2014 Buick Regal GS
2014 Buick Regal GS
2014 Buick Regal GS. Click image to enlarge

Review by Mark Stevenson, photos by Mark Stevenson and courtesy General Motors.
Sketch comedy is such a fickle form of entertainment. Saturday Night Live knows this all too well. Its long run can be attributed to golden year casts separated by boondoggle seasons, the audience (and the network) continuing to watch as they pine for the next new superstar to grace the stage at 30 Rockefeller Center. The show’s golden years have kept the audience intrigued; a nostalgia for what once was and can be again.

Buick, and the Regal specifically, has followed a very similar path. The Buick GNX delivered power and performance with a spectacularly surprising turbocharged V6 and could almost outrun the Corvette at the time. Soon after, the Regal with its Dana Carvey/Mike Meyers one-two punch in the form of the T-Type and GNX would turn into the front-wheel drive amorphous blob that was Chris Farley, shouting loudly but getting nowhere fast. Yet, people still paid a bit of attention to Buick, at least enough to keep it “on the air” in North America.

Now Buick has taken a smart, sophisticated approach. Sharing underpinnings with the Opel Insignia, Regal has become intelligent, poised, and agile. It’s Buick’s Tina Fey, delivering a stellar performance while offending nobody.

On a two-day trip, including an overnight at the historic Chateau Montebello and the better part of a day at Circuit ICAR located at the former Mirabel Airport, we had the chance to test out the new Regal GS AWD (or what we’d like to imagine as Tina Fey doing her best Sarah Palin impression).

Our first day of driving had us leaving P.E. Trudeau Airport to an ice fishing spot along the Ottawa River. The drive was completely unremarkable, at least from the standpoint of the car. Firmer than your average ‘90s Buick but not riding like it’s on rails, the Regal GS AWD gave into some of the potholes on the journey though managed to stay on its feet. Performance was lackluster considering its GS badging stuck to the trunk. The 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder did get going quick enough, but the throttle felt like an over-cooked wet noodle from a five-year old pack of Ramen.

Our stop at the Ottawa River put the Regal GS AWD directly on the frozen marine thoroughfare. You don’t have to push hard for all the vehicle’s nanny systems to kick in and take the fun out of your day. Safety is of the upmost concern in this car’s electronic brain.

We continued our trip along Quebec’s notoriously half-mended roads until we arrived at what looked to be a ferry crossing. The slip ran down to the frozen water as the ferry itself lay up on land waiting for the next season’s thaw. How would we cross?

2014 Buick Regal GS2014 Buick Regal GS2014 Buick Regal GS
2014 Buick Regal GS. Click image to enlarge

Easily. Just drive on the ice.

Again, the Buick’s electronic brain resisted any kind of comedy. No slippage or high revs could be beckoned from the 259 hp turbo 2.0L four-pot. Nor could we feel the 295 lb-ft of torque promised in the brochure. I was devastated. That is until I saw something atop the dash.

Above the MyLink screen sat a row of buttons. One to turn off traction control. Another that said “Sport” with an orange LED illuminating when pressed. But, the closest one to the driver read “GS”. What does this do?

What it does is turn the Regal GS AWD into a cyclone machine. Shocks are stiffened. Steering is heavier and more direct. The AWD system leans more toward the rear. And, best of all, the automatic transmission will shift quicker, and only when you want it to.

Connect with Autos.ca