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posted: 3/25/2012 7:31 AM

New Regal GS has power and performance

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  • The new 2012 Buick Regal GS certainly ranks with the best in its long lineage.

    The new 2012 Buick Regal GS certainly ranks with the best in its long lineage.
    Courtesy of General Motors

By Ann M. Job
For Associated Press

The 2012 Regal GS, the sportiest version of Buick's mid-size Regal sedan, is already on a "hot list" as a potential collector's car.

Today's top-of-the-line Regal GS is a 270-horsepower, turbocharged four door with a fine manual transmission, European-style handling, noteworthy road manners, pretty exterior and a heritage of Buick performance.

In announcing the Regal GS for its annual Hot List of collectible cars, Haggerty Insurance agency, the world's leading insurer of classic cars, noted how the 2012 Regal GS breaks Buick's stereotype as Grandpa's car. Truth is, few people would recognize the 2012 Regal GS as a Buick if the badges were removed from the exterior and interior.

Passengers in the test car were astounded to find a manual transmission. They also usually couldn't guess that the well-powered, mid-size Regal GS had a four cylinder under the hood.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $27,940 for a base, 2012 Regal with a naturally aspirated, 182-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.

The lowest starting retail price for a 2012 Regal with a 220-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission is $31,145.

But the highly touted, top-of-the-line 2012 Regal GS -- with the high-output, 270-horsepower, turbo four cylinder and standard six-speed manual -- starts at $35,720.

These prices compare with the $34,250 starting retail price for a 2012 Audi A4 with 211-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and continuously variable transmission that operates like an automatic.

The competing Lexus IS 250 has a starting retail price of $35,640 with base, 204-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission.

The Regal is positioned between the smaller, lower-priced Buick Verano sedan and the Buick LaCrosse, which has a starting retail price of more than $30,000.

Auto enthusiasts, though, point out that the Regal GS has an underlying platform and many mechanical parts from the Opel Insignia sedan that first went on sale in Europe in 2008. (Opel and Buick have the same parent company, General Motors.)

The test GS was a surprise on many levels. Exterior styling was upscale and not brawny, even though rocker panels, a different grille and a slightly lower-to-the-pavement stance differentiated it from other Regals.

The tester also had optional 20-inch, polished alloy wheels that added sparkle.

Inside, the sculpted, leather-covered, front bucket seats held driver and passenger well during spirited driving, quite unlike the flat front bench seats of old-time Buicks.

The GS doesn't have a regular ignition keyhole; rather, there's a start button to the right of the steering wheel on the center of the dashboard.

Steering in the test Regal GS was precise. Large brake rotors measuring 14 inches in the front and more than 12 inches in the back had Brembo calipers and worked capably. And the 2-liter, turbocharged and intercooled, Ecotec four-cylinder engine powered the car forward with gusto and very little turbo lag. Torque came on steadily and forcefully, hitting its peak of 295 foot-pounds at a low 2,400 rpm.

Fit and finish inside and out on the test car was excellent, and the Regal GS comes with many standard features, including power driver and front passenger seats, power lumbar support, dual-zone, automatic climate control that worked fast in the test car, Bluetooth phone connectivity, front and rear parking assist sensors, floor mats and leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio and phone controls on it.

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