2014 Buick Regal GS updates the model's 2011 redesign with
cosmetic changes and some notable mechanical and interior
this Buick sedan, you might think it’s a blue-hair shuttle. But if
that’s the case, you could exclaim, "Grandma, what big
Brembos you have."
As in the
company known for making high-performance brakes for the finest
sports cars. Believe it or not, they’re fitted to the front end of
the 2014 Buick Regal GS, in accordance with its status as a
high-performance midsize sedan.
So while it
may wear a chrome grille and an updated rendition of Buick’s
ventiports, a styling hallmark since 1949, it also has new
dagger-like intakes on the front fascia and a slick set of wheels.
Grandma’s ride never looked this wicked. New LED tail lamps and
chrome accents lend this car a distinctive look that won’t get
lost in the parking lot.
OK, I understand. Updated looks aside, this is pretty much the same
sedan that debuted for 2011. But there are some notable mechanical
and interior changes for 2014.
For the new
model year, the standard engine on all trim levels — Regal,
Premium I, Premium II and GS — is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter,
four-cylinder engine rated at 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of
torque. So, if you’re keeping score, base models get an extra 39
horsepower for 2014, while GS models lose 11 horsepower. There’s
also a no-cost engine option on Premium I and II models for those
who prefer their Regal to be more fuel efficient. This mild hybrid
system, which GM calls eAssist, mates an electric motor to a tepid
182-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine to boost the gas
All models get
a six-speed automatic transmission, although paddle shifters are not
offered, a curious omission in a modern sports sedan. A six-speed
manual is available, but only on the front-wheel-drive GS. Both
front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models are offered.
Interestingly, the all-wheel-drive system is capable of sending more
than 90 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels if
needed. It can also send power from one rear wheel to the other.
choosing the eAssist mild hybrid over the turbo four, consider this:
the EPA rates the eAssist model’s fuel economy at 25 mpg city and
36 highway. By comparison, the GS model, when equipped with
automatic transmission, returns 21 mpg city and 30 highway in
front-drive form and 19 mpg city and 27 highway with all-wheel
drive. Considering eAssist’s hybrid driveline is none too special,
either in power or fuel economy, better to opt for fun over fuel
efficiency. My advice? Choose the turbocharged GS, which reaches 60
mph in 6.2 seconds with the manual, 6.8 seconds with all-wheel
sprightly, but not exactly the stuff of grand prix dreams.
Nevertheless, the Regal feels faster than that in daily driving. And
there’s more to this car than its spry acceleration. Being that
this Buick is little more than a rebadged Opel Insignia, its
German-engineered roots show through. It stays planted in corners,
with a surprising amount of road feel communicated through the
steering wheel. The all-wheel-drive system enhances the Regal’s
fun factor by banishing torque steer — that’s the tendency for a
front-wheel-drive car to pull to one side upon initial acceleration.
Turn off the electronic traction nannies and you’ll have a whole
lot of fun drifting through corners. Just don’t tell Grandma that
this Regal is, in reality, one randy royal. So much so that you
might want to name it Prince Harry.
The ride is
definitely not that of a traditional Buick; it is absorbent but
firm. Regal GS buyers get larger 19-inch wheels, or optional 20s.
They also get Sport and GS driving modes, which firm up the steering
feel and suspension and quicken the automatic transmission’s
response. Both modes work as advertised, sharpening the Regal GS’s
reflexes. But the suspension becomes so snubbed down in the GS mode
that it transmits road shocks from the slightest roadway ripples. On
the flip side, handling is excellent. As you would expect of
something so sporting, it is not as quiet as a typical Buick, with
some road and tire noise evident, although it’s not objectionable.
being able to indulge your race car driver fantasies while being
seen in a car as sober as a Buick has its advantages; no one will
suspect you for the juvenile you truly are. Nevertheless, if you get
in over your head, there are a number of new radar- and camera-based
safety features for 2014, including rear cross traffic alert, lane
change alert, side blind zone alert, lane departure warning, forward
collision alert and collision mitigation braking. On the test car, a
GS with all-wheel drive, these features were bundled in an optional
$890 Driver Confidence Package. It is well worth the money.
find the biggest change is the revised instrument panel. Instead of
the sea of buttons that greeted drivers last year, this year, an
8-inch touch screen handles most of the chores. On GS models, a
secondary screen in the instrument cluster shows additional
information. By eliminating button clutter, it’s easier to find
the controls that matter, such as those for the automatic climate
control and heated seats. And speaking of seats, the front buckets
are extremely firm, but very comfortable despite the aggressive side
the redesign doesn’t address the key issues that have afflicted
recent Regals: namely, some rather ordinary cabin materials and a
minimal amount of back seat legroom, although in regard to the
latter, it’s no worse than that of its competitors, namely the
Audi A4 and Volvo S60.
And being that
those are the cars that Buick sees as the Regal GS’s competitors,
its price probably won’t surprise you either. And while you might
think that the test car’s $39,270 base price is a bit high for a
marque that still has to find its way back into buyers’ hearts, I
would counter that it is considerably less costly than a comparable
Audi A4, and has competitive performance.
You have to
give Buick props for offering a sedan that can challenge Europe’s
best. Too bad they gave it a name with all of the cool factor of
Sansabelt slacks or a tea cozy.
Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
space: 14.2 cubic feet
(city/highway): 19/27 mpg
consumption: 22.4 mpg
Premium recommended, but not required
safety rating: Not rated
base model: $29,690
test model: $39,270
tested, including destination charge: $44,275