Our recent test drive of the 2016 Buick Regal GS AWD sport sedan gave us some encouragement; this in the face of what has been our general disappointment with the appeal and performance of the current sedans that the Buick brand offers in North America.
While Buick has made good inroads in the crossover segment with the evolution of the Enclave, introduction of the subcompact Encore and the promise of the just-introduced Envision, the Regal, Verano and LaCrosse sedans still struggle to present appealing styling and notable performance in segments loaded with competition that does.
As we report below, we see some progress in the Regal – the GS AWD trim level specifically; changes for 2016 caught our attention in some areas, but still left us wanting in others.
2016 Buick Regal GS AWD
Buick delivered a 2016 Regal GS AWD (top-of-the-line) in Quicksilver Metallic with what they called a “Diamo Black” interior with contrast stitching and ebony Accents.
Though we are not a fan of the current styling on Regal (finding it a bit bland), we did note the distinctive styling touches on the Regal GS, starting with the front and rear fascia. The front featured vertical air intake slots while the rear had a pair of integrated satin-metallic trapezoidal exhaust outlets. Subtle rocker panel extensions with a rear spoiler extension are accentuated by the ‘standing tall’ presence of the optional 20-inch wheels (mentioned below).
For the record, they should have left off the signature fake vents on the hood. They are vestiges of the “old” Buick and, just when we began liking the sportier look, the presence of those vents erased it all.
Regal GS Powertrain and Mechanicals
Only one power train is available on the GS – the 2.4L DOHC I-4 Turbo engine mated to a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive. It delivers 259 horsepower with 295 lb.-ft. of torque that gets the GS from 0-60 in about 6.8 seconds. That’s zippy, but not neck snapping; a proper sports sedan should do better than that. Fuel economy is also run of the mill, rated at 19/27 mpg city/highway and a combined 18 mpg. We would normally expect the GS or “sport” version of a sedan like the Regal would have paddle shifters to enhance shift performance when desired. It does not, which also disappointed us. Though the transmission has a manual mode feature, you have to demand-shift with the shifter, which is not as efficient (or fun) as finger tapping paddles on the steering wheel.
Our test Regal GS included the exclusive Buick Interactive Drive Control System which allows the driver to select drive characteristics to fit personal driving style and/or conditions, choosing from NORMAL, SPORT and GS mode settings as desired. It took us a minute to find the mode select buttons as they were oddly located just above the center stack display screen.
The Regal AWD uses a Haldex all-wheel-drive system that automatically manages the application of power to all wheels depending on demand, road conditions and the driver mode selected. It maintains 15 percent of traction to rear wheels normally, then adds traction as needed based on conditions for optimal cornering and handling.
Though we thought the system added to the performance of the Regal GS AWD, we found the GS mode setting delivered a harsher ride and handling than we would normally expect. We opted for the SPORT mode instead for most of our week-long test drive.
Underneath, the Regal GS features a four-wheel independent suspension with a unique High Performance Strut front suspension design and a sophisticated rear H-arm design using same attachment points as their standard four-link system with the cross member attached via isolated mounts. The Continuously Variable Damping Suspension features front and rear dampers that incorporate an active Computer Damping Control. They do a very adequate job of changing ride characteristics depending on road conditions or changes in settings of the Drive Control.
Steering on the GS AWD is upgraded from dual-pinion rack and pinion to belt-driven electric power steering. With a slightly lowered ride height (from the regular Regal), we found the Regal GS ride to be ‘Buick Quality’ smooth and quiet – except when using the previously mentioned GS ride control setting.
The Regal GS comes standard with 19-inch 5-Twin Spoke alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle RSA P245/40R19 tires. Our test Regal GS was outfitted with optional, really sharp looking 20-inch 5-Twin-Spoke polished alloy wheels mounted with Pirelli P-Zero P-255/35-ZR20 summer rated tires. We are a fan of Pirelli P-Zero tires and, in a 20-inch size on Regal GS they enhanced both the sedan’s performance and presence on the road.
We found the braking on the GS Turbo was also pretty good. It features 13.6-inch front brake rotors (12.4-inch rear) with aluminum Brembo calibers. Yes, you read it right – aluminum Brembo calipers. The GS AWD Turbo is supposed be the more performance oriented mechanically and visually of the Regal lineup. That usually means painted (RED) calipers when outfitted with Brembo brakes. Just like the missing paddle shifters and the strange placement of drive mode buttons, we were mystified by the absence of painted calipers. And with the awesome 20-inch wheels, the aluminum stood out like a sore thumb.
On the inside, we were disappointed that only the Ebony-on-Ebony interior was offered. The resulting monochrome palette diminished the appeal of what was relatively nice cabin styling and use of premium level materials. Either the Ebony with Echelon Warm or the Saddle with Ebony accents interiors would have been better choices to present the intended premium look and feel.
Some other features specific to the 2016 Regal GS include an upgraded 8-inch customizable color driver information screen within the instrument panel. Also included are a Bose 9-speaker Premium Audio system, E-Z Key passive entry system with push button start, flat-bottom sport style heated steering wheel with controls, heated front seats plus leather-trimmed front and rear seating. On the technology side, our GS included (new for 2016) both Apple CarPlay and iPhone features for smartphone connectivity.
The Regal GS, along with all Regal models, comes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control with traction control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with Intelligent Brake Assist, OnStar 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi hotspot, Fog lamps (except GS), cruise control, power windows with driver and front passenger express up/down, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-inch color center stack touch screen radio with Buick IntelliLink, AM/FM/Sirius XM stereo with CD player and auxiliary input jack, USB ports and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, twelve-way power driver’s seat, rear-vision camera system, electric parking brake and Ice blue ambient lighting. And of course, Buick Regal comes with OnStar featuring five years of basic plus a range of optional services to select from.
2016 Regal GS Price as Tested
Our test 2016 Buick Regal GS AWD had a MSRP of $36,490. Added were the Driver Confidence 1 ($1,040) and Driver Confidence 2 ($1,195) packages that added premium level safety and convenience features like: Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure and Lane Change Alert, Blind Zone and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Following Distance Indicator. Completing the group were Collision Preparation with Mitigation Braking and Full-Range Adaptive Cruise Control including full-stop with resume.
A Power Moonroof added $1,000, the 20-inch wheels and tires were $700 and the exterior Quicksilver Metallic color was $395. Delivered with prep and handling, our2016 Buick Regal GS priced at $41,745.
The 2016 Buick Regal GS AWD is still not on our ‘buy’ list, but it has moved up to our watch list. We understand the 2017 is essentially the same, but that there may be a new Regal for 2018. We would look forward to that.