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Track Day: 2016 Buick Regal GS

by Paul Strauss
Track Day: 2016 Buick Regal GSzoom in

    2016 Buick Regal GS

  • Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 259
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 295
  • Transmission: 6-speed Hydra-Matic automatic
  • 0-to-60 Time (secs): 6.5 (FWD) / 6.8 (AWD)
  • Curb Weight (lb): 3,710 (FWD) / 3,981(AWD)
  • Wheelbase (in): 107.8
  • Total Length (in): 190.2
  • Width (in): 73.1
  • Base Price (USD): $34,990

When you think of the Buick brand, a day at the track isn’t exactly the first thing that pops to mind. But I’m here to tell you that Buick is waist-deep in the midst of a renaissance, offering cars that aren’t just more stylish than ever before, but are actually enjoyable to drive. Leading the pack of engaging Buicks is the Regal GS, a premium, sport-equipped variant of the popular Regal midsize sedan.

I recently had the opportunity to put the 2016 Regal GS through its paces at the Autobahn Country Club, a great track and learning facility located about an hour Southwest of Chicago. We had two circuits to test the GS on, an impromptu autocross course, and a 1.5 mile long road course.

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All current Buick Regals sport the same 2.0-liter, 259 hp turbo-4, which pushes out an ample 295 lb-ft. of torque, which hits the ground via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The GS used to offer a manual option, but that’s been shelved due to lack of demand. What makes the GS model special aren’t simply cosmetics. Sure, it’s got a more aggressive front fascia, large air intakes, and integrated stainless steel exhaust ports, but it’s also had its ride height lowered, has high-performance front struts, adaptive damping, and Brembo front brakes. It also comes with 19″ V-spoke alloy wheels, though the optional 20″ polished rims look even better.

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While you can get the Regal in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive models, the all-wheel variant would be my choice, not just because of its ability to handle slick roads better, but because it’s able to send some power to the rear wheels, which makes for a better driving experience, with less torque steer, and less understeer.

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On the autocross course, the GS handled extremely well, offering great feedback, and quick and responsive turns around the cones. One thing that was interesting was how the various drive modes affected handling in this situation. While the GS and Sport modes offer increased throttle response and tighter suspension, several of us in attendance found the Comfort mode to offer the most fun on the autocross. The added softness and body roll in that mode just seemed to feel right at low speeds and with tight cornering.

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On the other hand, the GS mode was great on the big track. With higher speeds and flatter, larger turns, this mode offered good stiffness and feedback. Acceleration on the long straights was satisfying, if not mindblowing, but where the GS really shines is in the handling department.

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Perhaps it’s the fact that the Regal got its start as a German car – the Opel Insignia – but the way it makes its way through the corners is reminiscent of the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class. Throughout both courses, the Regal was composed and incredibly well balanced. And the more time I spent behind the wheel, the more I enjoyed driving it, gradually honing my line around the track and improving my time lap by lap.

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I spent the better part of the day living inside the Regal GS, and found its interior to be comfortable. The leather wrapped sport seats offer good support for driver and passenger, and the driving position is low enough to give you a good connection to the road. I also like how they went with a D-shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the horizontal stitching on the seats. The aluminum pedals are a nice touch too.

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Buick has packed the Regal GS with high-tech bells and whistles too, including an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, front and rear parking assist, OnStar, a 4G LTE hotspot, available blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, and front automatic braking. And to prove that the GS is meant for fun and not just going to the mall, it’s got a G-Force meter.

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I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Buick Regal GS. While I’ve driven (and liked) other recent Buick models, they still have erred on the side of comfort and pragmatism over fun. But the Regal GS is genuinely a fun and engaging car to drive. Sure, it’s not the fastest car on the road, but it’s got ample power, and it handles wonderfully. If you’re looking for a dedicated sports car, the Regal GS isn’t one. But if you’re looking for a daily driver that’s quite sporty and sophisticated, then it’s definitely worth a test drive.

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To sweeten the pot for 2016, Buick has lowered the price for the Regal GS significantly, while preserving all of its features. In 2015, the Regal GS sold for $38,310(USD). For 2016, it’s going to be $34,990 – a savings of $3,320.

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