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2016 Buick Regal AWD GS Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Buick Regal GS

Regal GS combines comfort and performance to make it the most cosmopolitan Buick yet. And one of the best-performing.

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

         • SEE ALSO: Buick Research and Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Buick Regal GS

This is not your blue-haired grandmother's Buick. With a 259-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected engine driving all four wheels, making contact with the ground via fat, sticky 255/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zeros, and stopping Right Now! courtesy of four-piston aluminum Brembo calipers on the front brakes, today's Regal GS the the most performance-oriented Buick since the Regal-based Grand National and GNX of the mid-1980s. Those were purely American muscle cars, optimized for acceleration and charmingly lacking in refinement. (Yes, I am old enough to remember, and to have driven them.) Today's Regal GS is meant to get through corners and stop as well as get down the strip quickly, and boasts electronic sophistication unheard of thirty years ago. It's far more European in character, in keeping with today's customer demands. And no surprise there, as it is at heart an Americanized Opel/Vauxhall Insignia.

The all-wheel drive (AWD) GS sits at the top of the Regal lineup. Entry-level is front-wheel drive with a 2.4-liter, 182-hp naturally-aspirated four. Upper levels get the 2.0-liter turbo with front- or all-wheel drive.

Buick is GM's entry-luxury brand, so a high level of comfort and standard equipment are expected. And delivered. For 2016, the Buick IntelliLink infotainment system has been upgraded with an eight-inch color touchscreen and more intuitive controls. It's now Apple CarPlay-capable, as well as having all of the usual Bluetooth-connectivity applications.

I've recently finished an interesting week with an AWD Regal GS in the new, featured, Crimson Red Tintcoat paint. It's the most cosmopolitan Buick I've driven, and in suspension tuning and ride quality compared well with a more expensive European sports sedan I had the opportunity to investigate during the week. On the highway, it was quiet and comfortably composed -- and was quite willing to play on ramps and secondary roads. A GNX could humiliate it on the dragstrip, but today's GS will get its revenge when the road curves or the car needs to stop. And be far more civilized while doing so. Add in all of the standard comfort, information, and entertainment features and the 2016 Buick Regal GS is a worthy consideration in the entry luxury-sports sedan class.

APPEARANCE: Yes, the roofline is familiar, shared with other small-midsize sedans in the GM empire, but there is no doubt as to the manufacturer. The large waterfall grille, gloss black with bright trim here, proclaims Buick, even without looking at the insignia at its center. "Ventiports" harken back to the Buick signature portholes of the distant past without being too self-conscious. The brightly-trimmed "brake ducts" beneath and to the sides of the grille are functional, although those further out are merely a styling trick. Chrome trim around the side windows proclaims luxury intent, while the muscular shoulder line and subtle fender flares hint at performance. At the rear, luxury is denoted by the bright trim piece between the taillights while oversized exhaust finishers with a faux venturi section between give the sport look.

COMFORT: Inside, the Regal GS has a contemporary international entry-luxury ambiance. Lights on the bottoms of the front doors help access at night. Seating is leather-appointed, with the front sport seats heated and power-adjustable. Dual-zone climate control provides warm or cool air quickly, as needed. A heated steering wheel rim is a great feature for cold weather, and the stylishly flat-bottomed wheel is manually adjustable for tilt and reach. It has controls for cruise, phone, audio, and information systems. Bright electroluminescent instruments are readily visible, with a useful information display between the main gauges. Control of audio, navigation, phone, Pandora streaming, voice texting, weather and traffic information, OnStar telematics, and vehicle settings systems is through the touchscreen on the center stack. Interior storage includes a large glovebox, medium-sized pockets with water bottle space in all doors, and several open and closed spaces on the console, including one in front with a 12VDC power point and another to the rear with two USB ports, 12VDC power, and an audio jack. There is a 120VAC/150W power supply at the rear of the console, facing the rear seat. Which, as is usual, is a contoured bench with a 60/40 folding seatback. The front seatback design adds rear knee room, and outboard space is better than expected from the Regal's exterior size. A moderate central tunnel helps center comfort, but that position is still best for small people and short distances. The trunk is reasonably-sized for the car's size. Use of a fix-a-flat kit instead of a spare adds a bit of room and saves some weight here -- but there is room for a space-saver spare.

SAFETY: Standard safety equipment in the Regal GS includes a full complement of airbags, including rear-seat side, the Stabilitrak electronic stability control system, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a rearview camera. The GS has excellent brakes -- see below for details. Optional systems include Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Alert, Blind Spot and Cross Traffic Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Collision Preparation with Collision Mitigation Braking, and full speed-range Adaptive Cruise Control.




RIDE AND HANDLING: Good structural rigidity provides a solid foundation for the Regal's fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension. At GS level, it gets the Interactive Drive Control system, which changes shock damping and throttle responsiveness. The default setting works well for general use, providing a firm but supple sport-touring ride and normal throttle response. Sport stiffens the damping, still with normal throttle response. Gran Sport (GS) further stiffens damping and quickens throttle response. Those are best used in more enthusiastic driving, on appropriate pavement. The electrically-assisted power steering and all-wheel drive eliminate torque steer, but at some loss of road feel. Which is a good tradeoff for this car. The GS also gets a major brake upgrade -- larger vented front discs, with the standard single-piston aluminum calipers replaced by four-pot aluminum Brembos. Rear discs are also vented, with single-piston aluminum calipers. The Regal GS stops quite well. This one had the optional 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. Grip? Yes we have grip. They worked well enough in modest rain but probably wouldn't be so good in snow. The AWD system is seamless and traction was never a problem.

PERFORMANCE: The current Regal GS's engine would have been exotic racing technology back in the days of the Grand National and GNX. Displacing 2.0 liters, 122 cubic inches, it boasts maximum horsepower of 259 at 5300 rpm, and a healthy 295 lb-ft of torque between 2500 and 4000 rpm. Turbocharging and direct fuel injection, which allows a high compression ratio for increased efficiency, more power from less fuel, are the major contributors, with continuously-variable cam phasing also helping broaden the spread of useful power. In default mode, the six-speed automatic transmission seems (appropriately here) programmed to optimize fuel efficiency, so revs never get near peak horsepower. Sport or GS modes plus manual shifting bring out the GS's power when desired. The horsepower peak is at a low 5300 rpm and redline is 7000, but there is little point in going much beyond the power peak when playing hard.

CONCLUSIONS: The Regal GS combines comfort and performance to make it the most cosmopolitan Buick yet. And one of the best-performing.

SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

Base Price $ 36,490

Price As Tested $ 38,610

Engine Type turbocharged aluminum alloy 16-valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection and continuously-variable cam phasing

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 259 @ 5300 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 2500-4000 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 107.8 in. / 190.2 in.

Curb Weight 3981 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 15.4

Fuel Capacity 18.0 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline for best performance, 87 octane unleaded regular acceptable

Tires P255/35 ZR20 97Y Pirelli P-Zero

Brakes, front/rear vented disc with 4-piston aluminum Brembo calipers/ vented disc with single-piston calipers

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 27 / 21

0 to 60 mph 6.8 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

20" aluminum wheels with blackwall summer tires $ 700

Crimson Red Tintcoat paint $ 495

Destination Charge $ 925