For some reason, Buick’s seem to have this odd stereotype of being a car that your grandparents cruise around in with the left blinker permanently on. They were lackluster and pretty conservative. The 2012 Buick Regal GS runs over that stereotype in all of its 270 horsepower, 6-speed manual, Brembo brakes, curvy lines glory, making this non-grandfather want to hold up a sign stating – “Buick’s are not for grandpas any more!” as I hurtle down the road.
Buick has definitely come a long way from its conservative sedans and while the Regal GS is technically a sedan, it definitely is not conservative, nor boring for that matter! I spent 10 days test driving the Regal GS and at the end of my tour, the Regal had won me over. This 6-speed manual transmission delivered fun performance off the line, despite it not being a rear-wheel drive. I hadn’t driven a stick-shift in over 15 years but I slipped right into shifting smoothly within just a few minutes. The Regal is peppy and, if you can rev and shift at the right speed, can quickly hit 60 MPH in about 7 seconds. You do shift through 1st and 2nd gears pretty quickly, but after that, you pretty much forget about the fact that you are driving a manual transmission – but why would you ever do that? Manuals are fun, they keep you attentive, you get better gas mileage (unless you really like accelerating hard like I do) and they keep you from messing with your smartphone when you drive.
The Regal is truly a car that any dad would have fun driving. There, I said it. It is a family car, but I would say that it is now a much more younger generation type of car because of its styling and aggressive design. When it’s just sitting, it looks like it is in motion, or at least ready to go, with air scoops, large (19″) sport profile tires, and sloping windshield. But you really get the performance when you get behind the wheel, are bolstered by the 8-way power seats, and put the GS in gear and head down the road.
The ride is quiet, comfortable and smooth, although my oldest daughter complained that it was a bit too jerky for her tastes – chalk that up to me relearning how to smoothly shift gears. My other daughters liked the tight suspension, especially when you push the GS button on the dash which makes the suspension more sensitive (you feel all the little bumps on the road) and makes the steering response tighter as well. Handling with or without the GS button pushed was great and coupled with the fast acceleration, I was able to throw myself and passengers back into the seats when I took off. Even with all of the “sports car driver” in me coming out, I was still able to average about 22 MPG for a combination of City/Highway driving. Pretty good for a sports car (sedan)! There is also a Sport button that is sort of the middle ground between the GS mode (which I preferred) and the Standard mode. The GS mode should really just be used on the highway, I found, otherwise, you feel a few too many pebbles in the road.
Before I jump into some of the features that I enjoyed, I wanted to provide a video walk-through of the Buick Regal. Below is a quick overview of some of the highlights of the 2012 Buick Regal GS (which is also available directly on YouTube):
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Just to call out a few of the items I liked about the Regal GS:
Technology – As with most higher-end autos on the market, the Regal comes equipped with a good technology package which includes a touch-screen, navigation, high-end stereo with Sirius XM Radio, bluetooth phone capabilities and even voice commands. I particularly want to call out to say that I liked how responsive the navigation and touch-screen interface were. I have tested some autos where the interface lags and it not very responsive. One time though, I did find that the navigation didn’t fully “start up” meaning that I wasn’t getting my turn-by-turn directions. Just restarting the navigation corrected this.
Comfort – The Regal easily seats 4 extremely comfortably and has no problem transporting a family of 5 (with a small dog included). The seats are leather and the 2 front seats are heated should you need to warm up your backside.
Automatic Headlights & Mirrors – I believe that headlights that turn on automatically based on the environment is a key feature that all cars should have. The Regal will turn on the lights when it is dark and also, it seems, when the windshield wipers (unfortunately NOT automatic) turn on. Also, the rear view mirror dims at night so that those headlights in the mirror aren’t as blinding.
Parking Sensor – I do feel that I should mention the parking sensor. There are proximity sensors built into the front and rear bumpers to help you navigate into a parking space. Definitely a helpful feature, but honestly, I think that with a car of this stature (regardless of size), there should be a rear-view camera as part of the technology package. This was oddly missing.
Controls – The Regal GS has a plethora of controls for all of the features and functions of the auto. The steering wheel has standard cruise control buttons on one side and volume and voice controls on the other. On the lever that has the blinker controls, there is another set of buttons that let you set what you want the dashboard (near the speedometer) to display. These include things like: odometer, speed view, navigation prompts, gas mileage, engine status and other helpful items. The main center console has a huge number of buttons to control all aspects of the car’s technology functions. Unfortunately, at times I was a bit distracted trying to find the proper item to do the thing that I wanted. It felt like some of the buttons were added as an afterthought, but after a while, I got used to it and could do what I needed to easily. Also, directly behind the shifter was another dial controller and set up buttons for more core functions – I didn’t actually use this much but I believe that if I had spent more time in the car, I would have become accustomed to using it.
Cargo Area – I was pleasantly surprised at the large amount of space in the trunk, and by the fact that you can do a 60/40 fold down of the rear seats to put larger items in the trunk.
Engine – The Regal GS is a 6-speed manual, powered by a 2.0 liter, Turbo ECOTECH DOCH 4 cylinder engine. I wished that there was a little gage to show when the turbo kicks in but you don’t really need it I guess as you can feel how the GS just seems to get an extra boost when you put the pedal down. The GS delivers 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while still, as I said, averaging about 22 MPG. The engine noise is minimal in the cabin but you can definitely hear it roar to life outside of the car.
Keyless Entry – I love the fact that I never had to take the keys out of my pocket. You can unlock any of the car doors by just pulling on the handle, assuming the keyfob is in proximity of the car, and lock the car by pushing a button on the front door handles. The engine has a push-start button, another feature that all car should have – just remember that you need to have the clutch engaged and foot on the brake to turn it on.
The hardest thing for me after driving the Regal GS for 10 days was going back to my boring old slow automatic which seems more like a grandpa than the Regal. The Regal GS literally runs circles around my regular car (oh, and I absolutely loved the turning radius of the Regal – easy to flip a quick U-turn when you need to with minimal space requirements). My left foot got bored almost immediately on going back to my old car and I got lectured by my kids and wife for not having both hands on the wheel in my automatic (I had gotten used to resting my right hand on the shifter).
Speaking about the shifter, I didn’t use the 6th gear that much but I have been told that to really get great highway mileage, you should cruise in 6th when on the highway. Also, to shift into reverse, there is a button on the shifter that you need to pull up in order to put the gear into reverse. I kind of liked that but it took a bit of getting used to.
Another feature that I didn’t get used to, even after 10 days, was that of the electronic parking brake. I’m used to either hand levers or foot brakes so when I saw a little P button near the shifter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, the Regal gives you informational prompts on the screen in terms of when the brake is on and how to remove it. You need to have your foot on the brake, for example, in order to disengage the electronic parking brake. Also, I could never figure out the right direction to use the button, you need to pull up on the button in order to turn the brake on and press down when you want to disengage it. It’s logical, but took my mind a bit of time to really figure it out.
With the shifting, there was also a Hill Assist mode. I had to explain this to my kids by saying that humans only have 2 feet and when you drive in a hilly area (like San Francisco), you somehow need to have 3 feet, one for the clutch, one for the brake and one for the gas. Since you don’t have a handbrake (the tactic I used to use in my old 5-speed) and the electronic parking brake just wouldn’t work for this process, the Regal has hill assist built in which means that you don’t have to worry about the brake as much as you engage the gas and clutch at the same time. I never stalled out, not even on a hill, with this feature.
The Regal GS also comes with a power sunroof, universal home remote (to let you control your garage door openers), 9-speaker Harmon Kardon premium sound system with speakers, OnStar enabled assistance, and countless other little luxuries (including an electric air pump in the place where the spare tire would be).
Here is a compilation of some of the photos I took of the Regal GS. You can also see my full Flickr set here.
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Overall, I really enjoyed my 10 days with the Buick Regal GS. It was definitely not a stodgy old car but rather, full of pep, energy and life. Buick has done a great job re-inventing the brand and pulling the Regal down a generation to make this dad extremely happy with it. Well done Buick.
Disclosure Text: Apart from the 10-day loan of the Buick Regal GS, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: Hop into the 2012 Buick Regal GS and enjoy it – you may be driving a collectible in a few years!