Initially, I had planned to do a full-on review with this car. I was going to shoot a video. I was going to road test it and tell you all about its features, its ride, and its incredible build quality. I was even going to compare it to my personal ’87 Grand National, with the GN making a cameo appearance, and describe that although the V-6-powered throwback from the ‘80s would make mincemeat of the Regal GS at the dragstrip, the new car’s incredible handling and massive Brembo brakes would knock the old G-body back into the Regan-era while in a car chase.
But it was not to be. Having only a few hours to get to know the car, while at the same time, being blindsided by a South Florida thunderstorm throughout the entire day we were scheduled to shoot altered those plans. Throw in the fact that the company who loaned us the car the day we were going to film showed up four hours early to pick it up, and the whole ordeal was a bust. Instead of throwing in the towel, and forgetting about it, I’ve decided to bring you, the readers, my assertion of the refreshed for 2014 Regal GS, anyway.
Initially launched in 2011 on the European GM Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, the modern-day Buick Regal has yet to really catch on as a car for performance enthusiasts, despite the availability of a turbocharged, DOHC 4-cylinder engine with VVT and 259 hp, a 6-speed manual gearbox, and the option of AWD. Why is that? Maybe it’s the price. At just under $41k, the FWD version of the Regal GS comes fully-equipped with every gizmo and gadget under the sun; some of which even I didn’t know existed in anything under $80k. There are motion detectors front and rear, indicators telling you when you’re following too close, and several variations in performance settings, including “Sport,” and “GS mode” – and then some features that I don’t even understand. Most of which I probably wouldn’t ever use even if I bought the car.
Truth be told, this Buick is better equipped than the old 2006 CTS-V I used to own, and that car stickered for $51k when it was new eight years ago. The new GS reminds me of that Cadillac a lot, actually. Like the first-gen V, the stock gearbox shifter in the 2014 Regal GS is just as awful, but in a different way. In the old Cadillac, it was like using a crowbar to shift through gravel, in the Regal GS, it was more along the lines of jerking a wooden spoon around in a huge bowl of pudding. The shifts were very vague, not precise in anyway, and it just never felt like it was actually in gear. I get why it’s like that, obviously, knowing as how the engineers wanted the transmission to be as smooth as possible, being a Buick and all. But what’s the point of that, when you don’t know what gear you’re actually in? And I hated the parking brake – even more so than the one that was in the old Caddy.
The Cadillac had the e-brake release down by your left leg, exactly one inch lower than the hood release, not a proper lever next to the lever where it should be. As a result, every so often you would actually open the hood instead of releasing the parking brake. In the Buick, they put the e-brake release next to the shifter, but instead of using a lever, they used a weird button marked “((P))” mounted on the counsel, and you have to either lift it up or push it down for several seconds in order to release or engage it – which is incredibly awkward for someone who still considers an F-body a modern car.
But it’s not all bad. The gas mileage was excellent. While I didn’t have the car long enough to actually gauge how much fuel I was using, I can state that despite the 100 miles or so I put on the car, the needle didn’t move at all. It rode beautifully, it steered, handled, and braked excellent – despite the fact that our tester was front-wheel drive. At one point, I found myself in a slight rush on the I-75 heading home during a semi-emergency, and under the gun the Buick became, as far as I can tell, an actual driver’s car. I even had a guy in a brand-new, 370 hp HEMI-powered 300C try to race me. I didn’t indulge him, of course.
Since I didn’t have the time to take it to the track, I don’t have any actual performance numbers to bring you on my end. However, our colleagues at Motor Trend had recently tested an automatic-equipped, AWD version of this car, and they’ve clocked a 0-60 run of 6.2 seconds, a quarter-mile pass in 14.6, and a 60-0 mph stopping distance of 105 ft. Which is quite respectable for a car of this type, especially considering that the power output is actually down 11 horses compared to last year’s model, as a result of the engineers reconfiguring the exhaust system around the updated AWD system for 2014.
So why don’t more people own these? Why aren’t more and more of my readers buying, building, and racing these cars? The engine is essentially an updated relative of the LNF turbo EcoTec that powered the later Cobalt SS. The brakes, suspension, and steering are leaps and bounds better than what was ever offered in a 4th-Gen F-car, and despite its less-than-breathtaking quarter-mile performance, it’s just as quick as the cult-classic 3800 Series II Supercharged Regal GS that came before it, if not slightly more so.
The problem is, everybody is looking at this car all-wrong. This isn’t a successor to the haloed Grand National. This isn’t a tire-smoking, V-8-rumbling, quarter-mile-intended street racer, either, for those enthusiasts still thinking of the Stage 1 455 GS Buicks from an era where most people owned a black and white television set. And that’s OK with our friends at GM, because it’s not supposed to be either of those things. What this car is, is Buick’s idea of a modern, performance family sedan for those who are cross-shopping Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus.
These days, Buick has maintained it’s identity as the mid-level luxury brand for those who want something a bit more luxurious and exclusive than a Chevrolet, but yet, less expensive to own and operate than something from Cadillac. Sure, you might say that it’s nothing more than a dolled-up Opel Insignia with a different name and a waterfall grille, but how’s that different than Honda writing Acura on a back of an Accord and then charging twice as much for it?