First Drive:

2018 Buick Regal GS debuts with more power and room


The all-new Buick Regal GS sport sedan will offer its first V6 engine in a generation, all-wheel drive, a nine-speed automatic transmission and a more accommodating interior when it goes on sale early in 2018.

The new GS accelerated smoothly, absorbing bumps and clinging to curves in test runs around a 5.3-mile ride and handling track at General Motors’ Milford proving ground northwest of Detroit Wednesday. The 3.6-liter V6 delivers 310 hp. All-wheel drive (AWD) and a nine-speed automatic transmission are standard on the Regal GS.

The adaptive suspension kept the car flat through fast curves and muffled the impact of the test track’s close-spaced chatter bumps.

Buick sales have been rising steadily, mostly thanks to the brand’s growing line of SUVs, but the Regal and GS names have a loyal following based on decades of strong designs and advanced performance.

Adjustable drive modes let the GS driver modify shift points, suspension and steering. It also shifts 10 percent more torque to the rear wheels to mimic the dynamics of rear-drive sport sedans.

Simple controls that include buttons and dials for climate and audio, a large touch screen and voice recognition promise to make the Regal a particularly driver-friendly sport sedan

The V6 produces 51 hp more than the turbocharged four-cylinder engine powering the 2017 Regal.

Regal GS prices will start under $40,000, Buick chief Duncan Aldred said.

The GS offers deeply sculpted heated and cooled sport seats, Brembo brakes, adaptive suspension and optional head-up display.

Buick aims to offer “attainable luxury,” Aldred said.

Buick has two other new Regal models coming late this year: the Sportback, a roomy hatchback that looks like a sedan, and Tour X, a wagon with a raised ride height and standard AWD to attract buyers inclined toward SUVs and crossovers. Both have a turbocharged 250-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The base Sportback is front-wheel drive, with an AWD option.

Regal Sportback prices start at $25,915 — $2,000 down from the less powerful 2017 model. Tour X prices start at $29,995.

“The mid-sized sedan market is in decline, but Buick has offered a couple of interesting twists in the GS sportier version and the Sportback hatchback, which combines good looks and practicality,” Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs said.

The new model’s more accommodating rear seat also will be a selling point, Autopacific analysts Dave Sullivan said.

Buick will tout the Sportback and Tour X’s combination of practicality and performance because they both offer more cargo space than competitive sedans such as the Acura TLX, Audi A4 and Lexus IS350.

The GS was the star of the show at GM’s Milford proving ground, but the Tour X and Sportback acquitted themselves well on the test track.

Their 250-hp four-cylinder engine delivers more than adequate acceleration. It’s linked to the nine-speed for FWD models and 8-speed transmission with AWD.



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