2012 Buick Regal GS automatic
2012 Buick Regal GS automatic. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2012 Buick Regal GS

There are three versions of the Buick Regal for sale in 2013, but the top-of-the-line GS model is one that holds the most promise for drivers hoping for a car that drives like a sport sedan. Buick, as a brand, is trying so hard to escape a stigma of stodginess based on years of building cars more suited to retirees than recent graduates. The 270-horsepower Regal GS is really the only version of this car that might have a chance of doing so.

For 2013, the GS remains atop the Regal heap. Elsewhere in the lineup, the base model is now the Regal eAssist, a mild hybrid introduced for 2012 that pairs a normally-aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder with an electric motor. A former entry-level model, powered by the 2.4L on its own, is gone. Occupying the middle rung of the Regal ladder is the Turbo model, powered by the same 2.0L turbocharged mill used in the GS, but tuned for a more modest 220 horsepower.

2012 Buick Regal GS automatic
2012 Buick Regal GS automatic
2012 Buick Regal GS automatic. Click image to enlarge

It might seem easy to scoff at a “performance” car with a four-cylinder engine, but the GS is no slouch. Where the milder Turbo model benefits in city driving from 260 lb-ft of torque, the GS one-ups it with 295 lb-ft, and by adding more top-end power than the additional 50 horsepower suggests. There’s a touch more turbo lag here than in the Regal Turbo, but the extra power helps make up for that. This car is swift – if not outright fast – and in spite of an overall feel that leans toward refinement over mechanical involvement, it’s an entertaining car to drive quickly. With the windows down, it’s possible to hear the turbo’s whooshy-whistle soundtrack as it spools to deliver boost.

Like the other Regal models, the GS gets a six-speed automatic as standard equipment. It’s a different gearbox than the GM HydraMatic that the eAssist and Turbo trims use; this one’s built by Aisin Warner, and is also found in the Opel Insignia, the GM of Europe sedan of the the Regal is a near carbon copy.

If that makes it sound exotic (that’s probably what GM would want you to think), it doesn’t much affect the car’s performance. That’s not a bad thing: it shifts smoothly and responds promptly to the driver’s demands. The requisite manual mode (Buick calls it Driver Shift Control) is accessed via the console-mounted shifter; there are no paddle shifters in this car, though they wouldn’t have been out of place in what is, after all, the Regal’s performance flagship model. The more obvious choice for those with performance in mind might be the six-speed manual transmission, a no-cost option in the GS.

Fuel consumption ratings, according to Natural Resources Canada testing, are 11.5 L/100 km (city) and 7.0 L/100 km (highway) for a GS with the automatic transmission. The U.S. EPA rates the same car 13.1/8.7 L/100 km (city/highway). My tester averaged 12.7 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving.

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