Capsule Review: 2012 Buick Regal GS

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
capsule review 2012 buick regal gs

When Buick announced that it would not be rebadging the Opel Insignia OPC as the Buick Regal GS, and that instead of the OPC’s all wheel drive and turbocharged V6 we’d be getting a front-drive turbo four performance model, I was a bit skeptical. On paper, the proposed GS just didn’t seem different enough from the turbo model (which I liked well enough as-is) to elicit much initial enthusiasm. But this is why we drive cars instead of just comparing spec sheets: having spent some time alone with the GS, I’m happy to report that my skepticism was entirely unnecessary.

The first three minutes or so of the forty-odd minutes I spent hammering the GS around the hills of the Northern Willamette Valley, I spent familiarizing myself with the GS’s whistling turbo. After some light lag, the turbo starts twisting out a smooth river of torque that seems to swell graciously (rather than ferociously) under the driver’s right foot. Switching from a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder to the GS, there’s a brief adjustment in driving style, requiring subtle turbo management as the boost build. But by the time the first curves in the road appear, the turbo’s learning curve is over and I’ve figured out how to keep 295 ft-lbs at the ready.

Though the ride feels utterly planted and the few short bends are easily dispatched, the sight of the first sharp corner has me rushing for the brakes. This is, after all, a front-drive Buick, and there are no shoulders or guardrails between it and a thrilling adventure in potentially fatal understeer. The GS shrugs off the speed, turns in with surprising sharpness, and before I know it the boost is building again under my foot and we’re away. On the next corner I brake considerably less, and it pitches intuitively into the turn, and then clings furiously to the asphalt as I feed in the throttle. With each successive corner I push a little bit deeper, flick it a little more aggressively in the tighter turns, get on the throttle in the faster turns. In fact, I spent the rest of the drive trying desperately to find out what happens to the GS when it’s pushed to the point where a chassis shows its true colors… without success.

There are two basic schools of performance car preference: first is a car with low but exploitable limits, which delights with its playful incompetence, the second is a car that is so utterly composed that it delights with its sheer poise. My beloved Z3M fits in the first category, at its best when you’re pushing or catching it around corners. The Regal GS is squarely in the latter category, offering the kind of calmly assuring performance that allows extremely rapid on-road pace at while building the driver’s confidence at every step. Between the turbo’s power delivery, GM’s HiPer strut suspension, the stiffer “GS Mode” and some good summer rubber, the GS is able to take improbably high cornering speeds (GM claims .9g on the skidpad) with zero drama… you could tell this car you slept with its sister in the middle of a sharp curve, and it would simply shrug its shoulders and tug you to the next corner. But more than grip, the GS puts its power down so smoothly under so many circumstances, AWD would be an unwelcome addition.

More power and AWD or rear-drive elicit something of a Pavlovian response in auto enthusiasts, but the GS proves that a well set-up front-driver with a good manual transmission can be as much fun as anything else. It’s not a madhouse, eye-rolling, tongue-lolling kind of fun, like you get from, say, a CTS-V. It’s a quietly confident, real-world, hustle-you-home kind of fun that tugs incessantly at the corners of your mouth. The Buick yin to the Cadillac yang, if you will… at the same $35k-ish price point as the nowhere-near-as-fun-to-drive base CTS sedan. With apologies to John Lennon, A middle-class hero is something to be…

Buick made the vehicle for this review available at a launch event

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  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Oct 21, 2011

    Did you ever get new tires for your Bimmer, Ed? With some serious rubber, its limits should be much higher than this Regal's! This car sounds pretty good. Looks decent too. I'd test drive one if I were in the market.

  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Oct 22, 2011

    I am shocked at how much I like this car. I can't wait to drive one... It could make the short list for our next car.

  • FreedMike Next up should DEFINITELY be the Cadillac Eldorado. On the subject of Caddies, I saw a Lyriq in person for the first time a couple of days ago, and I'm changing my tune on its' styling. In person, it works quite well, and the interior is very nicely executed.
  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.