MILFORD, Mich. – With the all-new 2018 Buick Regal set to debut this fall, Buick took the wraps off the range-topping, high-performance GS model, due to hit Canadian dealerships in early 2018.
The unveiling took place earlier this week at General Motors' proving grounds in Milford, Michigan, located about 69 km northwest of Detroit.
Before a group of automotive journalists, which included just five Canadians – the rest were American – Buick executives, product planners and marketing staff unveiled the GS, and brought along its wagon (TourX) and liftback (Sportback) stablemates, both of which were originally revealed in the spring.
After a brief product presentation, we were invited to drive pre-production / engineering test mule copies of all three on a loop around the Milford facility.
Before going any further, a few points of clarification:
1. The 2018 Regal is based on the Opel Insignia sold in Europe, and all North-American Regals will be built in an Opel plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
2. General Motors of Canada has elected to not bring the TourX to the Canadian market at launch. It could arrive later, although the company has yet to confirm when or of it will arrive.
3. Canada will receive the Sportback and GS models at launch.
For the purposes of this report, I’m just going to focus on the GS, although I also drove the TourX and Sportback.
First, the specs. I’m not going to run through them all (Google it, if you want more detail), but I will cover the basics.
The Regal GS is powered by a normally aspirated 3.6L V6 engine that features direct injection, cylinder deactivation and stop/start technology. It produces 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft. of torque.
Power is put to the ground through a nine-speed, twin-clutch automatic transmission that’s paired to standard intelligent AWD.
On the chassis front, the Regal GS features a five-link rear suspension and second-gen Continuous Damping Control (CDC) and Interactive Drive Control with GS and Sport driving modes.
To hold both the driver and the front passenger seat occupant in place, the GS gets unique sport seats that are heated, cooled, massaging and offer adjustable bolstering and side support. They are also AGR-certified, which means they’re endorsed by the Campaign for Healthier Backs.
Other GS-specific kit includes unique front and rear sport fascias, side skirts and rear spoiler, 19-inch alloy wheels, performance brakes with Brembo calipers, sport-tuned exhaust, sport flat-bottomed steering wheel and an available head-up display.
As mentioned, Canadian-market GS cars will go on sale in early 2018 and will carry a starting price of $45,495.
Because I only had one lap – and Buick only brought six cars, two for each model – my impressions of the GS are limited, but I was impressed with its acceleration, braking and general driving dynamics. The sport exhaust emits a nice drone (especially under acceleration), and the ride quality in each driving mode (normal, sport and GS) felt reasonably quiet and comfortable on all but the roughest of Milford road surfaces I drove on.
The interior has a nice sporty, contemporary look and feel and the sport seats are excellent. I didn’t get a chance to test out the massaging function, but I can attest that they offer a great deal of support and comfort – perfect for spirited driving.
As far as its exterior looks are concerned, the bar was set pretty low by the outgoing car which has been in production since the 2011 model year. The old Regal looks and feels dated and it was time for a reset.
All variants of the new Regal are handsome, and come with a creased, angular look that feels contemporary and should make the car more appealing to new buyers who might not otherwise consider Buick. In GS form, the larger wheels and model-specific bodywork give the Regal a hint of menace which I think it’ll need considering the marques it will be competing against.
On that note, a GM Canada press release says, “… the Regal GS offers luxury features at a price more attainable than competitors from Acura, Audi and BMW.”
They might be on to something.
A quick perusal of the websites of those brands reveals comparable models that cost quite a bit more (Audi, BMW) and one (Acura) that undercuts the GS slightly, but is also less powerful.
More detailed apples-to-apples comparisons won’t be possible until GM reveals a specific pricing breakdown that accounts for the cost of available options, but it seems the Regal GS carries an MSRP that is competitive.
That’s good news for Buick and for those shopping in the executive performance sedan market.
Look for expanded coverage of the 2018 Buick Regal GS in the Fall 2017 issue of Ignition, due out in September.
Photography by Lee Bailie