The 2018 Buick Regal GS in Portland, Maine.
Photo: Ryan Felton (Jalopnik)

I couldn’t even peel out of the garage in Manhattan before someone had stopped me. “Is that a Buick?” they shouted. “Yep! A Buick Regal.” Admiring the hatchback’s sleek frame, my new friend went on: “I remember when a Buick was something my grandma drove.”

Indeed. That was a common refrain I heard while driving the 2018 Buick Regal GS around New England. Thing is, it wasn’t just a looker; the Regal GS is legitimately well-executed and even fun.

(Full Disclosure: Buick wanted me to drive its new 2018 Regal GS so badly that its reps let me borrow one for a weekend to Maine and back. Buick also paid my tolls.) 

What Is It?

Buick teased out the revived Regal GS last summer, and so the look of it isn’t exactly surprising. It’s situated as a sort of entry-level luxury sedan, especially with a base price of around $40,000, but Buick managed to bring a ton of character to it.

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That premium may be unappealing to prospective buyers, but it comes thousands of dollars shy of competitors, and even fully-optioned it’s hard to cross the mid-40s (the trim I tested dialed in at $44,150).

Taken together, there’s serious value here that shouldn’t be dismissed.

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Specs That Matter

Buick tagged the Regal GS with an ambitious cutline of: “Racing-Inspired Design Meets Heart-Racing Performance.”

Racing-inspired? Not really. But the Regal has some pep, an all-wheel drive showboat with a 3.6-liter V6 that pushes out 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. That’s about 60 HP more than its longroof sibling, the Regal TourX, and it showed.

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I found it fairly easy to jam north along I-95 to Maine for a weekend, and anytime I’d punch the throttle, my girlfriend would get caught off guard and be super irritated. That’s enough for me to know the Regal GS makes for a zippy ride. I can’t say I timed out how fast could clip 60 mph, but it’s somewhere in the five to six second range. Which is fine today, and would have been downright fast a few short years ago.

The Regal features a nine-speed automatic transmission, which I couldn’t find any genuine complaints with. I felt the car move seamlessly through its gears, and over several hundred miles of getting space to open up on the highway and give the engine some oomph, I really came to love what it could do.

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What else? I took kind to the look and feel of the large Brembo brakes. Plenty of bite, an aesthetic of performance. The car sits on 19-inch wheels, low to the ground, and I dig it.

The hatch back is a notable addition here, too, and it’s comparable to an SUV. There’s 31.5 cubic feet of space, but once the back seats are folded down, that jumps to 60.7 cubic feet in total. For comparison, the 2018 Toyota 4Runner has 46.3 cubic feet of space. So, not bad at all.

What’s Great

If anything, what stands out is how comfortable I felt inside. Maybe it was the front seat massagers, coupled with the cold setting for my rear-end, or maybe I’m just an old soul that aspires to call myself a Buick man, but something clicked inside. The Regal’s a well-rounded car.

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It did everything I asked it to. Some asshole failing to let me merge onto the highway? No problem. It picks up quickly, with finesse, and I’m around them. Am I trying to handle sharp turns with ease? It’s no problem. There’s nothing stiff about how it handles, but it has the ability to deliver a nice gallop if you’re looking to cruise.

The Regal GS doesn’t carry the sort of performance of the Cadillac CT6 or BMW 7 Series I’ve tried in recent months, but there’s a sort of spirit here that makes the Buick felt like a gem. Ever have a favorite spot you like to visit on a walk to decompress after a long day? And it seems like you’re the only one who knows about it? That’s what the Regal GS’s interior was like; I felt like I knew something no one else did.

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And again, the interior was just so comfortable. One standout is GM’s adaptive cruise control, a piece of the so-called Driver Confidence Package ($1,690). There are plenty of cars on the road with clunky adaptive cruise control systems that feel decidedly inhuman. That wasn’t the case here. The car seamlessly adjusted speeds on the highway, and so when I wanted to ease up and enjoy the view in front of me and the comfort of the cabin, I felt fine to let the car do its thing.

I also found the setup to make for a quiet ride inside, unlike what the TourX delivered for my colleague. We simply glided along. It was nice.

What’s Weak

One stupid point worth mentioning—partially due, I’m sure, to me being an idiot—is how to access the trunk. Maybe the key fob lets you in? I couldn’t tell you. No matter what combination I tried, nothing worked. I couldn’t locate a button in the interior, so for the first leg of our trip, we stocked everything in the back seat, wondering with intense curiosity about what could be inside.

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Turns out, I just had to push the goddamn Buick logo. Oops. Wish that was a bit more obvious.

I wasn’t blown away by the driver assistance tech outside of the adaptive cruise control, either. The lane keep assist shook the car slightly side-to-side, and felt totally uncomfortable to keep on. Instead of helping guide the way, it felt like I was fighting for control when it was on. No thanks.

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And I know the drive mode settings were there for a reason, but you’d have to strain your skull to notice. Sport mode? Felt like the normal setting (which I enjoyed, but still). GS mode? Couldn’t offer you any other opinion than: it was fine.

The interior put me at ease, but there’s a lot going on. After spending time with the Regal GS dash, and letting my eyes dart around to figure out where the speedometer was, I finally saw merit in the idea of ditching gauges altogether. Hours into the trip I stopped looking between the steering wheel and focused on the car’s HUD, which, I’d submit, is good.

Lastly, fuel economy is just OK at best. At 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, this is probably the Regal’s biggest downfall. Sedans this size have been hitting those numbers for more than a decade.

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Smooth Driving

There’s a plain way to sum this up: The Regal won’t floor enthusiasts. It doesn’t boast serious performance numbers to rile car fans up. But it’s a bundle of joy to hang with at highway speeds, and still cranks if you let it. There’s a smooth essence to it. And for a daily driver, especially if you have to put in decent mileage every day, the Regal isn’t going to disappoint.

Driving it back from the boonies into Manhattan showed the Regal’s propensity for city driving, too. The CT6 felt like I had to seriously move some weight around when handling the mania of New York City driving, but the Regal treated me nicely. It was a breeze to shunt between lanes, potholes and brutal traffic.

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Verdict

The 2018 Buick Regal GS doesn’t check every single box, but to me it felt like a damn nice place to be and for everyone else it seemed like a fine thing to look at.

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I wish the fuel economy ticked a few notches higher, but in the market the Regal GS is situated in, it shines. You could do away with the add-on tech-friendly package and save a few thousand dollars on the price tag and still come away with a fun, handsome car. Even at the base trim. The car is good enough to make Buick a brand worth considering, and it’s certainly sharp enough to cut through the old image of this company as reserved for grandpeople. That, or maybe I’m just a grandpa trapped in an a younger man’s body and that’s why I had such a nice time in the thing.

In a world full of dull, boring, horrifying crossovers, it’s a pleasant reminder that regular cars are the good cars, forever and ever, amen.