2015 Buick Regal GS AWD - Get A Grip, Man
It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car.
Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging.
But I can see the future of Buick in this car.
2015 Buick Regal GS AWD
Engine: 2-liter, turbocharged I-4 (259 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm; 295 lbs-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (Rating, mpg): 19 city/27 highway/22 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, mpg): 24 mpg combined; 60/40 highway/city
Options: Driver Confidence Package #2 (Adaptive cruise control, Automatic collision preparation) $1,195; Driver Confidence Package #1 (Following distance sensor indicator, Forward collision alert, Rear cross traffic alert, Lane departure warning, Driver and passenger seat memory settings, Side blind zone alert) $1,040; Power moonroof $1,000 (!); White diamond tricoat $995; 20-inch aluminum wheels w/ summer tires $700; Cargo area tray $140; Floor mats $140; Cargo mat $80.
As tested: $46,025
Allow me to practice my Google-certified armchair psychology for just a moment.
Are you a middle child? Do you find yourself grasping for an identity, sandwiched between two personalities so large that Siegfried and Roy would blush?
Buick would like to talk to you. Their latest effort, the 2015 Regal GS, screams middle child worse than black fingernails or repeated trips to the principal’s office. If you’re a parent (I’m not), or ever been to the principal’s office more than once in a day (I have), then you’ll understand.
The normal Regal — built on the same Epsilon II platform as the Chevrolet Malibu — is a geezer’s paradise of creamy leather, creamy ride and plenty of storage space for Werther’s Original candies. To say that the Regal has no character is wholly inaccurate. The Regal has spirit like “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts” used to: tightly packed in an easily digestible delivery so smooth you could eat dinner and never miss a beat. For that reason, the Buick Regal may be the Salisbury steak TV dinner of the automotive world.
But the Regal GS is a little different.
Back to middle child syndrome, our tester was priced at more than $46,000 all told, and that’s a lot for not-quite-a-Cadillac. If you look far enough into the future, you can see Chevrolet and Cadillac growing far enough apart that Buick — a brand on the ropes not too long ago — will have a future in the United States. The Regal’s stately presence is a perfect middle between Chevrolet’s no-frills Malibu and Cadillac’s upcoming CT6.
But the Regal GS sticks out like black nail polish on a middle schooler. It’s fine for a while, but you just hope it’s something they’ll eventually grow out of.
The Regal GS sports a little more ‘tude than the Regal and I’m all for that. The neatly packaged exterior is handsome (but not aggressive) and curvy (but not bulbous). The GS separates itself from the Regal with a unique front fascia and rear bumper that integrates the dual exhaust tips. Our tester, clad in white, showed its curves very well despite being white, the color that encompasses — though somehow lacks — all colors.
The Regal GS’s heritage as an Opel is evident. The Insignia-based looks are clean and sharp, and belie the idea that at its heart, the Regal is just a retooled Malibu. Admittedly, I loosely remembered that the Regal was related to the Malibu, but had to double-check my facts when the car first arrived. That’s a good thing.
The Regal GS’s waterfall grille and logo looked a little big to me and felt like overcompensation for a car that wants to very badly be American sports sedan a la ATS-V. It’s not. It has too much Opel. And its all the better for it.
There are some curiosities on the outside. The faux hood vents are a little low-rent, and the underline body crease that extends from the rear wheel forward like a hockey stick is entirely too dramatic.
Any conversation about the Regal GS should begin and end with its seats. The deep buckets are soft and comfortable, with pockets for my rump that held me in place when I threw the car around. There are accented trims and stitching to break up the pallid gray world of most mid-sized sedans, and I love that.
But on the rest of the interior, the GS reads like the back of a bottle of mouthwash. Aside from two buttons near the top of the infotainment screen, which read plainly “GS” and “Sport”, you’d be hard pressed to realize you’re in the performance variant of anything. Even the digital instrument readout in front of the driver doesn’t have much special going on. Its customizable performance pages are limited to lateral grip, transmission temperature and oil pressure. That’s not performance so much as it is perfunctory.
In back, the Regal sports rear legroom that’s better than the competition and a copious amount of trunk space for a sports sedan. The Regal GS’s 107.8-inch wheelbase is fully one inch shorter than the BMW 3-Series, but by my measure, Buick takes advantage of its space better, which I can appreciate.
Fitted with Buick’s IntelliLink system, which is a variant of Chevrolet’s MyLink and Cadillac’s HotLink (I may have made that up), the car’s entertainment and information screens are easily laid out and logisticalistical (I may have made that up too). Among its competitors, the system General Motors uses is among the best and least fussy. The standard measure for how I know such things: I’m confident my father could have figured this thing out in 5 minutes cold. That’s a good sign.
Our tester’s stereo, a Bose-branded, 9-speaker affair, was fantastically clear and rich. I know there’s a habit of dumping on premium sound systems — especially those named Bose — but I wouldn’t imagine anything other than this setup in a Regal GS. Good thing it comes standard.
The Regal GS is powered by a turbocharged, 259-horsepower, 2-liter four cylinder and it’s a little bit of question mark. For starters, you should consider that it adds a whopping $14,000 to the bottom line, bumping the price up to $40,075 for the GS model.
I get that the GS is a throwback to Buick’s semi-lucid performance days. Their Grand National coupe was a 1980s legend. That black body could command attention and pink slips at any dragstrip — especially if someone were dumb enough to call it “granddad” while sitting in their Corvette. Recent examples of the Grand National have sold at auction for more than $165,000. Yeah, they’re that awesome.
I’m not as confident that the Regal GS will command the same price at auction in 20 years, but its mechanicals are interesting. The aforementioned 2-liter, turbo four is married monogamously to a six-speed automatic transmission if you opt for all-wheel drive, or a six-speed manual if you choose front-wheel drive. The GS also adds four-wheel independent suspension; MacPhersons up front and four-link in the back with adaptive damping all the way around. Shod with 19-inch shoes — or 20-inch wheels in the case of our tester — the Regal GS will sprint up to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to the manufacturer.
Are you not impressed? You should be. Taken alone, the Regal GS reads on paper like an Audi. For serious. No really, it does.
Fire the Regal GS up and let’s chat.
First, you’ll notice that despite having more power under the hood, the Regal GS is just as quiet as its wafty brother.
Second, the turbo four didn’t sound to my ears like it was enhanced at all. I respect that. Its engine doesn’t sound particularly awesome, but hats off to Buick for playing the cards they were dealt.
Third, despite being a sports sedan for Buick and having an automatic transmission, the Regal GS doesn’t have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I know, I know, paddle shifters scream “sport” like compression leggings on a 50-year-old — but they’re just par for the course these days. Go fig.
Once you get past that, the GS is a hoot to drive. Its 259 horsepower doesn’t do much for its 3,500-pound mass, but the 295 lb.-ft. of twist races up to highway speed with grins along the way. Of all the features the GS does well (interior comfort, exterior looks, and Werther’s Original cubbies) it handles better than your father’s handshake. Our GS AWD shifted its mass and wriggled its way around corners like a competent European sedan. That could have come down to its summer tires wrapped around 20-inch polished wheels — which I’m not sure how many people would actually order in an AWD car — but goodness can the GS grip.
But in my tester, I noticed that by tapping on the Sport or GS buttons very little of the car’s inputs change. According to Buick, GS is a more aggressive setting than Sport, which is a more aggressive setting than normal driving conditions. Aside from its steering firming up a little, I was hard pressed to tell the difference between any of the GS’s three drive modes.
In all, the GS is the best kind of Regal that money can buy, but its $46,000 price tag is a lot of money for this kind of Buick.
And it’s hard to imagine that this kind of Buick has much of a future with Cadillac around.
More by Aaron Cole
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