The Buick Regal Sportback is a bit of a bugbear for me. It is, in my original homeland, the new replacement for the venerable Holden Commodore. There it is badged as a Commodore still but it is the first front-wheel-drive Commodore in that nameplate’s history.
From minute one, the 2018 Buick Regal GS felt right.
So how can a “performance” variant of a sedan I once worshipped win over a bitter old rear-wheel drive fanatic? Quite easily, as it turns out.
From minute one, the 2018 Buick Regal GS felt right. The seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, the seating position exactly as it should be, even the steering wheel is meaty and the aluminum pedals well positioned. The interior of this car feels upscale and sporty in the same breath. I wish there was more colour than the red “GS” logo atop the gear shift, and can’t wait for the day black-on-black interiors are banned outright, but given that Buick is not an island in this regard, this interior works. Mercifully, there is far less of the gaudy, cheap, and downright naff faux aluminum as in other GM products, but it is still there if you look.
Look beyond the form though. The seats, for example, are not only comfortable and supportive, but heated and cooled. And because sometimes you have to go the extra mile to really take someone by surprise – they’re massaging as well.
Sport Sedan, or Sporty Sedan?
All of this, I take in and am impressed by before I prod the GS into life. Then, I notice the deep growl from the 3.6L V6 engine. Its 310 hp and 282 lb-ft numbers don’t do justice to the experience. Perhaps courtesy of the well-matched nine-speed automatic transmission, this V6 gets the hefty (1,937 kg) GS up to speed with smooth urgency.
With ratings of 12.4/8.7/10.7 L/100 km city/highway/combined, it’s fair to say my week-long result of 12.7 had a bit to do with my enjoyment of this engine.
Road comfort from the McPherson strut front suspension and five-link rear is very good. The Regal rides imperfections with ease and handles those same imperfections in corners without changing trajectory. Bigger bumps don’t generate that floating feeling domestics sometimes suffer, and the suspension is quick to return to a settled state. Pitching is a little pronounced, but that can be blamed on the four-piston 345 mm Brembo brakes mounted behind the 19-inch wheels. These front brakes, and the 315 mm rotors out back, arrest the Regal GS with surprising authority.
It is in the handling department where some of the sportiness falls by the wayside, with the GS a little tardy to change direction, and not quite as pointy as other sporty sedans. Mid-corner performance, feel, body movement and stability are strong, and corner exits are good courtesy of that potent V6 drivetrain.
And, because the GS is AWD, not FWD, the experience isn’t as removed as you might think from the Commodore I cherished. It is removed though, and if Buick really wanted this to be taken seriously as a sport sedan akin to the Infiniti Q50 or Kia Stinger, they’d build it with much, much more RWD bias.
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And its when you start making those comparisons that the GS loses its lustre. If it was a Chevrolet, priced as such, and competing head-to-head with the Accords and Camrys of the world, it would be a standout in the segment. As an accessible luxury marque, with some sporting pretence, the Regal GS sportback is bested by the Kia Stinger, Infiniti Q50, or Genesis G70 – but it is priced between those two strata.
Huh? Well, the Buick is not as expensive as that trio, but is more expensive than its mainstream counterparts. The result is that it occupies its own space. That’s great, because white space is easier to conquer – but it’s also hard, because the market is hard to define. And we ought not forget that the sedan is losing favour.
What is not losing favour, is connectivity and feature content. Here again, Buick packs a lot into the package. Those seats, for example. Also the on-board Wi-Fi, Sirius XM, OnStar and teen driver mode. The addition of the $1,995 Driver Confidence Package #2 brings with it forward collision alert, adaptive cruise, front pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and a head-up display.
This upgraded 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment is applied courtesy of the $3,495 Experience Buick Package. It also adds a moonroof, eight-speaker Bose audio system, wireless phone charging and auto-levelling LED cornering headlights.
Keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, park assist (front and rear) and the Buick rear vision camera are all standard.
It is my contention, and has been for sometime that the best cargo configuration is a sedan with a liftback / fastback / sportback / whatever you want to call it, and I believe it here too. No other set up gives you as much volume or as much access to your cargo. Here, you get a whopping 892 L of cargo volume, expanding to an SUV-shaming 1,719 with the seats down.
To open this liftback you’ll need to have read the owners manual. Or, Google “How to open Regal GS trunk” – as I did. The answer is to put your fingertip lightly in the lower middle of the Buick logo on the trunk lid.
In Sum Total
The sum total of all this musing is that the Regal GS is a very good sedan – luxurious enough, and sporty enough, to satisfy most buyers. It has the aesthetic chops, interior quality, and feature content to compete with anyone in the segment just below it, and to at least contend with the segment above. The engine is a good one, and the ride comfort is solid. Interior noise, wind, road, and suspension are all well controlled, so this is a pleasant cabin to be in, no matter the setting.
If you’re interest is piqued enough to drive one, you’ll find, as I did, that the Regal GS exceeds most expectations.
|2018 Buick Regal GS|
|Engine Displacement: 3.6L|
|Engine Cylinders: V6|
|Peak Horsepower: 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque: 282 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm|
|Fuel Economy: 12.4/8.7/10.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 892 / 1,719 L seats down|
|2018 Buick Regal GS|
|Base Price $43,845|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $1,750|
|Price as Tested $52,380|
|Optional Equipment $6,685 – Experience Buick Package $3,495; Driver Confidence Package #2 $1,995; White Frost Tricoat $1,195|