“One thousand two!…. One thousand three!… One thousand four!… I don’t know if you heard me counting, I did over a thousand,” said an arrogant and shirtless Ron Burgundy doing bicep curls. He was trying to impress his lady co-worker, Veronica Corningstone, in the 2004 masterpiece “Anchorman.”
One of my co-producers, Hansen, recently drove the Buick Regal GS and wrote about it on our website, Shifting Lanes. Here’s his take on this much maligned car.
Fast forward to the present, Buick has done its best impression of Ron Burgundy: “259 hp!… 295 lb-ft of torque!… 2.0 liter Turbo!… All Wheel Drive!… I don’t know if you heard, I am the Buick Regal GS!”
If Ron Burgundy is the Regal GS then the average man is the base Buick Regal. There is nothing wrong with average. In fact the base Buick Regal is a perfectly good car. It has modern european styling which was cloned from the Opel Insignia, reasonable everyday power (182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque) with decent gas mileage (27mpg combined), and a so-so interior that includes very modern technology (Apple CarPlay). This is where Buick should have stopped. Instead they tinkered with the packages and spawned a trim with more Sports Car specs.
“… Brembo Brakes!…” the Burgundy Regal GS continues its peacocking.
Don’t get me wrong, we love luxury sports cars just like every enthusiast out there. While the GS trim is the most capable version of the Regal, the finished product is lesser than the sum of its parts. The GS could have been quite the athletic car, but it is hamstrung by one critical flaw: its 20″ wheels.
The standard 19″ wheel is silly enough, and the optional 20″ package is an insult to the car gods. The chunky rollers add on extra inertia and weight, robbing the motorist out of the car’s full potential. If you don’t feel robbed of driving pleasure then you will certainly feel the harsher ride. The low profile tire is thin enough for wrapping broccoli, and while it looks high performance it is useless for soaking up bumps and potholes.
While we are on the topic of looks, the GS has a front fascia with tooth-like slots flanking the grille. This must be used for the GS to suck in its air to beat its chest. This design continues in the rear and highlights the exhaust. You can tell these are the ‘sporty’ trim pieces because they are only found in the GS and were finished in a matte aluminum.
Disappointingly, the rest of the trim pieces common to the base Regal are chrome making the combination of matte and chrome throughout visually distracting. Step inside the cabin and the visual pollution continues as the shifter’s chrome trim blinds you.
Look past the sharp suit, bitchin’ mustache, and general braggadocio swagger, you’ll find that Ron Burgundy is somewhat tolerable. The same should be said about the GS. Look past the questionable design and bumpy 20″ wheels and you actually find a decent driving experience. You ought to because our press example came fully loaded at a steep cost of $41,725! At this price point you’ll get both Driver Confidence Packages which provide you with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a bunch of sensors that will protect you from crumpling your much depreciated $41,725.
One thing is for sure: You won’t be stunning your friends who are driving cheaper and faster turbo’d all wheel drives.
Perhaps you can channel your inner Burgundy and wow your friends with the three available driving modes of “Comfort!…” , “Sport!…”, and “GS!…” Buick states that the GS mode stiffens the steering damping to provide a more direct feedback, while the Sport setting is a “track-oriented competitive setting.” In reality the three driving modes are so indistinct that pushing those buttons only vary the amount of nonsense from: “Yes, this car is in comfort mode.” To: “I think this is Sport mode now… Yep this definitely feels like sport mode… I think…” This must be some social experiment am I right, Buick?
Without any options the GS comes in at a more reasonable price tag of just under $36,500. It comes packed with premium features such as Bose speaker systems, heated seats and heated steering wheel, vehicle remote start, and my personal favorite, the Apple CarPlay. This technology deserves a review on its own. Basically it’s a sharp, clean, and easy to use alternative to the dull and awful car infotainment system found nearly in every car in existence.
Having CarPlay made driving the GS much more pleasurable, and it might be the best thing about this car. In a society where we spend every free minute and every awkward situation staring into our phones, Apple has generously extended more face time with technology for all of those moments we spend driving. Wait… that’s a bad thing, right? It is true that any distraction while driving is added risk. However, the CarPlay’s interface is so much more intuitive than Buick’s built in software that I was able to get what I wanted done faster than ever. Leaving me with more time to focus on the road and this burrito.
Owning a GS would be like befriending a Ron Burgundy. At first he will be great for parties, he will be an awesome wing-man, and he will impress your friends. The GS will get you out of a jam if you get stuck behind that Ford Fiesta sipping fuel on the highway. The GS’ 2.0 liter turbo and all wheel drive combination is quick enough to create a smile, and its 20″ wheels, despite the ridiculousness of it all, add an aggressive look to the whole car.
But when the party is over and the guests have all left, you realize that you are driving an impostor luxury sports car; one that is not good at being luxurious or sporty. You will eventually find that to pull all of that weight you really needed something near the 330 lb-ft range, not 295 lb-ft. And despite all of the leather and heated this and that, you will wonder why the ride quality resembles something more like a tuk-tuk from Thailand.
The bitterest of all bitter pills is that you paid almost $42,000 for it. At this price range, you are better off sticking to either pure luxury or pure sport, and there are great cars other than the GS that fit the bill. However, if you really like the Regal design you are better off buying the Buick Regal in non GS trim. You will get the respectable average man at an average price, without the annoying machismo.
Gregson is the co-producer of shiftinglanes.com where he and 2 gear head friends started an enthusiast website for shits and giggles to write about whatever they damn well please. You can contact Shifting Lanes here to tell us how wrong we are about everything, or yell at us on Facebook or Twitter.