Regal bearing

Buick’s sassy GS is ‘Regal’ enough for speed queens, styled for a princess

2012-Buick-Regal-GS

COUPE’D UP | With the continental styling of a German coupe and the muscles of a Corvette, Buick’s GS take on the Regal provides unexpected power inside an elegant framework.

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
crwauto@aol.com

Who knows what “GS” really stands for in the Buick lexicon? An educated guess would be “Grand Sport,” but I’m voting for “Goes Sonic.” Of course, it’s all relative: A turbocharged four-cylinder engine is only so sonic, but when attached to an expertly-developed European sport sedan, it invigorates the luxury-loving soul. Or something. It’s cool.

With Pontiac rising less like a phoenix and having burned down more like wood structures in a lava flow, Buick had a wider road on which to needle some adrenaline. A high-output Ecotec 2.0L turbo-four, pumping 270hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, stirs cravings. Choose a six-speed manual transmission (believe that!) or2012-Buick-Regal-GS-interior six-speed automatic with Driver Shift control. 0-60mph occurs in 6.7 seconds; you can run all day at speeds that will put you behind bars. Just bring a healthy debit card because the GS rates 19/27-MPG city/hwy. I averaged closer to 24-MPG — appreciably lower than some similarly-sized and comparably-powered, but less pudgy, competitors.

Put that in perspective. The oh-holy Buick Grand National’s 3.8-liter Turbo V6 delivered an “official” 245hp. Its speedier sibling, the GNX, squashed contemporary Corvettes with an underrated 276hp. The Regal GS is playing in the same league with two fewer cylinders, about half the displacement, and two additional doors for family and friends. Imagine what a V6 and AWD would do! Now, that would be Super Sonic (I’ll let Chevrolet borrow that).

Whereas in the old days you’d find a solid rear axle with enough wheel hop to plop your pop, the Regal GS’s chassis is a technical wonder. GS comes standard with Interactive Drive Control, a three-mode system that changes suspension and steering settings for more aggressive driving. “Standard” maintains comfort on rough roads or open Interstates. “Sport” stiffens the suspension and steering for better control. This is my favorite mode for everyday driving and Interstate travel. GS is for enthusiasts who are presumably headed for a smooth track – visit your dentist before pressing that button. To give fair warning, the instruments change from ice blue to white when GS mode is engaged.

All of this wizardry is attached to an incredibly stiff body structure that allows the four-wheel independent suspension and Brembo disc brakes, with four-piston front calipers and high performance linings, to stop the car as if clipped by a freight train. As in other mid-size GM sedans, engineers conjured up the HiPer Strut front suspension to reduce torque steer and improve cornering grip. That’s great, because loading up the front wheels with 270hp is usually like holding the reins of a speeding stallion. Available 200-in. polished alloys with low-profile tires play horse whisperer to tame the turbo’s torque.

Personally I prefer the Regal GS’s spiced up continental style to the muscle boy Grand National’s black brick attire. The body shell is shared with the German-built Opel Insignia. Stamped from what was apparently a solid piece of very elegant Black Forest granite, the Regal’s coupelike design is quite handsome from its chrome Buick grille to large headlights with sinister-angle running lamps, C-slash body surfacing, and sculpted rear deck with spoiler. It looks expensive. Twin exhaust outlets through the bumper and snarling fangs of chrome up front tell fat daddies to back off.

A cabin fit for Fittipaldi awaits sporty gents (and gals). Interior style is very businesslike with controls intelligently placed, but surrounded by lots of high-quality black plastic. Forget woodgrain, much less real wood. Deeply-sculpted heated black leather seats blow the chill off winter while the thick flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel encourages you to heat things up. Audi couldn’t do better.

Controlled through either faceplate buttons and knobs or the console joy wheel, the car’s in-dash navigation gets you anywhere. Audiophiles will exfoliate their ears with the standard 336-watt Harman/kardon 5.1 Matrix Surround Sound system with nine speakers. Go old-school with a CD, stream Pandora Internet Radio, or summon satellites with XM. Bluetooth or USB connect driver’s smart phones to the full-color 7-in. touch screen. Blind spot warnings and rear parking assist keep you from calling Flo.

A friend and I flew the “Goes Sonic” to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. Even after many hours on the road, the seats, steering, and suspension kept us in good kit. There was always plenty of power to jet past mini-vans and pickup trucks. On the first evening, we attended the premiere of the first-ever Cadillac ATS compact sedan. After the festivities, we handed the valet our claim slip. Two Regals pulled up before ours. Even among Cadillacs, the sporty Buick cuts a swath.

If you don’t like the turbo, Regal also comes in 182hp four-cylinder and 36-MPG eAssist variants. But, that’s for babies. Go Sonic and learn why you won’t soon forget GS.

Price as tested came to $38,155.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

DRIVE! 2010 • Gay adoption

Cross-cultural automaking combines American and foreign sensibilities for these mixed-parentage rides

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

PUSH BUTTON MIRACLE | GM almost nixed Saab, but when Spyker took over, they gave it a miraculous rebirth with this 9-5. The makers replaced the key insert with a push-button starter making the rest of the car all uphill.

My partner and I are planning to adopt a baby. For sure, there will be teething pains. As our lives go through Heavens and Hells, so too will those automakers that adopted domestic cast-offs. Time will tell if their adoptions are mired in poo or are truly gay.

These are the babies with the highest IQs. Gay parents adopting children from different cultures can cause moments of discomfort and domestic unrest. However, if these brands are loved and nurtured by their parents, happy world-changing children are ahead.

Saab 9-5

Saab aficionados, who are still puling GM’s parenting the past two decades, should love its latest 9-5 offspring. Over the years, the Swedish automaker has seemed more like a foster child than a truly loved son, but it is now in the crib of Dutch supercar builder Spyker. The multi-ethnic Swede has more than a little German DNA.

Designers cut a wide swath through IKEA and built a custom nursery for the new 9-5. Scandinavian luxury centers on plush leather seats, Saab’s traditional wrap-around cockpit, green instrument lighting, and a push button start button where God intended a key in the center console. A heads-up display continues the “Born from Jets” theme with Harman/Kardon audio and rear seat entertainment providing a respite from carriage duty.

Sharing genes with the German-engineered Buick Lacrosse and Regal, but looking suavely Saab, the sedan will rival the Audi A6 and Lincoln MKS. At birth, the car will scream with a 300-HP 2.8-liter turbo V6 and AWD. A 220-HP four-cylinder pops later. Very intelligent, DriveSense adjusts the suspension and throttle settings to give drivers very different dynamics on a whim. There’s still a lot of GM in there, but it’s all great stuff.
New parents Spyker and potential customers should rejoice at this big bundle of joy. Given how close GM came to liquidating Saab, it is truly a miracle baby. A more premium Saab eats $47,565 at once.

Volvo S60
OVERTHINKER | The Volvo S60 can adjust driving mode into comfort, sport or advanced suspensions while also detecting pedestrians with a full auto brake.

Volvo S60

Volvo was adopted in 1999 by Ford Motor Company and re-gifted to China’s Geely earlier this year. Geely had been preparing its nursery for Volvo for years, hoping upon hope that Ford would condone the adoption.

It would be hard to imagine Geely getting a better kid than the new S60 sedan. Its curvy rump, roof and fenders are beautiful with a family resemblance in the strong shoulders. Interior design is based on the S80 sedan, including a thin center controls stack, plush seats, and sporty steering wheel. Woodgrain blends with brushed aluminum and light colors. Bluetooth connectivity and voice control for audio and phone keep the middle child hip.

Being a Volvo, the S60’s pants are loaded with creamy tech. Power comes from a 300-HP 3.0-liter six cylinder engine with optional AWD. When equipped with the Four-C Active Chassis system, drivers can adjust the suspension through “comfort,” “sport” or “advanced” modes.

Safety, a Volvo hallmark, is enhanced by a pedestrian detection system with full auto brake that identifies people and stops the car from up to 22 mph. Adaptive cruise control, City Safe collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert and lane departure warning systems exploit the car’s radar system. Fees cost $37,700 plus toys.

Jaguar XJ75
OLDER IS BETTER | India’s Tata picked up where Ford left off with Jaguar. Commemorating its 75th anniversary, the Jaguar XJ75 has upgrade written all over it with voice activated controls and LCD virtual instruments.

Jaguar XJ (75th)

Whether you think beauty, or the ugliest bug since Capone busted the womb, the Jaguar XJ will not be ignored. Most design and engineering was completed under Ford custody, but that will not stop India’s Tata, which adopted Jaguar and Land Rover during 2008, from raising the new Jags into proper millennial gentlemen.

The XJ flaunts a flowing body with blacked-out C-pillars and optional panoramic roof that echoes the little brother XF. Bodies are constructed almost entirely of aluminum around a sumptuous cabin that is futuristic while outfitted with the finest leathers, carpets, and mirror-cut wood. An available 510-HP supercharged V8 toddles over a constantly-adapting suspension. Voice-activated controls, lights that illuminate with the wave of a hand, LCD “virtual instruments” and 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio beguile passengers. $72,500 is but a start.

To commemorate Jaguar’s 75th anniversary, the company showed the XJ75 Platinum Concept. White paint, 22-in. wheels, diamond stitch suede seat inserts and softgrain leather are divine. A bespoke clock designed by Bremont Watch Company and 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins surround audio cuddle passengers.

This article appeared in Dallas Voice’s DRIVE! Supplement November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens