Upcoming: 2012 Buick Regal GS

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Although it's not set to debut until later this month at the LA Auto Show, Buick has released the first set of official images and specs about the much anticipated 2012 Buick Regal GS. For anyone still questioning Buick's performance and general reason for continued existence, then it's simply time for you to become a GM believer again. Having made great efforts to rehabilitate Buick's image, GM is serious about building a proper sports sedan that can take the place of the now lost Pontiac G8.

While that was a rear-drive, V8 powered beast, the Regal GS, on paper at least, couldn't sound anymore different. Starting with the already excellent new Regal, which is based off the German engineered Opel Insignia, Buick began adding extras in a no holds bar approach to reclaiming their former glory. Anyone remember the old Buick Regal Grand National? Although I was very young at the time, that car was a skunk works piece put together by a few car guys in the GM marketing and engineering departments who clearly understood Buick's performance history and ability.

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That was in 1980s and when it ended production in '87, so did Buick's credibility with anyone under the age of 65. But let's not dwell in the past and let those who are drive a Toyota Avalon instead. The new GS features large air intakes up front, some big rear exhaust work, and optional 20-inch chrome wheels. Overall, the exterior retains the standard Regal's sporty and European feel, but now with some American hot rod attitude. Powered by GM's new turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec inline-4, it's estimated to produce 255 hp at 5,300 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque from 2,500 to 4,000 rpm.

And here's the icing on the cake: it has a standard six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed auto with paddle shifters is coming, but the 6-speed will surely warm the hearts of enthusiasts everywhere. While the original show car GM displayed last January had all-wheel drive, the production GS will be front-drive only. However, it's fitted with GM's High Performance Strut front suspension design which curbs torque steer and reduces understeer as well. GM admitted it was cheaper to use this setup instead of AWD, but they're fully confident of the car's performance when pushed to its limits.

There are also updated Brembo brakes along with an updated version of GM's Interactive Drive Control, which allows the driver to adjust the suspension and steering feel. The interior is mostly a carry-over from the standard Regal, but with the addition of a wicked cool flat-bottom steering wheel. Leather heated seats are standard along with Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, park assist, and bi-Xenon headlamps. Set to go on sale later in 2011, the new Regal GS carries a lot of weight on its shoulders.

Not only must it fill the void the now dearly departed Pontiac G8 GXP left behind, but it also needs to win over and prove itself to many skeptics and hopeful believers. Most importantly, it needs to be the all-American sport sedan that GM and Buick used to build so well.

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