THE DOCTOR IS IN
House calls in a 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Jun 6, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Doug Stokes
Pictures by Doug Stokes and The General
Buicks were once referred to as doctor’s cars—especially when doctors made house calls as part of their regular routine. The idea was that MDs most likely could easily afford a Cadillac, but instead chose to drive the less expensive offering one peg below (as to not be seen as rubbing in the fact that they were highly-paid) … and that would be a Buick.
The new Regal GS that I just (reluctantly) returned after a fun week of driving, could also be a doctor’s car. In this case, it would be a PhD kind of doctor, and the field would be astrophysics or engineering. I think that I was tagged to drive this one because I’m pretty much the oldest member of the LA Car line-up. “A Buick? Yeah, let Stokes drive it, he likes diesels and stuff like that.”
Well, my esteemed compadres, the joke is on you, because Buick has built one of the damnedest, quickest, cleanest-handling, four-door, mid-sized sedans around. Almost as much fun to look at as to drive, this one delivered handsomely all around on the promise wrapped up in the storied “GS” designation. Check your NASCAR history books, Buicks were once a heavy-duty force in stock car racing as well as the scourge of NHRA drag racing. We did not ask this ride to do either, but the temptation for that lives close, and the car seemed game for either.
Aping the Buick TV ads, I actually asked one of the lads at the service yard where I picked this one up if the car really was a Buick. The styling is sharp and sure-footed, with the car nicely crouched over its industrial-strength tires. This is not a long car, but the sculptured side lines give it a smooth look that’s well set off by a handsome set of 19-inch alloy wheels. There’s a big, toothy Buick grille, but there are also a set of real/working brake ducts signaling that the GS model is the real deal. The huge, thick A, B, and C pillars not only conveniently hold the roof in place but add to a solid, one-piece look.
De-badged, the GS would be a fun car to ask viewers what brand they thought it was. Of course it IS a Buick, a new world, new generation Buick, one that’s well-built, fun to drive, and works (as we found out) as advertised.
Interior detailing in the GS has a thought-out outlook (as opposed to the “where the heck are we going to stick this” appearance of some machines). What, you might ask, was the least “Buick” thing about this one? The seats: Eight-way (I only tried six) power-adjustable, heated, supportive and most decidedly comfortable (did we mention a nice two-way lumbar?) and, both front seats (not just the driver’s side) were so-equipped. There was even one early May morn when I got to try out the GS’s heated steering wheel, I can see a lot of use for that little perk where our sister website DMCar.com (that’s for DesMoines) is located. And the four wheel drive enhancement will be appreciated there as well. Actually, it was appreciated here too.
Blind spot monitors might well seem superfluous to some, but on this car they really work and have their work cut out for them. As noted, the GS has really stout A, B, and C pillars that are quite substantial and give the car more than just an air of solidity. They are also very opaque and this car’s blind spot system is the real deal for knowing who’s out there and when they are just too close for comfort. They were quite easy to get used to, and well-used while I had ‘em. And the backup camera works in much the same way here. The GS’ rear deck is fairly tall (it hides a very commodious truck, by the way), and a bit hard to turn and look over when backing up … this camera is trustable-accurate.
Okay, you’ve read down to here, so let’s us talk for a moment about the elephant in the room: a four-cylinder, 2,000cc engine. What? In a Buick! A Buick!! Suuuure …Riiiight. That’s one hundred and twenty-two cubic inches of engine displacement. That’s econo-car engine size. A measly two liters in a MID-SIZE, FOUR DOOR BUICK! (Keep reading).
This car stickered-in at almost $44K* and here’s how I’d recoup that investment. I’d take people for a ride and (on an open road with light traffic, in clear weather, sober, well-rested, while not talking or texting on a cell phone or wristwatch) and I’d kick this Buick in the ribs for a few seconds. After my passenger was able to start breathing regularly again, I’d ask if they’d like to make a small wager regarding how many cylinders this beast had: four, six or eight. At say, $10 a bet (that it was a big old Buick V-8 as nature had always intended) and maybe six or seven short rides a day … well, you get the idea, this EcoTech engine is a powerful surprise.
The truth of this remarkable ride is that the two-liter, four-cylinder engine in this car is a wonderful combination of all the best of tech innovation and engine design colliding under the GS’s hood and producing big, consistent power when and where it is needed and as often as desired in breathtaking amounts while still delivering a combined (city/highway) average of 22 miles per gallon.
There’s a six-year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty to back up the fact that this engine is no nickel rocket. Most will need to drive one to believe me about the smoothness and ferociousness of this engine (when beckoned). Do that. My oft-stated first law of performance, that torque gets you there and horsepower keeps you there, is very thoroughly proven here with a satisfyingly stout 295 pounds-feet of grunt (torque) matched beautifully to the power of 259 horses. Run those numbers through a quick-shifting six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission and get ready to rumble as this two-ton Buick makes short work of a freeway gap or any other opportunity to clear out quickly.
Again, the twin tech-marvels of complete electronic control of the engine paired with variable valve timing, team up to give power numbers that were exotic race car figures only a few years ago and combines them with fuel mileage that’s very easy to live with in a car that was not at all designed nor manufactured to lead with its MPG figures.
And, the GS has the handling to match its heroically quick-responding power plant. This Buick carves corners with a passion not generally associated with the brand. The chassis and the suspension feel all of a piece here and the result is a confident touring car that can (and will) keep up with a lot of machines that heretofore have been higher-rated for handling. General Motors’ engineers really have got electric power steering figured out as the GS just inspired confidence in all driving modes from cruising to really hustling hard. The hallowed term “driver’s car” floats up here and somehow does not seem out of place.
A lot of people might have almost given up on this brand ever again really inspiring its drivers to nudge their Buick into that snaking set of turns that goes something like: right-left-right–and right again on one’s favorite back route home (and, no matter where you live, come on admit it … you know that you have one). This one will have some precise fun with them.
The all-wheel drive, all-independent suspension model that we worked with was a real revelation on the road, smooth, stable, a true luxury car ride for sure, but it asks a little (or a lot) more of the handling, and this one’s Interactive Drive Control System is heard from and the whole experience is very, well, “touring” in the best sense of the word. There’s a GS mode button to bolster the suspension even further, but I found, for my taste that the standard setting was great for easy cruising as well as serious carving. I must note here that GM has really got electronically-assisted power steering sorted out, the feel is light, but clearly connected. It imparts a sense of confidence throughout the range and under all driving conditions.
One of the most overlooked and under-appreciated components of a well-balanced handling package are the brakes. Etorre Bugatti was widely quoted as saying something to the effect of: “Brakes? What do you need brakes for, brakes are for stopping the car, racing cars are supposed to go…” But, that was from a guy who designed cars with cable-operated drum brakes. Here in the all-out GS edition of the Regal (nestled prominently in each of those stunning 19-inch alloy wheel , you will find two of the most respected words in the entire automotive kingdom: “Brem-bo”. Ok, so it’s really only one word, but it’s about the very last word in OEM braking power and the final touch for great overall handling.
You can rely on stalwart, consistent, accurate, and BIG braking power every time you lift off the gas and apply these binders … whether you’re gliding to a stop at the valet stand at your favorite pizza joint or driving so deep into a set of mountain pass switchbacks that your navigator has already made their peace with the deity and is softly mumbling a last prayer … and make both endeavors look easy-peasy. Good brakes, like good fences, make good neighbors. (Does that Robert Frost allusion work here?) Anyhow, these Brembo brakes are just plain wonderful, well worth the price, and getting back into any car with lesser brakes, is always, and not ever big fun for this reporter.
It never rained during my one-week sojourn with the GS, but using the windshield washing system showed me that Buick has been doing its luxury homework well. As Mercedes has done for years, the Regal’s windshield has deep rain channels going up the vertical “A” pillar on each side. They work to direct almost all of the water that hits the glass up and over the top, not onto the side windows where the stream can obscure the view to the side in really bad weather. A small thing, precisely what most people buy “luxury” cars for in the first place … detail.
Like all GMC products, this 2015 Regal was equipped with the OnStar system that just about everyone in the industry thinks very highly of. Polite humans answer the phone when you call and are quick to offer answers for just about any question short of suggesting hot stock market buys and giving marital advice.
As (I hope) everyone knows (and further hope that you never have to use) the OnStar system is very quick to summon help if there’s ever an airbag deployment. It’s well-nigh impossible to prove a negative, but there are a whole bunch of people out there who will tell you that they’re pretty darn sure that OnStar saved their life and the lives of others. What we know for a fact is that the system can do a lot more (like quickly tracking a stolen car and helping the authorities quickly zero in on the vehicle) than advising you on the closest all-night shoe repair place in Schenectady, where in town to get the most authentic Lula Kabobs, or how high the surf is running on the west shore of Oahu (but you can ask, and get that sort of information too). Buick buyers get six months of free OnStar service with this one along with a three month/30GB free trial of the company’s built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
The rest of the electronics aboard include SiriusXM (that’s a first three months freebie too) satellite radio (listening suggestion: CH 71), Bose premium nine-speaker sound, keyless entry and start, and a good nav system that has a small feature that I ended up liking (and that many might think annoying), and that’s the display of the speed limit right next to the speedometer reading. It doesn’t flash red or set off a siren if you exceed the posted, but it does remind one to drive prudently and might actually be easier to understand than a buzzing, blurping, or inconsistently flashing radar detector.
All of the above (and much, much more) are on the standard equipment section of the chocked-full federal window sticker that accompanied this machine and totaled out at $38,810.00. The final $3960.00 on the ticket included $1040.00 for a “Driver Confidence Package” that included a following: (deep breath) distance sensor, a forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, memory settings for both front seat positions and the outside mirrors, and blind side alert with land change alert (whew!).
Another grand shows up on the tab for the nice power moon roof (which we funned with and love to drive with just the back edge open in almost any weather). Then there’s that destination charge (that I wish they’d just bury in the price somewhere) of $925.00(!), and nine hundred and ninety five dollars(!) for the trick paint job that’s called “Black Diamond Tri-Coat”. Though a number of viewers were, I was not knocked out by the color and the fact that, in some light conditions, the paint looked like a good gloss black but at other times looked like a black car had been hit with silver overspray. As I said, there were as many Ooos and Ahhs as there were questioning glances. You pay your money and you take your choice here. I personally would have not spent the extra dough on the trick paint.
And one more slight problem (which I’m afraid, I would have to fix with dulling paint or something): there’s way too darn much chrome stuff surrounding the shifter position, on the instruments, and on the steering wheel. There were multiple times driving when I had to actually shield my eyes from the interior up-glare particularly from the shifter binnacle, surround, or whatever the designers call it.
This is a Buick that should (but probably) won’t come under the consideration of buyers of a number of off-shore brands. Not because the ABC Nightly News (with David Muir) tells you to buy stuff that’s “Made in America” (in this case North America anyway), but because this is a true sports sedan that’s really trying very hard to be a great sports sedan and succeeding in many ways. -DS
*$43,770 to be precise, with $950 of that the destination charge … I take it because, according the to the window sticker: 62% of this car was reportedly made with U.S./Canadian parts with 16 percent of the foreign parts sourced in Mexico and they had to search all over the place for the other 22 percent.)
For more information about Buick products, go to www.buick.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD Price: $39,810 (base) $43,770 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 19 city/27 highway miles per gallon Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged in-line four with VVT and direct injection Horsepower: 259 @ 5300 rpm Torque: 295 pound-feet @ 250 rpm Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic Steering: Belt-driven electric power steering Drive configuration: All-wheel drive Suspension Front: HiPer Strut with Interactive Drive Control System Rear: H-arm independent (AWD) Interactive Drive Control System Brakes: Four-wheel disc with power assist and ABS; Brembo front calipers Wheels: 19-inch alloys (20-inch alloys optional) Dimensions Length: 190.2 inches Width: 73.1 inches Height: 58.4 inches Curb weight: 3981 pounds