Narrowly sidestepping oblivion when General Motors emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, the Buick brand has since set out to make itself relevant again, scoring some moderate gains with an assortment of small, medium and large SUVs. But the big challenge has been reaching younger, hipper buyers for whom Buick remains all but invisible.
That just might happen with the latest entry into the Buick line-up, the new Regal GS taking direct aim at some of the latest import hot hatches. Making a solid 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, it actually delivers a bit more power than the new Honda Civic Type-R, in fact. And the Regal RS sends torque to all four wheels, rather than just the front two.
“With the all-new 2018 Regal GS, we set out to make a driver-focused, engaging and entertaining sport sedan without sacrificing the smooth ride and refined character expected of any modern Buick,” said Martin Hayes, the chief engineer for the five-door sportback.
Depending upon your taste, the Regal might seem a bit tame. There are no hood scoops and winglets up front, nor a big wing hanging off the back. There are larger are inlets on either side of the front fascia and underneath the grille, as well as a small rear spoiler, but beyond opting for the five-door layout you might not immediately know this is an untamed version of the more conventional, and recently redesigned Buick Regal sedan.
(First Drive: Honda Civic Type-R. Click Here for our review.)
Where the Civic Type-R and many of the other new hot hatches have been migrating to relatively low-displacement engines relying on lots of turbo boost to make their numbers, the new Buick Regal GS opts for a classic 3.6-liter V-6 – though it does adopt some newfangled touches like direct injection, as well as fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and stop/start technology.
The package churns out a healthy 51 horsepower more through its nine-speed automatic transmission than the old Regal GS, and punches it out to all four wheels. The all-wheel-drive system uses a twin-clutch setup to improve torque distribution, as well.
The bottom line is a domestic hatchback that makes more power than a number of imports, including the 306-hp Type-R and Lexus IS350 F-Sport models, the 305-hp Subaru WRX STI, as well as the 292-hp VW Golf R and 290-hp Acura TLX A-Spec. That said, Buick can’t claim king-of-the-hill status, falling short of the 350-hp Ford Focus RS.
(Buick among contenders for North American Car, Truck, Utility of the Year. Click Here for more.)
During a Wednesday morning preview, Buick officials stressed that they intended to maintain the comfortable driving manners the brand has long been known for. But those who’re intending to push the new Regal GS hard will have the option of engaging the new car’s Continuous Damping Control, or CDC, system capable of adjusting the car’s dampers up to 500 times per second.
Add a new Interactive Drive Control which lets the driver switch over to more aggressive driving modes.
Completing the package are new new Brembo front brakes, stock 19-inch wheels and tires – and a sport-tuned exhaust.
Inside, Buick has turned up the heat, so to speak, with sport seats, metal pedals and a flat-bottom steering wheel, among other things. There’s also an optional, full-color Head-Up Display system.
There’s a standard 8-inch diagonal touchscreen and 8-inch diagonal reconfigurable instrument cluster as standard equipment, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility also come standard.
The GM brand has also loaded the 2018 Regal GS up with an array of safety features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warnings.
Buick hasn’t been shy about using aggressive pricing to take on its domestic import competitors, the recently remade Buick Regal sedan dropping $2,000 compared to the outgoing model. The Buick Regal GS, meanwhile, starts at $39,990 – including delivery fees. That’s about $6,000 more than the Type-R but anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 than comparable offerings from Acura and Lexus.
Final EPA mileage numbers will be released shortly before the official sales launch of the 2018 Buick Regal GS later this year.
(Click Here to see how Buick is moving upscale with new Enclave Avenir.)