2014 Buick Regal GS, playing it safe: Motoramic Drives
The Buick Regal’s temperament has fluctuated more wildly than Kanye West’s. What began as a mildly reworked version of the Buick Century, turned into the NASCAR-esque Grand National and the McLaren-tuned, snarling GNX. But by 1988, Buick reverted to luxury, ditching its edgier looks and rear-wheel drive, in favor of an uninspiring, front-wheel drive rig for aging golfers with back pain.
As time progressed, superchargers replaced turbos, and Regals and Centurys once again became one. After a brief sabbatical, the Regal returned in 2009 (now with a turbo -- again) with the GS model debuting a few years later. Attempting to re-adopt that edgier approach, Buick sought a younger demographic to kick-start a brand grown stale.
For 2014, the Regal GS arrives with a European-made manual transmission, a 2.0-liter turbo like in the acclaimed Cadillac ATS, adaptive dampers, and an optional all-wheel drive system that electronically drives torque rearwards. Could the new Regal GS be Buick’s answer to boring?
On paper, it could. Aesthetically, it still bears the same purposeful stance; the number one reason buyers purchase the GS is its looks. It presents haunches, vents and swoops. It portrays a vague meanness, and a subtle attitude like a German on antibiotics during Oktoberfest.
Step inside the cabin and the center stack has been de-cluttered; the seats offer a bear hug worthy of Scott Van Duzer, and a new flat-bottomed steering wheel appears as racy as a Buick has in decades. As a result, Buick claims the average GS customer has fallen to 44 years old – far lower than in its other models.
While the presentation given by the automaker's marketing folk in Cincinnati, where I awaited the first drive of the 2014 Regal GS, entailed a lot of statistics on how Buick is drawing in customers from other brands, and how the GS embodied “fun” and “sportiness,” there was also a lot of gibber about remaining true to the Buick brand – “beautiful, quiet and comfortable.”
I began getting worried.
Then we were informed that the manual transmission, developed by Opel for the one percent of buyers who option such a thing, was only available in the front-wheel-drive model. (I shouldn’t have been worried about that.)
The engine, too, is down 11 hp to 259 hp. While torque remains unchanged at 295 lb.-ft., for 2014, the torque curve has been enlarged, with 90 percent arriving between 1,700 rpm and 5,500 rpm (vs. 2,300 and 4,900 in the outgoing GS). This enables an identical 0-60 mph sprint of 6.5 seconds, when driving the FWD model. The benefit, notwithstanding the smoother power delivery, is increased fuel efficiency – up 11 percent to an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.