2012 Buick Regal GS automatic review: GS, automatically

2012 Buick Regal GS automatic

2012 Buick Regal GS automatic

When the 2012 Buick Regal GS was released it was only available with a manual transmission, and we reported on that with a Regal GS first drive review. The Regal GS would be available with an automatic transmission later, we were promised. This is later, and we’ve driven the automatic-equipped GS.

It was odd, we thought during our first drive, for a Buick to have a manual transmission, at least considering the non-enthusiast reputation of the Buick brand. Nice cars, but not the sort of vehicle the still-plays-with-cars driver would want.

Still, not every enthusiast cares to drive a stick, and some must drive in congested areas. Have you ever crept in traffic for hours just to get to the George Washington Bridge? The joy of manual transmissions fades quickly.

Thus the Buick Regal GS with an automatic.

The only indication that Buick Regal GS has an automatic transmission lies at the driver’s right knee, the shift selector on the console.  And it behaves like an automatic transmission should when left alone, shifting gears unobtrusively. But Buick claims the Regal is Buick’s athlete and the GS even more so. So if the Regal GS with the automatic is to live up to that expectation, it must bring more to the table than unobtrusive ratio changes.

2012 Buick Regal GS cheek scoop

The scoop on either side of the Buick Regal GS’s front fascia is real, not a dummy scoop, but isn’t ducted to any particular element.

And the automatic transmission in the GS does. As one would expect, it can be shifted manually, and at full throttle shifts are quick and clean. When in manual mode, the transmission is fully under the driver’s control, without kick-down when the pedal is to the floor, even if the gear selected is too high. The transmission will also not shift up to the next gear at redline but will hold the gear selected and let the engine bump up against the rev limiter.

In other words, it does exactly what a manual transmission would do, except without a clutch to bother with.  Alas, it does not have the option of paddle shifters. Paddle shifting is de rigueur now for performance automatics. And for the Regal GS automatic, gear changes must be performed via the shifter on the console. We’ve been spoiled by paddle shifting…but we like being spoiled.

We’re spoiled, too, by the 2.0-liter high-output turbo Ecotec four-cylinder. The turbine-like mechanical sound, rather than the blat of the exhaust, comes through with the automatic like it did on the manual we tested earlier. We found, however, that if left ot its own devises and driven with a light foot around town, the 2012 Buick Regal GS was a mild mannered Clark Kent.

It wasn’t until the pedal was pushed down hard that the cape came out, and as we noted in our first drive report, torque steer was minimal. However, the engine/transmission/tire combination made the rubber squeal all too easily, enough so that in lower gears we werealways treading softly on the accelerator lest we seem too juvenile. On the other hand, perhaps that’s a built-in fuel economy device.

That said, when shifting manually at full throttle in first and second gear, it’s a good idea to watch the tachometer or the engine will be up against the rev limiter all too quickly. The engine has surprising punch.