by Michael Butler
We live in an era of cheap horsepower and great design, which means every Tom, Dick, and Harry is trying to build sports cars than handle better, accelerate quicker, and look nicer - except for Buick, that is. Its range of Regal sedans is about as far away as you can get from a Mercedes-AMG E53 or Lexus GS F, but with the Regal coming to the end of its life, Buick has decided to make one last effort at making this unappetizing, yet practical, sportback sedan act like a sports car. The naturally-aspirated V6 under the hood is quite strong but has no personality; the same can be said for the way it delivers its power. Dynamically, the GS isn't too far off but suffers from understeer when pushed too hard. One of the only redeeming factors of the Regal GS is its sportback design, which incorporates a hatchback-style liftgate and offers superior trunk and cargo space. The GS won't fool anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge about sports cars, but it is an interesting oddball that will find its way into the homes of some brand-loyalists across America.
The Regal, in its current form, has been around since 2018, but sadly Buick has announced that the Regal range of cars will be discontinued after 2020 due to waning sedan sales and the correlating success of the brand in the SUV market. Based on the impending death of the range, the 2020 Regal GS carries over unchanged.
General Motors' fling with German automaker Opel has resulted in a Regal that looks more European than American, which is either refreshing or rather dull, depending on who you ask. In GS trim, we think it looks rather dashing, especially with those 19-inch aluminum wheels with Technical Gray accents and large brushed-silver foglight surrounds. The slippery shape of the GS hides a hatchback-style liftgate, and ends off in a rear-end that looks part BMW M2, and part Lexus IS 350, but it pulls it off with confidence thanks to a rear sport-style spoiler. The exterior of the 2020 Buick Regal GS features standard daytime running lights, Halogen headlights with flash-to-pass feature, automatic on/off and automatic delay. The taillights are all LED. The side mirrors are heated, and the driver-side mirror features auto-dimming. It looks more sporty than the standard Regal, but we're not sure if it will be enough to convince younger buyers.
The Buick Regal is classed as a mid-sized sedan and has the dimensions to suit. Measuring in with a total length of 192.9 inches, the Regal GS is slightly more than an inch shorter than a 2020 Chevy Malibu, and 4.6 inches shorter than a Buick LaCrosse, but sits lower than both at 57.3 inches. Total width comes in at 73.3 inches without the side mirrors, and the whole show rolls on a 111.4-inch wheelbase, matching the Chevrolet Malibu. The front and rear track measurements are 62.8/63 inches, respectively. The Regal GS might not be the largest when compared to some of its closest rivals, but it is one of the heaviest, weighing in at 4,270 pounds; that's over 1,000 pounds heavier than a Chevrolet Malibu.
Seeing as the GS is supposed to be a sporty version of the rather hum-drum Regal, Buick has opted to go for a simplified, but bold range of exterior colors that best highlight the GS' more muscular appearance. There are five colors on offer, four of which are premium colors and demand between $495 and $1,095. The no-cost option is Sport Red, while Quicksilver Metallic, Ebony Twilight Metallic, and Satin Steel Metallic all cost an extra $495. You'll have to cough up $1,095 for the White Frost Tricoat. If it were up to us, we'd go with the no-cost Sport Red.
We wouldn't call the GS's performance explosive, but it's no slouch either; its big, naturally-aspirated V6 engine delivers a linear surge of power which is easily moderated, and it turns out that the GS is deceptively quick thanks to its subdued exhaust note and smooth-shifting transmission. When jumping from the lights, the AWD Regal GS will get to sixty in the mid-five-second range, according to independent testers, and continue on to a low 14-second quarter mile. Those are some fighting numbers, and makes the GS an interesting option for those who appreciate a good sleeper car. The GS makes use of a
twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system that effectively puts down the power when you need it, and gives the GS good acceleration off the line, even in slippery conditions. Out in the real world, there's a decent amount of torque available low down, and city driving is a pleasure.
You won't find any turbocharged four-cylinder engines here. Buick has stuck with a traditional V6 in the GS, in this case, a 3.6-liter unit, which produces a healthy 310 hp at 6,800 rpm, and 282 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. This engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and a twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system, which directs most of the power to the front wheels when cruising, but can shift its power to the rear when there's a serious demand for power. The V6 engine delivers a beautifully linear wave of power that can fool you into thinking you're not going too fast but picks up speed at an impressive rate, and the nine-speed auto keeps the 3.6-liter engine within its powerband with surprising skill. The three selectable driving modes, namely Touring, Sport, and GS, all influence the transmission's reaction times, so for high-performance driving, keep it in GS mode. Forget about massive low-down torque or a searing top-end; the Regal GS delivers in its own way.
The standard adaptive suspension setup on the 2020 Buick Regal GS can be adjusted for comfortable cruising in touring mode or can be stiffened up in Sport and GS modes, and it even sports a sophisticated GKN-sourced torque vectoring system similar to the one found on the old Ford Focus RS. All of these gadgets come together to deliver a sporty driving experience that can be entertaining, but doesn't match up to German rivals such as the Audi A5. The all-season tires and AWD system offer a decent amount of grip, but lose the cornering battle to understeer when pushed too hard. Steering feel isn't great, although it is weighted well enough and switching to Sport or GS modes only serves to weigh up the steering artificially, but doesn't notably improve much else. The standard Brembo front brakes are excellent at bringing the 4,270 pound GS to a halt. As a fast cruiser, the GS is pretty good, just don't expect it to sit with its German rivals when things get twisty.
With a naturally-aspirated V6 engine mated to an AWD system and a hefty curb weight, the 2020 Buick Regal GS never really stood a chance. Rivals such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Audi A5 get modern turbo engines which helps to push up gas mileage numbers, while the GS pays the price for its large capacity motor. The EPA rates the Regal GS at 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined, which is wishful thinking when you consider the engine's peaky nature. The Chevy Malibu with its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and FWD layout will achieve 22/32/26 mpg, while the Buick LaCrosse in base form will get 25/35/29 mpg from its 2.5-liter inline-four. That number drops down to 20/29/23 mpg in 3.6-liter AWD configuration.
With a 16.3-gallon fuel tank, the Regal GS has a maximum range of approximately 359 miles.
The interior of the 2020 Buick Regal GS follows in the footsteps of the euro-centric exterior styling: you get a simple, flowing dashboard design with a simple button layout that's easy to read and use by both the driver and front passenger. The GS sits at the top of the Regal range, and, as a special performance version, gets all the bells and whistles available. In the front, the driver and passenger get leather-covered, heated seats with eight-way power adjustment and four-way lumbar settings. The Driver gets sporty alloy pedals, and the cruise control settings can be found mounted on the sporty leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel. Dual-zone climate control keeps things temperate, and front and rear park assist make life easier in the city, as does an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Getting in and out of the GS is simple thanks to keyless entry and remote start. Optional extras include a head-up display and a wireless charging pad.
The Regal GS shares its interior dimensions with the rest of the Regal range, which means you get a decent amount of space in the front as well as in the back, and the GS will comfortably seat five average-sized adults. Front headroom is measured at 38.8 inches, dropping to 37.4 inches in the back, so six-footers won't be troubled. Occupants in the front will appreciate the 42.1 inches of legroom, and those in the rear get an acceptable 36.9 inches of leg space, but the Honda Accord makes that number seem minuscule when compared to its 40.4 inches of space behind the front seats. Hip room is measured at 55.2/54.1 inches front/rear, and the shoulder room comes in at 56.9/55.4 inches front/rear.
There's nothing fancy about the interior of the Buick GS, but that's not to say that it's dull or lacking in comfort; it actually feels well put together, and the simple design is lifted by some choice sporty touches. The first thing you'll notice once you get inside the Buick Regal GS are the uber-comfortable Ebony perforated leather seats that complement the dark interior, which is the only available interior for the GS. There's a slew of soft-touch plastics scattered across the cabin, and nothing stands out as particularly good or bad. Buick has kept the sporty theme quite clear by adding brushed aluminum inserts to the flat-bottomed steering wheel, vent surrounds, and shifter surround, and there's a set of sporty aluminum pedals for going faster or slower. Everything feels well put together, and while it might not be the most inspiring, it gets the message across well enough.
The sportback body design starts to make some serious sense once you start loading stuff in the back; its hatchback-style liftgate opens up high for minimal loading interference and exposes a cavernous space that is the envy of midsize sedans everywhere. With the back seat in the upright position, the 2020 Regal GS offers a massive 31.5 cubic feet of space, that's almost double the space you get in a 2020 Honda Accord or Chevy Malibu. Drop the fold-flat 40/20/40 tri-folding rear seat, and that space grows to an even more impressive 60.7 cubic feet. This space is more than enough to fit a couple of mountain bikes or a professional junior bobsled.
Buick has made sure that the Regal GS goes out with a bang, and one way of ensuring this is by stacking as many features as makes economic sense. The exterior of the 2020 Regal GS is kitted out with standard daytime running lights and Halogen headlamps with headlamp control and auto on/off feature. The side mirrors are of the auto-dimming variety, and there's also a set of LED taillights on duty. Inside the sporty GS, you'll find leather-covered heated and ventilated bucket style seats with eight-way power adjustment, four-way lumbar support as well as 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, active noise cancellation for added refinement, cruise control, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, rear cross-traffic assist and front and rear parking assist. Features such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated steering wheel, keyless entry, and remote start makes living with the Regal GS practical and convenient.
The eight-inch color touchscreen display found in the GS is responsive and easy to use and looks good nestled between two air vents in the center of the dashboard. Buick has included all the features you'd expect to find in a modern infotainment system, including Bluetooth streaming, an auxiliary jack for connecting portable media devices, a subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The driver also gets an eight-inch information center and cluster display, which shows off a digital speedometer, average fuel economy, and more. Buick has reserved premium infotainment and tech features such as a Bose premium eight-speaker audio system, an integrated navigation system, and HD radio for the options list. A head-up display and wireless phone charging are also available.
Judging by the number and type of recalls issued for the Buick Regal in the past few years, it would seem that this midsize sedan is a safe bet if you're looking for a reliable daily driver. 2019 and 2018 models were subject to recalls for an insufficient amount of coating on rear brake calipers, as well as malfunctioning rear seatbelts. 2020 model Regal cars were also recalled for improperly mounted front seats.
Buick will cover all 2020 cars with a basic three-year/36,000-mile warranty, which includes corrosion protection, a five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty, as well as a one-year maintenance plan and a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.
The sixth-generation Buick Regal, introduced in 2018, hasn't been tested by the NHTSA at all, but a 2020 model has been put through its paces by the IIHS who conducted a partial test on this midsize sedan. The Regal misses out on a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, but puts up a good performance; important categories such as small and moderate overlap tests were passed with flying colors. Drivers can be rest assured that the Regal GS will keep its occupants safe in case of a crash, but the 2020 Honda Accord is even safer, and sports a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS.
The list of standard features on the Regal GS isn't class-leading, but it is not scant either: all 2020 models come with lane change alert with side blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, cruise control, a rear-vision camera, and front and rear park assist. Ten airbags include dual front, side impact both front and rear, front and rear head-curtain bags, and dual front knee airbags. Teen driver, which allows the main driver to limit the speed and certain infotainment settings for younger drivers is also a useful addition. If you're missing some advanced driver assistance features, Buick offers a driver safety bundle of features that adds adaptive cruise control, emergency forward braking, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, as well as forward collision alert and a head-up display.
The Buick Regal GS is a case of too little, much too late. It's not that it's an inherently bad car; it offers decent performance, good comfort and ride quality, capable handling, and enough modern tech to keep it relevant in 2020, but it lacks some serious attitude and soul. The 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated V6 engine has all the personality of a sewing machine, and while the nine-speed auto transmission and AWD system put the power down well, we struggled not to yawn while mashing down on the accelerator. The interior of the GS is functional, but there's no special flare involved. The front seats, however, are excellent. So, it's not exactly exciting to drive, and the looks can be described as bland by some, but the Regal GS does come with a fair number of standard features, and that hatchback trunk offers immense space and practicality. Think of the GS as a competent midsize sedan, and it makes more sense; think of it as a sporty sedan, and it falls flat on its boring face.
The performance-minded GS is the most expensive car in the Buick Regal range. The whole lineup starts at $25,370 for the FWD 2.0T base model, and tops out with the GS, at $39,070. That makes the GS $13,700 more expensive than its cheapest Regal sibling, excluding tax, registration, and a destination fee of $925. Closing in on the $40,000 mark poses a problem for Buick, as some rival car manufacturers offer superior products for around the same price. The Dodge Charger R/T, for instance, packs a 5.7-liter, 370-hp V8 punch and just as much practicality for only $36,395, and the accomplished Honda Accord in top-spec Touring 2.0T guise goes for only $36,250 - it's arguably the more dynamically accomplished car despite being less powerful, for around $2,820 less.
The 2020 GS is ostensibly the sport variant of the Buick Regal range of cars, so it stands as the sole Regal GS model.
For 2020, it comes with a number of trim-specific features that separate it from the rest of the Regal pack. The exterior of the GS differs from standard Regal models by including exterior features such as 19-inch aluminum wheels with Technical Gray accents and P245/40R19 all-season tires. At the same time, the interior also gets a few unique trim pieces and features. Inside the cabin, front seat passengers get to enjoy leather-covered, heated and ventilated sport bucket seats with power adjustment, a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, and alloy pedals. There's a dual-zone climate control system in play, as well as an eight-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Integration, as well as 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. Active driver assistance systems include blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and cruise control.
3.6-liter V6 Gas
Buick offers a number of safety and convenience features for the 2020 Regal GS, but buyers be wary: selecting too many options will put the Regal GS in the same price category as much more accomplished vehicles. For $945 you can equip the Sights and Sounds Package, which adds features such as a Bose premium sound system and HD radio, or for $485 you can spruce up the exterior and interior with an Appearance Package, which adds wireless phone charging, LED headlights with auto-leveling, as well as cornering lamps. Our pick of the bunch would be adding all the additional safety features, which despite not being a package, are bundled together for a total fee of $1,690, which includes advanced safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, and lane-keep assist.
Since the Buick Regal model range is due to be canned, now is a good time to buy, and you're sure to bag a GS for well under sticker price. Since there is only one variant, you'll have to look at the options list to make your GS stand out from the rest. All 2020 Regal GS cars come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and nine-speed auto, which sends power to all four wheels, and an adaptive suspension with multiple settings for sport and comfort driving. If we had to get one, we'd go for the Sport Red paint job and match it up with the $945 Sights and Sounds Package, which adds goodies such as an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system and an eight-inch display with integrated navigation. We'd also fork out the extra $1,690 for the additional driver aids, which includes adaptive cruise control, pedestrian braking, and a head-up display. When all is said and done, our Regal GS will cost $41,705, excluding destination fees.
The Chevrolet Malibu is as close as a car is ever going to get to being a middle manager at Costco: simply put, it's just a midsize sedan with four doors, space for five adults, an engine, and a trunk. The Regal GS is in a different class to the Malibu power-wise: the Malibu can only muster 250 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and delivers it to the front wheels, but a torque figure of 260 lb-ft available from low down makes it feel as fast at lower speeds. One benefit of being less powerful and lighter, is that the Malibu will return 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined. Size-wise there's nothing much in it; the Malibu loses out in the front seat legroom category but offers more space in the rear. It can't hope to measure up to the Regal GS' trunk space, though. The GS offers superior levels of standard equipment, including safety tech, and its interior feels more upmarket - but with an asking price that's almost $6,000 less, the top-spec Malibu Premier certainly has a lot to offer.
The Honda Accord is hailed as one of the best midsize and mid-priced sedans on the market right now. Not only does it offer strong performance from its small capacity turbocharged engines, but it manages to be comfortable, economical and exciting to drive all at once. The most comparable Accord in the 2020 lineup would be the $36,250 Touring 2.0T, which is powered by a Civic Type-R derived 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque much lower down in the rev range than the GS. The Accord offers superior passenger leg space front and back, but the GS offers a whole load more space in the trunk. The interior of the Accord is beautifully designed and feels like it will last a lifetime. On the road, the Accord is the more engaging car to drive, and we didn't miss the sixty-odd horsepower deficit in comparison to the GS. We would suggest the GS only if trunk and cargo space are your main concerns - for everything else, get the Accord.