Sunday, August 28, 2011

2012 Buick Regal GS: An American Sports Luxury Sedan with European Ties

Highlight: According to the folks from Buick, nearly half of the sales of the new Regal come from other brands.

What’s New: The Regal GS model is all new to the line up. Its the only Buick offering a manual transmission.

Arrival Date: September

Base Pricing: $35,310 (pricing of test model is $38,785)

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo/270-hp

Estimated Fuel Mileage: 20-city/32-hwy

Major Standard Features: 19-inch wheels; HID (High-Intensity-Discharge) headlamps; front-and-rear body color coordinated fascia; rear integrated spoiler; rear back-up audible sensors; 6-speed manual transmission; an electronic parking brake; dual zone automatic climate control; rear armrest with two integrated cupholders; push-button keyless starter; automatic rearview mirror; On-Star turn-by-turn navigation; power driver (passenger) seat with power lumbar support; leather seats; heated front seats; a manual tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel; dual stainless steel exhaust system; and Brembo brakes

Standard Audio System: a 9-speaker, 336-watt Harman/Kardan AM/FM/XM stereo, single disc CD and MP3 player (satellite radio subscription is standard for 6 months)

Bluetooth Compatible: Yes

iPod Compatible: Available

Early Verdict: The aggressive, muscular styling of the all-new Regal GS makes the European design vehicle a head-turner, especially when equipped with the optional 20-inch wheel package. In our eyes, this is the most stylish Regal to date. And although the Regal has been around for over three decades, we haven’t seen the Regal garner this much attention on the road since the late seventies and early eighties.

In fact, the stylish designed GS, with its chrome hood vents, has finally found its way back, leaving behind the conservative designs that barley got a second glance. Like with the popular Enclave and the Lexus-like LaCrosse, the new Regal GS will help continue Buick’s recent tradition of restoring the brand, while appealing to a well-healed, youthful buyer. Yes, the 2012 Buick Regal GS is bound to continue attracting newcomers to the brand, more specifically import buyers, who are looking for a snug, well-equipped premium luxury sport sedan, offering a six-speed manual transmission.

The Driving Experience: Now as far as the actual driving experience, we were only able to spend a few hours behind the wheel of the GS. However, we did find that the 10-way power front leather seats were very supportive and the instrument controls were properly positioned too. Everything was within arms reach. As a matter of fact, the airplane-like layout of the instrument panel, with the brand’s trademark blue lighting, is definitely not geared to those who may have landed on a Buick in the past.

This spunky European styled sports sedan with the 270 horses spewing from the dual exhaust pipes makes this vehicle a true driver’s car. This was even more evident with our vehicle’s standard Interactive Drive Control System, which allowed us to simply turn a dial to sort through three different driving modes: Normal, Sport and GS. By sorting through the different modes, the one will immediately notice that the steering tightens along with the ride and handling by the time the GS mode is reached.

And the optional 20-inch wheel package helped us to keep the vehicle firmly planted on the road while encountering several curvy roads in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We think this was also due to this Buick’s HiPer Strut front suspension which helped to reduce torque steer and improve grip and cornering power. Not once did the tires squeal or did we feel as though we were losing control of the vehicle.

New Technology: Moreover, besides the ride and handling capabilities, Buick is offering a brand-new IntelliLink system later during the model-year. As we had a chance to experience in one of the static vehicles Buick had on display at this driving event, this advanced system will allow the driver to connect his smartphone to a new 7-inch, high-resolution, full-color touch screen display radio. The front seat occupants will be able to enable streaming stereo audio from their phone through services like Pandora Internet radio and Sticher SmartRadio, expanding one’s audio options.

And besides the upgraded wheels and the audio system, the Regal GS is mirroring its Asian competitor, the Acura TSX, offering a simple ordering package. So the only other options available on the 2012 Regal GS are a power roof and several special high-gloss paint colors.

Early Downsides: Unfortunately the early downsides of the Regal GS are the same as we experienced in the 2011 Regal. There is still no back-up camera available in the vehicle. We hear that this was due to an engineering design issue. Also there was no place to store our sunglasses.

And for those not wanting to shift gears with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the folks from Buick says that an automatic is in the works.

So, for now, this is all we can say about the Regal, until we get a more extensive review of the vehicle in our own backyard.

Competition: Acura TSX, Audi A4, Infiniti G25, Kia Optima SX, Lexus IS and VW CC

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