In every automotive manufacturer’s lifecycle, they will at least once build a black sheep. A vehicle which doesn’t quite fit into their lineup, despite how good or bad it is. A perfect example is the Buick Grand National. Taking the Regal Coupe, Buick dropped in a turbocharged V6 which produced anywhere between 200 to 245 horsepower and could smoke a number of performance vehicles in the era. But it didn’t quite fit in with Buick’s smooth-riding, luxury vehicles. Thus it became a black sheep, one that would become legendary in its own right.
The black sheep phenomenon seems to be making a return to Buick. Along the rows of the luxurious and quiet vehicles sitting on dealer lots, there’s also a vehicle who has those traits along with a bit of performance. It may not wear the Grand National nameplate, but it wears one that possibly has similar value: Regal GS.
Buick has given the entire Regal lineup some changes for the 2014 model beginning with the exterior. For the Regal GS, those changes include a new front clip with a bigger grille and a new trunk lid. Decked out in red paint and featuring inlet vents that look like vampire fangs, the Regal GS has an outlook of quiet aggression. It doesn’t look like it wants to fight, but if its provoked, the Regal GS will throw down.
Inside, Buick made some key changes to the Regal GS’ interior There’s a new instrument cluster with a color screen that displays the speedometer and trip computer information. The center stack has been revised with less buttons (thank you), a new climate control system with capacitive touch controls which are hit and miss when your trying to change the temperature or turn on the heated seats; and a larger touchscreen with the latest version of Buick’s Intellilink infotainment system which is easy to use for the most part.
The interior is trimmed in high quality leather and soft touch materials, along with black trim to accent the sporty image. The front sport seats are very comfortable and are able to keep you in place if you decide to be exuberant with your driving style. The back seat provides very good legroom, while headroom can be tight for taller passengers due to the sloping roofline.
For impressions on the powertrain and handling, see page 2.
Previously, the Regal GS produced 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder. For 2014, Buick cut back the horsepower to 259. But in turn, Buick adjusted where maximum torque was available. In this case, they lowered the point. Buick also increased the RPM range of where you have that torque (2,500 to 4,000 rpm if you're wondering). Like before, the Regal GS is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic. However, new for 2014 is the introduction of a all-wheel drive model with a six-speed automatic. The all-wheel drive system can send up 90 percent of power to the rear wheels.
Like the previous GS, the current model offers three different drive modes. Normal provides a nice balance of efficiency and performance. Sport firms up the suspension, while GS firms up the suspension even further, quickens the shifts of the six-speed transmission, sharpens up the throttle response, and sends 15 percent more torque to the rear wheels.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I drove the Regal GS onto one of the roads I use for evaluation. But I can say my jaw was on the floor once I finished driving. Put the Regal GS into the GS mode and it becomes something along the lines of a German sedan. The engine spools up quickly and gets the close to 4,000 pound vehicle moving at a rapid pace. Power is always ready whenever you need it. You also notice the all-wheel drive working, shifting power around to keep the vehicle moving and in control. The six-speed automatic is quick on up or downshifts, though I was wishing for a set of paddles so I could play around with gear selection.
Then there is the Regal GS’ handling. Drive it into a corner, and the GS hunkers down. There is minimal body roll and the steering provides excellent weight and feel. Agility was very good and felt like you could push the GS a lot further than you thought at first.
But what happens when you drive the Regal GS day to day? Well, the Regal GS has a much stiffer ride than the standard Regal. Even in the normal mode, the Regal GS does bounce around a little bit more than you'd think. I was thankful I had the standard nineteen-inch wheels and not the optional twenty-inch ones as this would only exacerbate this problem. But the Regal GS does retain Buick’s notion of providing a quiet ride.
The 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD is an excellent all-weather performance vehicle that could give many competitors, even the Germans a run for their money. But I fear that the Regal GS will go down in history as a black sheep much like the Grand National. Why? Well, Buick lists the Regal GS’ competitors such as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. A tough set of competitors, many people don’t think of Buick as being a competitor to those brands. The other reason is price. A 2014 Regal GS AWD starts at $39,270. My tester rang in at $43,780. A fair price with all of the options on it, but for many, it will likely make their eyes drop out.
This price problem is further exacerbated by another General Motors model; the Buck Regal Turbo. Both models have the similar engines, choices of drivetrains, and number of other items. The difference is that Turbo costs less than GS. This brings up the question of why buy the GS at all. The best answer I can give is that the GS offers more performance thanks to a number of enhancements under the hood and the suspension.
If you like being a bit outside the norm, the Regal GS is worth a look.
Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Buick Regal GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: GS AWD
Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 259 @ 5300
Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2500-4000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22
Curb Weight: 3,981 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Oshawa, Ontario
Base Price: $39,270.00
As Tested Price: $43,780.00 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
Driver Confidence Package #2 - $1,695.00
Sunroof - $1,000.00
Driver Confidence Package #1 - $900.00