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Buick Regal GS With 6-Speed Manual Takes the High Way With Finesse, Force


How many couples do we all know who gave up the fun car when the first kid came along?  Been there, leased the subcompact sedan, wanted a Miata.
For those who won't give up the clutch and shifter, there is a 270-hp, four-cylinder Buick Regal GS that makes a sensible and serious alternative to life in the dull lane.


There's just enough edge and attitude to the 2012 GS to heft the performance halo. It's not a muscle-bound throwback to the 1970's GS. It is a metro-fied machine with a turbocharged, direction-injection engine, a top-safety-pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 27 highway on premium.

There are seven trim levels of Regal with pricing that starts at about $27,000. The GS is sold in silver and gray metallic paint colors with black leather interior. The starting price is $35,720, including $885 freight charge from Ontario, Canada. The test car, nearly loaded, was $38,565, which included a moonroof ($1,000), audio-navigation system with seven-inch touchscreen ($1,145) and 20-inch polished alloy wheels. There's also a no-cost option for a six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.

Standard features include smart-key lock/unlock and push-button ignition, eight-way power adjusted front seats with lumbar, Bluetooth phone connection, heated power mirrors with turn signals, trunk cargo net and floor mats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and rear parking assists, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio-CD system with USB port.

Unique to GS are its more intimidating front and rear fascias, 14-inch front Brembo disc brakes (12.4-inch vented discs rear), Interactive Drive Control with Sport and GS modes and Hiper Strut front suspension. The 20-inch wheels come with Pirelli P-Zero 255/35 rubber. The standard 19-inch treads are Goodyear Eagle RSA 245/40.

Motor Trend claims 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds from the 2.0-liter engine, which felt realistic from the 295 foot-pounds of torque that peak a fairly low 2,400 rpm. It's a great experience in second, third and fourth gears.

The manual transmission has a well-machined action and slots gears smoothly. Hill-start assist eliminates rollback stress, and the Hiper Strut front suspension cancels any scrambling pull from the front wheels on hard acceleration. I was able to heel-toe shift, but the footbox seems narrow, and there is no proper driver's footrest.

Sport mode adjusts the suspension firmness about 20 percent, while GS mode adjusts the firmness about 20 percent more than Sport and also increases the steering effort. The steering takes little more than a mental suggestion to tighten up. Very minimal inputs yield proper corrections.

Buick's quiet-tuning for cabin soundproofing is impressive. There's an occasional whistle of turbo whine, but I found myself at 70 mph in fourth gear a few times. The engine sound wasn't reminding me to shift -- but I also liked the power at those high revs.

For the daily school carpool, there are eight air bags, including side curtains and rear seat bags. The back seat also has a comfortable 37.1 inches of legroom and a 60/40 folding seatback to expand trunk space of 14 cubic feet.

The front seat area is tastefully trimmed with soft leathers, quality plastics and good construction. The gauges have clever lighted needles with a red point right at the speed or rpm. The nine-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is ground-pounding when you want it to be.

The GS is not overwrought with brawn and punishing suspension as some of these turboed sedans can be when trying to make a performance point. Buick has the high way with finesse and force.

Specs Box
2012 Buick Regal GS

--Body style: midsize, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive sedan.
--Engine: 270-hp, DOHC, high-output turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; 295 foot pounds torque at 2,400 rpm.
--Transmission: 6-speed, manual.
--Fuel economy: 19/27 city/highway; premium recommended.
--Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons.
--Trunk space: 14.2 cubic. feet.
--Front head/leg/shoulder room: 38.8/42.1/56.7 inches.
--Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 36.8/37.3/54.4 inches.
--Length/wheelbase: 190.2/107.8 inches.
--Curb weight: 3,710 pounds.
--Turning circle: 37.4 feet.
--Standard equipment includes: smart-key lock/unlock and push-button ignition, automatic dual-zone climate control with filter, 8-way power adjusted front seats with lumbar, Bluetooth phone connection, heated power mirrors with turn signals, cruise control, trunk cargo net, floor mats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and rear parking assists, 60/40 folding back seat, tilt-telescopic steering column, universal garage/gate opener, 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio-CD system with USB port.
--GS features include: lower ride height and special front and rear fascias; 4-piston, 14-inch vented front Brembo brake discs, 12.4-inch vented rear; 19-inch Goodyear Eagle RSA 245/40; Interactive Drive Control with Sport and GS modes and Hiper Strut front suspension.
--Safety features include: 8 air bags (including rear seat bags), ABS, electronic stability and traction controls.
--Base price: $35,720, including $885 freight charge; price as tested $38,565
--Options on test vehicle: audio upgrade with navigation and 7-inch touchscreen: $1,145; power sunroof: $1,000; 20-inch polished alloy wheels: $700
--Where assembled: Ontario, Canada.
--Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 5-years/100,000-miles powertrain

Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage.

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