sets up the car for dynamic driving with better steering feel and even more suspension damping. This setting compared to the regular default setting is like night and day. Body roll is barely there, steering response is quick and precise although feedback is a little light.
Through it all, the cabin remains comfortable with only a hint of wind or road noise getting past the sound insulation.
It’s in the middle of a particularly tight corner that the thought strikes me that GS could well stand for Good Stuff or maybe Geezer’s Space.