The Buick Regal isn't like the Buicks of old, or even of old people. The four-door sedan is a version of GM's global mid-size cars, and sports European looks and tuning, and this year, a new GS edition that goes a long way to making the Regal one of the best cars in the near-luxury class.
We're giving the Regal a rating of 7 here at MotorAuthority, with special honors for the Regal GS, new for 2012. All Regals are comfortable cruisers, with a taut ride and great looks, but the GS cranks up the power to its highest output yet, and screws down the handling to a newly agile level.
The V-8 is history at Buick, and the Regal takes the downsizing a step further. It's four-cylinder only, with a normally aspirated base car turning in 182 horsepower, and the mid-level four with turbocharging doling out a healthier 220 horsepower. Both of these engines team up with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle controls, and they give a hint of sporty feel, even if straight-line performance and steering feel aren't particularly quick or crisp. The European heritage is clear, though, in the Regal's firmly damped ride, which gets some help from the Regal's substantial curb weight.
Go for the GS model, if you're seeking excitement. The turbo four dials up 270 horsepower and comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, though the all-wheel drive from concept versions won't make it to production after all. The Regal GS still isn't quite as neurally responsive as a BMW 3-Series, or even a Volvo S60 turbo, but it's a happy, neutral-handling sports sedan with strong acceleration. Buick's adjustable ride and steering feel come with the GS, and crisping up its responses is as easy as touching a Sport or GS button on the dash, right next to the traction-stability control's "off" switch.
The Regal's European influences are just as strong inside, where the sober interior gets white stitching on the GS model, and where a smaller back seat and trunk remind you that the Accord, the Sonata, and the popularly priced mid-size sedans offer more acreage per dollar. The Regal's dash is laid out effectively, though, and the new touchscreen navigation system rids the Regal of its worst cockpit control, the futzy roller wheel that directed the GPS in 2011 models. Also new this year is IntelliLink, which enables the Buick audio system and Bluetooth to direct some functions, and to plug in mobile apps like Pandora.
It's a bit more pricey than the pedestrian family sedans, but its tighter size and styling--and with the GS, tighter handling--make the 2012 Buick Regal a premium choice in the sea of family-oriented four-doors. Stay with the GS, and you'll rarely be left bored.
For more on performance, styling, comfort, quality, safety and features, read TheCarConnection's full review of the 2012 Buick Regal, or catch up with the performance edition in our first drive of the 2012 Buick Regal GS.
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