by Mary Chapman
Some sage once said, if all philosophical problems were solved, nothing would be accomplished. And so goes plenteous blather about whether Buick is moving too swiftly and brazenly to shed its age-old stodgy image.
Likewise, there’s no shortage of palavering about the confident segment placing of Buick’s 2012 Regal GS. The base price of my loaner was $34,450, deigningly positioning the sedan firmly in the arena of proven European stalwarts like the Audi A4, Acura TSX, Volvo S60 and Lexus IS 250. Oh, the nerve!
But hey, it’s not like the manufacturer, overnight, dreamed up some tricky ruse. In fact, Buick, long associated with the over-the-hill set, has been coming on for some time. For one thing, Unlike any other automaker, Buick dropped the average age of its customer from 62 to 59 in the last four years, according to a trade group. The Regal, in particular, has been aimed at a more youthful crowd. All this is paying off: Buick sales rose by double digits last year.
So back to the GS, the midsize performance sedan propelled by a really sprightly Ecotec 2.0L turbo powerplant producing 270 muscular horses and 295 pound-feet of satisfying torque, although more exhaust note would be welcome. Buick estimates that 0 to 60 takes a class-decent 6.7 ticks. For sure, I dug driving the GS. I thought handling was rather refined – no body roll to speak of – as was steering. By the way, love the fat-ish leather-wrapped steering wheel and the feel of it in my hands. Never understood why more automakers don’t take this simple – and cheap – tack.
Likewise, the GS in general has a pretty solid feel, at least partly owing to its heft: 3,710 pounds. Notice I said “solid,” not sluggish. What’s more, the primo suspension has a discernible tautness. The four-wheel indie system with hiPer Strut front suspension successfully mitigates torque-y steer and helps when cornering. Standard is the Interactive Drive Control system that lets drivers change suspension settings and steering sensitivity for a more animated driving experience. Glad I got the six-speed manual tranny, as opposed to the late-coming auto with Driver Shift Control. Big ol’ four-wheel disc brakes, including Brembo front ones, were relatively high performance. Stabilitrak stability control with traction control is standard, and helped during a downpour.
Inside, the Regal GS’s appointments are above average in fit and fitness – nothing to write, or squawk, about. Seating is reasonably comfortable; driver and passenger-side are eight-way powered. Both sides get four-way lumbar, especially useful on longer trips. Also standard are Bluetooth, driver and front-passenger heated seats, rear-park assist, front parking assist, 60/40 split folding seatback, tilt and telescopic steering column, premium nine-speaker sound system, and USB port and other outlets.
Exterior? Kinda sharp, in my view, what with its aggressively large front and rear air intakes, shiny chrome exhaust ends and 19-inch alloys. Well-balanced, confident styling here. High-intensity headlamps are always a nice touch.
In terms of safety, the car nabbed from the Insurance Institute last year’s top safety pick award; airbags abound. Fuel economy? 19 city, 27 highway. Not bad at all.
Okay, so, the GS’s bottom line can stand to shed a couple of thousand. Or four. But I don’t think the sedan is hilariously over priced. As that august philosopher Flip Wilson used to say, “What you see, is what you get!”