April 18, 2014
2014 Buick Regal GS AWD vs 2014 Volvo S60 Platinum AWD. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Dan Heyman and Jeff Wilson
“Sport” and “performance” may not be the first words that come to mind when you’re describing vehicles from Buick or Volvo; “luxury-light” may be a bit better.
However, do a little digging, and you’ll find that Buick was one of the first to come to market with a turbocharged performance car in 1982, with the Regal-based (and NASCAR-inspired) Grand National. They took parts of the traditional muscle car formula (rear-wheel drive, two doors), swapped the V8 for a V6 and turbocharged it, creating a cult classic in the process.
Volvo, for their part, have had a pretty successful racing career in various Touring Car series throughout Europe; indeed, 1994’s 850 Wagon racer turned many a head in Europe as it flew over berms and through turns on courses like Silverstone and Brands Hatch as part of the British Touring Car Championship.
Since then, Volvos have competed in the Speed World Challenge as well as the Australian V8 Supercar Championship, where they continue to compete today.
It was with that in mind that we got behind the wheel of both cars, to see if they’d undergone a successful transition from “luxury-light” sedans to “performance sports” sedans.
Design and Utility
The Regal GS is definitely a sight for sore eyes.
In GS form, it gets special sill extensions, rear spoiler and wheels to provide a squat stance and do a good job of separating the GS from other Regals. Speaking of other Regals, it’s nice to see the GS maintains some of their stronger features as well, like the blue-tinted headlamp bulbs, and chrome detailing on the grille, windows and foglights.
In addition to the rear spoiler, a pair of angular exhaust outlets help redefine the GS’s rear fascia.
New headlights, grille, hood and front fenders completed an updated fascia for the Volvo in 2014, but it’s still the softer, more conservative-looking of the two.
That’s not to say it’s bad looking, but it’s kind of got this funky cab-forward thing going on, especially when viewed from the rear three-quarter view. And while the wheels on the GS are a little bigger and flashier, the S60’s multi-spoke 18s kind of allude to Volvo’s touring-car background. They’re also classier than the items on the Regal.
Inside, however, the Regal wins on the styling front. Yes, the wood paneling in the Volvo is nice, but centre stack is a convoluted mess of buttons. Buttons for your steering wheel heater controls, your radar cruise control and infotainment all form a band around the main keypad and vent controls, but that’s as far as any rhyme or reason to this setup goes. While I’m not a card-carrying fan of the all-touch setups we’re starting to see rise to prevalence in the car world, this is just too much button-work for me.
2014 Buick Regal GS AWD & 2014 Volvo S60 Platinum AWD. Click image to enlarge
However, the Volvo has a few tricks up its sleeve to partially make up for these shortcomings.
Chief among these are the seats, which are some of the most comfortable thrones I’ve ever experienced, in this segment or any other.
They look more like a sturdy set of wingback lounge chairs than car seats, and they feel it, too, with great support, cushioning and adjustability. The Regal’s seats aren’t bad, but seem ordinary when up against seating as well-engineered as the Volvo’s.
Also helping the Volvo’s case is just how well assembled it all feels; there’s nary a creak or rattle from the various intersecting panels, as if it were all carved from a single slab of material. It may not look it quite so much, but it is luxurious in here.
The GS is just more… exciting inside. Roomier, too.
It starts with the super-sparkly gauge cluster that makes the Volvo’s look so 2010, even if you can switch between various “themes” for your instruments; the main gauge, for example, can be tuned to glow red for a more “aggressive” look. I’ll take the Regal’s brightly lit gauge cluster any day, with its bright white needles and glowing TFT display.
The Regal takes the category by a fair margin.