Test Drive Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

 

What happens when you turn a Buick Regal into a GS sport sedan and then add an automatic and all-wheel drive? Well, it would be better with the manual.

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The fact that Buick are even trying is enough to make me happy.  But let’s be honest: they could be trying a bit harder. A front-wheel drive sport sedan is so ‘90s-early-2000s. It’s a platform that just can’t work, unless you throw some all-wheel control at it, which in this application works and makes the car more drivable, even though there is still understeer. In the rain, though, the car holds its own and feels safe and planted.

As a whole package I think the Regal GS works in appearance and principle. Between the turbocharged 2.0-liter four with 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and the look of the 20″ wheels, standard Brembo brakes, and a $39,270 base price, you should be expecting a nice little sport sedan that can haul a bit of booty. The 2014 all-wheel drive model caries 11 fewer horses because of a redesigned exhaust to fit the Haldex-based AWD system. It now has the same amount of power as a base Regal 2.0 turbo for more money.

What you get instead of a real sports car is a comfortable interior with sub-par quality materials, lots of plastic, and an automatic transmission that does nothing but ruin the character of the car. Supposedly the all-wheel drive system can send up to 95% of power to the rear wheels, but at no time did I feel like the Regal GS had any extra power going to the rear. Maybe I just wasn’t driving hard enough…

My tester came equipped with the Driver Confidence Packages 1 and 2 for $890 and $1,695, respectively. Those two options include: adaptive cruise control, blind spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, memory seats and mirrors, automatic collision preparation, and a sensor indicator for following distance. For another $1,000 you get a power sunroof. Why that isn’t standard I don’t know. All this comes to the tune of $43,780.

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I want to love the Regal GS, I really do. But I just can’t. I like the comfortable driving nature, and it does handle well, but the slow auto ‘box with no paddles, the tiny interior and trunk room is pretty bad for a car of this ilk.

Not everyone likes the front grille, but I love that it’s all blacked out. For some weird reason this doesn’t apply to the rest of the car, because there’s chrome trim everywhere on the doors, trunk, hood vents, etc. It’s a typical General Motors thing to apply numerous different colors all in one car. Take the Cadillac CTS-V. The interior had faux-carbon fiber, faux-aluminum, and then dark brown wood grain. So it doesn’t really come as a shock. Luckily the Regal GS only has black plastic and fake alumi-carbo-fiber-stuff.

I can’t stand that the vents are fake, but they do look pretty cool. Hey, GM, how about we open up those areas and allow some air flow, eh?

The Buick Regal GS AWD also comes with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control in the form of Sport and GS buttons that sit opposite one another on the top of the dashboard. The Sport mode all the way on the right firms up the suspension a little bit to control body roll, but GS mode changes everything a bit more, including tightening up the steering effort with a heavier weight. It doesn’t feel natural, but it isn’t too bad.

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You have two flavors with the automatic transmission: straight automatic, or manual control. There’s typically a sport mode with most transmissions, and usually paddles. The Regal GS has neither. With the automatic the GS feels brisk, taking a little over 6-seconds to reach 60 mph. I’d love to see the automatic be faster shifting with more control, which would slice off nearly half a second from 0-60 launches. Still, the Regal GS can get up and move when you need it to, and it does hurl around a hair below 4,000 lbs in the corners, hiding it pretty well.

Even with all of that weight, the Regal GS gets good gas mileage at 19 city and 27 highway, respectively. Real world testing for me held up between 22-24 mpg, depending on how hard I pushed the car on back roads. The manual gearbox, which is only available in front-wheel drive, gets 20/31 city and highway. Yet another reason to enjoy a manual.

The IntelliLink navigation was a breeze to use, but giving navigation commands while driving can be entertaining when the car tries to read back the address you definitely didn’t say.

Even though I’m not in love with the 2014 Regal GS, I did like it. It’s easy to drive and comfortable. And, surprisingly, it’s actually one of the lesser expensive cars in the segment that includes the Cadillac ATS, BMW 3-Series, Volvo S60, etc. It’s a solid deal in the segment that needs some important work to be, in my mind, on the level of the ATS or 328/335. It could totally be a bargain version of those cars with the addition of a better gearbox, less weight, more room, and less plastic bits that feel like they’re going to fall off. They’re definitely in the right direction with the safety features and the navigation and infotainment systems, but more than that, the aggressive and sexy looks appeal to me the most on the Regal GS.

[Photos by Corey Privette]

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  • Jonathan Brown

    Cool review. The regal GS with a manual and front drive is the one to choose. A friend of mine did and what a fun car to drive.

    Automatic and AWD is nice but not one I would pick either if I were shopping this segment.

    Thanks for the insights to this good looking sedan.