Not Just For Grandma
My father used to flip cars on the side when I was small child, so I got to see lots cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s sit in the driveway growing up. One of them was an early ‘90s Buick Park Avenue. The paint was a halfway mark between red and maroon, with a red interior that felt like you were riding inside a red velvet cake. The car didn’t stay with us very long but it left an impression on me. I never saw Buick as the butt of an AARP joke, because Buick has a reputation for being a wildcard.
They gave us the Buick Riviera in 1963, arguably one of the most stylish cars ever designed, and the ‘boat tail’ Riviera in 1971. Buick made one of the hottest muscle cars at the peak of the performance wars in 1970 with their Buick GSX Stage 1. The Stage 1 455 big block produced over 500 pounds of tire-melting torque, boasting the highest torque output of any American production car at the time.
They again made history again in 1987 with their legendary Grand National GNX, one of the best vehicle representations of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The GNX was the blacked out grandma car that Corvettes, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis couldn’t touch. During my week with the 2016 Buick Regal GS I was able to sense the legacy of their past achievements.
Gosh, it’s a pretty car. The best way I can describe it is that it reminds me of a person with a good self-esteem. No insecurities means it doesn’t have to try to get anyone’s attention; that is what gives the Regal GS such a charming presence when you walk up to it. The chrome wheels are big but not anxious, the dimensions make the car look long but compact at the same time. I took more photos of this car than any car I’ve so far reviewed because wherever I parked the Regal looked camera-ready. I like the black grille with the black Buick coat of arms emblem as a subtle tribute to the Grand National (In my mind). I like the wide rear window that reminds me of the Buick Riviera from the 1963. The Regal GS has been out for years (since 2010), and I was embarrassed that I had not noticed this car in the past. It has just enough flavor to stand out in a parking lot of vanilla without looking like mint chocolate chip.
The first time in I let myself drop because I was expected to land in a soft cloud made of leather – this is, after all, a Buick. But this is a Grand Sport so I crash landed onto the firm bucket seats of the Regal GS. I’m not saying the seats aren’t comfortable because they are, and are fully adjustable, I just fell for the Buick’s misleading charm where it wants to catch people off guard and make them say, “This is a Buick?”
I ended up taking the Regal GS on a 200 mile road trip to nowhere to see how comfortable it was during long distance traveling. Steering wheel controls on the Buick came in handy when I used its adaptive cruise control. Set the speed you wish to go and the Regal GS will maintain its speed and slow down on its own if a vehicle up ahead is going slower than the speed you set. The Regal GS also has dual climate control, and heated seats that you’ll rarely use in South Texas. The rear passengers also have their own AC vents, which is always welcomed in sedans. Satellite radio, touch screen media controls and a Bose audio system meant I was traveling in first class.
I like to think that the engineers who built the Regal GS grew up with posters of the GSX and Grand Nationals on their bedroom walls. That’s why this car has independent suspension and Brembo brakes the size of a Chicago deep dish. They wanted the car to surprise people, and it does. The GS is powered by a 2.0 liter turbo four that makes 259 hp and is bolted to a 6-speed automatic. In previous years, a manual transmission was an option but it was dropped for 2016. The all-wheel drive system pushes the Buick Regal GS in to sleeper territory while still getting 27 mpg on the highway and 19 in the city. It doesn’t sound very high, but if you drive with a light foot you can stretch the MPG’s into the low 30s.
I drove it on a very twisty road that goes along the Texas Hill Country. The road looked like someone had sewn together a bunch of S letters end to end. There were lots of 15 mph warning signs, but the AWD system in the Regal GS gives you peace of mind. The car felt like it was on rails when I threw it into a turn at 50 mph. And – notably – I didn’t feel like I was going to understeer into the nearest tree. I didn’t even mind that the car wasn’t a manual because I was having too much fun with both hands on the wheel as I zig-zagged my way up the hill like I was driving a go-kart with leather seats.
There is a certain feeling of confidence when you are approaching a turn and notice all the other cars slowing down while you keep your foot on the gas knowing the Regal GS will hug the corner without spilling your morning coffee.
This is the first car I reviewed that I actually considered purchasing. Starting at $36K for the AWD GS, it isn’t exactly cheap. Also, there are other midsize near-luxury cars with 2.0 liter turbo engines that are cheaper. However, the people who buy the Regal Grand Sport with AWD are people who have specific taste, do their research when buying cars and want to enjoy their daily commute instead of just merely getting there. People who prefer bow-ties over neck-ties, or who start off by saying, “is it possible to…” when ordering food. They know what they like and aren’t worried about what others may think. That’s what the Buick Regal GS is, a car that does what it does to impress its owner and nobody else.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”