When the current generation Buick Regal was first announced back in 2009, it (along with the first generation Enclave CUV) served as visual proof that Buick (once reserved for those that were in their bi-focal years) was serious about recapturing the youth market once again, with the Regal GS further cementing that point in 2012. That particular model rewarded buyers with many new things once considered foreign to Buick such as supportive seats, a spirited 270 horsepower engine, and race inspired handling tweaks. However with the 2014 Regal receiving a host of exterior and interior upgrades, does the 2014 Regal GS still have what it takes to stand out from the rest of the luxury sport sedan market? or has its updates caused it to lose some of its uniqueness? Read on to find out.
The exterior styling of the Regal was based on the Europe only Opel Insignia which allowed the Regal to bring some much needed sportiness and crisp lines to the Buick stable. For 2014 Buick designers elected to do a refresh that was more of an evolution versus an outright revolution which should please fans and loyalists that loved the original formula. The front fascia retains the brand’s trademark waterfall grille but it is slightly taller than before, and features headlights which are sharper and more expressive than the frosty indifferent units that adorned the 2013 model. The GS’s exclusive front air intakes are still present and accounted for, and their saber-tooth tiger inspired appearance will still be a matter of personal taste, some will like them while others won’t (we personally like them). The rear of the 2014 Regal is thankfully not as in your face as the front fascia, and retains a dash of elegance with new LED tail lamps that now incorporate the rear mounted metal trim in their design which contributes to a slightly wider look than its 2013 predecessor. A subtle rear mounted spoiler and more prominent exhaust tips (both carried over from the old model) round out the festivities and help the GS standout from its base Regal siblings.
The interior of the 2014 Regal GS also gets a whole host of improvements that add more technology and upscale charm to the interior than before but also expose a few quirks that may aggravate buyers at the same time. However before we get into that, lets focus on some of the positives that the interior has to offer starting with the drastically reduced button count on the climate control cluster and infotainment system. The 2013 model had a huge assortment of buttons, so many buttons in fact that it felt like you were operating a spaceship or playing an overly elaborate computer game. Thankfully Buick engineers have shelved this daunting and intimidating layout in favor of a simpler setup which now features touch sensitive controls for the climate and heated seats (similar to what debuted on the current generation Enclave). The Intellilink system has also been revamped and is now sharper and quicker than before with the system doing an excellent job of responding quickly to touchscreen inputs with little lag.
The GS exclusive 8-inch instrument mounted info screen is another welcome addition and looks crisp and modern with the screen allowing the driver to access various settings including audio, navigation, as well as performance data which features a special “friction bubble” for showing lateral and longitudinal G-Force. The restyled flat bottomed steering wheel is just as meaty and comfortable to wield as it was in the 2013 model, but the loss of its odd looking metal trim accents makes it look much more attractive, while a reworked setup for its satellite buttons makes it easier to use than before. The fully adjustable front seats offer excellent side support and are also comfortable on long journeys with copious amounts of leg and arm room present. The rear seats do boast a decent amount of knee and leg room, though headroom back there is what you’d expect from a sport sedan tight and best left for people under 6ft tall. Sound quality from my testers 9 speaker Bose Audio system was crisp with a good amount of bass and mid-range sound though treble was a bit on the low side but is only noticeable when playing certain kinds of music.
As stated earlier, the interior also boasts a few flaws which help make the overall presentation a mixed bag affair. The shifter for example is still surrounded by metallic hued trim which looks somewhat out of place considering that GS models only come in black with no other color choices available. However a more annoying complaint I have is in regards to the touch sensitive climate controls. While they do look slick and reduce button count, the touch sensitive pads are also not that accurate registering inputs, with a firm well placed touch needed for the system to respond (this quirk may infuriate owners used to smartphones that require just a light tap to operate). While we are complaining, some of the buttons (especially ones for the hazard lights parking assist and sport mode) are a bit of a reach, but thankfully, the traction control and GS mode buttons (the two most important buttons in this car) are within easy reach of the driver.
Speaking of that GS button it also plays a role in my final complaint, where’s the unique visual presentation when the button is pushed? In the 2013 model, the GS button caused the gauges in the instrument cluster to go from blue to white lighting. While it could be seen as a bit of excessive visual gimmickry, it did let you know that you were in a mode separate from Sport, and that you were about to experience something special. However in the 2014 GS push that button and you do not get that visual distinction, instead you just get a brief ripple effect from the speedometer and that’s it with no other visual changes setting it apart from Sport Mode. A minor complaint perhaps which is partially remedied by linking the digital gauges to each drive mode, but for someone like me who likes to have a bit of differentiation in their purchase, a red hued instrument cluster for GS mode would’ve been a neat and cool way to set the two modes apart.
Performance for the 2014 Buick Regal comes from the same 2.0 liter 259 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder that also see’s duty in the base Regal. While it does make 11 fewer ponies than the 2013 GS and its 270 horsepower (which may disappoint power junkies), Buick claimed that the decrease was necessary to accommodate the AWD components that can be equipped to the GS (my tester was FWD). Torque is also unchanged at 295 lb-ft though Buick does say that the GS reaches its maximum torque value at 2500 RPM, which is 500 less than the old model, and should help the car be slightly faster than its predecessor. These figures work together to allow the Regal GS to make the sprint to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds which is a tick faster than the old model, though it is still behind some rivals.
The engine like many other iterations of GM’s now familiar 2.0 liter four banger is at its happiest in the lower RPM range where it offers brisk and smooth acceleration before gradually running out of steam higher in the rev band though a brief period of turbo lag is present before it fully spools up. My testers six speed automatic produced consistent shifts, though putting it into manual mode allows the driver to make better use of the engines strong low end behavior. A six speed manual is also available as a no cost option for those that prefer to have full involvement in their driving experience though AWD fans will be forced to equip their rides with the six speed automatic (due to the needs of the Haldex derived unit). While the fore-mentioned six speed auto is a solid piece of technology, many competitors such as Lexus and BMW are now embracing seven and even eight speed transmissions which do have a one or two cog advantage on the Regal (regardless of configuration), and offer slicker shifts than the six speed as well as higher fuel economy though its rating of 21 city 30 highway is still good for its segment .
However straight line acceleration runs are neither this engines strong suit, nor what the GS is truly all about. Instead, its also about handling and braking which serve as the other two key components in the GS formula and allow the car to excel on the track as well as your favorite driving road. A beefed up suspension featuring GM’s Hi-Per strut system plays a crucial part in this mission reducing body roll and offering solid handling while still maintaining the smooth ride expected from a Buick product. This is despite the fact that the GS carries the majority of its weight on the front end ( a trait that tends to adversely affect handling behavior). The steering also offers plenty of accurate feedback with solid amounts of feel (a nice change from the majority of electrically assisted units). As before drivers can alter the cars behavior by pushing either the Sport or GS mode buttons which firms up the suspension, tightens up steering response, and produces crisper shifts from the six speed automatic. The GS also features bigger Brembo brakes to help stop the festivities with the meaty units providing consistent stable stops from a wide range of vehicle speeds.
Pricing for the 2014 Regal GS begins at 36,905 with my tester rounding out to $42,550 thanks to two optional drivers confidence packages, as well as assorted fees including the $925 destination charge. GS models equipped with the optional AWD system add an additional $2365 to the cost of entry, though the system does finally allow the Buick to be a legitimate alternative to AWD rivals such as the Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, and the Lexus IS250. Unlike many competitors, the Regal offers a six speed manual gearbox as a no cost option (versus rivals where the stick raises the overall MSRP) but only on FWD equipped variants like my tester (AWD versions can only be equipped with the six speed automatic). While the Buick packs alot of standard equipment into the GS to make up for the high price, it also inadvertently opens up the GS to a number of compelling cross shops including the BMW 328i as well as internal competition from the Cadillac ATS 2.0T which uses a variant of the GS’s engine but can be had with more performance oriented rear wheel drive versus my testers front wheel drive.
Despite its flaws, the 2014 Buick Regal GS is still a solid entry into the luxury sport sedan segment, with pricing that undercuts many rivals as well as performance that pleases enthusiasts and loyalists. A bit more refinement as well as more horsepower to make it stand out from its base Regal sibling will go a long way to solidifying its status as Buick’s fun to drive car.
( A special thank you to the kind folks at Suburban Buick of Ferndale in Ferndale Michigan for allowing me to check out the 2014 Buick Regal GS as well as the opportunity to drive the one featured in this review.)