My father bought me a yellow 1954 Buick convertible that I drove to college. It was the most garish car on campus, by far, and embarrassed the hell out of me until I got kicked out of school and drove the thing ignominiously home.
That was the era of heavy, sluggish Buicks, three-on-the-tree transmissions and a lot of chrome inside and out. These were not just grandpa-grandma cars; they were for people who wanted to make a splash.
GM has gone just the opposite way, at last, with the 2012 Regal GS, a sports sedan for the world market based on Opel’s Insignia, with some interesting technical and performance features. As I’m sure you know, the company is reaching out to a younger market.
The GS is not only sharp-looking but, from what I read, competitive with most anything Audi, Volvo or Lexus can offer in its price range. Engine, drivetrain, suspension and handling appear to be well-matched and very competent.
Power is a 2-liter turbo four, with a 6-speed manual only. Get to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, and choose from three well-set-up suspension/steering modes. It’s a front-wheel-drive car, but without torque steer, owing to a well-thought-out strut system called HiPer.
Prices run from $35,310 to over $38,000 with all the goodies, which is Audi A4 territory. But Buick has to cover its other bases.
I have not driven it, but the LaCrosse (right) looks like yet another Camrified sedan-o-matic.
Some reviews credit it with decent acceleration and smoothness, yet technical glitches were noted. While the price is in the same ballpark as the Regal GS’s, the design is not nearly as together. The LaCrosse has a V6 with mediocre mileage, and the hybrid version may actually be the better deal—improved fuel economy for less money.
The LaCrosse is meant to compete in the family-comfort-whitebread segment, and it may do fairly well there, at least in China.
Both cars illustrate Buick’s dilemma: Keep the comfort-oriented buyers of larger cars happy (and there are lots of them), yet cultivate a new, younger audience for German-style small sports sedans that offer a real alternative. Buick made some zippy GS cars in the 1970s and ‘80s that did find buyers.
Well, would you really rather have a Buick—to adapt their old sales pitch—or an Audi A4? Audi clearly has the brand cachet, even though I suspect the Buick could outrun it. I’ve long gotten over my Buick disgust.
Would you consider buying a Regal GS, or do the powers of branding influence your decision otherwise?