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

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2012 Buick Regal GS

Traverse City, Michigan – Attitudes are hard to change. No one knows this more than car companies. How many years did it take the Japanese companies to move the perception of their products in the North American conscience from “cheap” imports to “reliable” vehicles? And, more recently, the Koreans: what has it taken them to gain acceptance on this continent? A lot of hard work, time and relentless marketing.

Now it is the domestic manufacturers who are working hard to change consumer attitudes. Ford is probably the most successful of late, but General Motors is not far behind, re-engineering its vehicle line-up as it re-engineers its image.

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

A few years ago, if you asked anybody, “Who is the target market for the Buick brand?” the answer would probably be “between sixty and dead.” Ask that question today and it’s probably not a whole lot better, maybe between fifty and dead. Buick is making progress with new products like the LaCrosse (completely revised for 2010), which has seen a big increase in sales over the LaCrosse/Allure that came before it and the new Regal, which is based on the European Opel Insignia, while saying goodbye to large cars like the Lucerne that reinforced the image of Buick as a white hair brand. Later this year, Buick will begin selling the Chevrolet Cruze-based Verano, completing its product transformation. Now, if only Buick could transform consumer attitudes as quickly.

To underscore that Buick is not the same old Buick you might think it is, Buick has released a high performance Regal variant – the 2012 Buick Regal GS – that will be sure to please a much younger, technically savvy customer.

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

The Regal GS is a mid-size luxury performance sedan that gives equal weight to both luxury and performance. Powered by a very sophisticated 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 270 horsepower, the Regal GS has enough ponies to keep up with the Lexus IS 250 and 350, the Infiniti G25 and G37, the Audi A4 and the Acura TSX V6. For those who are keeping score, the GS at 295 lb.-ft. of torque, has more torque than any of these. The little engine has the highest specific output of any production engine GM has ever offered, and at 135 horsepower per litre, is the most power-dense engine ever certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Estimated zero to 60 mph (96.6 km/h) time is 6.7 seconds.

A three-inch-diameter exhaust system provides reduced back pressure, resulting in higher engine power. As well, direct injection technology helps the engine deliver more power through increased efficiency, while maintaining fuel economy and lowering emissions.

The ferocious four banger is connected to a very un-Buick-like, or perhaps considering the new Buick image, a very Buick-esque six-speed manual transmission. Yes, that is correct – a six-speed manual. And it is a heck of a nice manual with easy, short throws and a light, precise clutch to match. If you’ve never driven a manual, this would be a good one to learn with.

The car is easy to launch; you would need lead balls for feet to stall the engine – and revs so quickly that second gear is mere seconds away from first. But you could drive all day in third just for the fun of it and never use its overdriven 4th and 5th gears, which are there only to save you some Premium fuel over the long haul. But with peak torque available from 2,300 rpm to 4,900 rpm, it doesn’t matter what gear you are in or how fast you are going, the Regal GS responds to your right foot, right when you need it. For those who prefer to let the right foot do all the work, an automatic should be available later in the 2012 model year.

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