2014 Buick Regal GS first drive review: We liked it before, we Regally like it now

2014 Buick Regal GS

2014 Buick Regal GS

There once was a time, not so very long ago, that Buick was the cure for insomnia. Narcolepsy on wheels. An alternate spelling for “snooze.” With a few notable exceptions, Buicks were something parked in the residents’ lot at the Shady Rest Retirement Home.

Those notable exceptions, however, were exceptional. It was Buick that invented the name “Gran Sport,” and Buick that shortened it to “GS.” And then Buick that applied it to the 2012 Buick Regal GS. And now there’s the 2014 Buick Regal GS.

The 2014 Regal is, as they say, enhanced. There’s new front and rear styling, though you’ll have to look hard to see it. There are changes to the grille, with a deeper contour, and to the headlights, which now have standard (on the GS, optional on other Regal models) “wing-like” LED running lights, and standard LED taillights.

Inside the Regal GS gets a new center stack and center console, redesigned to accommodate next-generation IntelliLink infotainment system, with a new, larger eight-inch color touch screen. The steering wheel is news, too, with controls for the new safety and infotainment features,

In our first-drive review of the 2012 Buick Regal GS, we said the GS was the Regal lacing up its Chuck Taylors. The 2014 Buick Regal GS goes a step beyond that, lacing on a pair of five star-rated Jordan Fly Wade 2 EV basketball shoes.

2014 Buick Regal GS interior

2014 Buick Regal GS interior (click to enlarge)

Optional on the new Regal GS a new all-wheel drive system, taking away any trace of torque steer and eliminating the tendency of the front-drive Regal GS to squeal its tires when taking off, especially with the wheels cocked to the side. Beyond that, the all-wheel drive gives the GS more balance in corners than a front drive Regal would have.

Continuing from the 2012-2013 Regal GS is the Interactive Drive Control System, which can automatically adjust shock absorber valving between soft and firm, or it can be set in one of three preset levels. We were much happier with it set at the “GS” level  of damping—firmer than “Tour” and “Sport” settings—and despite warnings that it might be too stiff for some people, we didn’t feel it. Maybe some folks just have more delicate heinies.

We’ll select “GS” every time. Not only does it set the shocks the way we like it, it also, says Buick, “enhances the cornering capability of the Regal GS when driven in the GS mode of the Interactive Drive Control System.” We’ll take enhancing. Regals with the all-wheel drive system, incidentally, gets a new H-arm rear suspension, front-drivers continuing the five-link rear suspension.

2014 Buick Regal GS 2.0-liter turbo engine

The 2014 Buick Regal GS 2.0-liter turbo engine is rated at 259 horsepower. (click to enlarge)

2014 Buick Regal GS center stack

The 2014 Buick Regal GS center stack was redesigned to accommodate the new eight-inch touch screen. (click to enlarge)

The 2014 Buick Regal GS comes with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four. The horsepower rating is actually down from 270 to 259 horses. The max torque number remains the same at 295 lb-ft, but rather than last year’s peak output at 2400, the new engine runs a torque plateau from 2,500 rpm through 4,000 rpm.

The engine isn’t an evolution of the old two-liter turbo, but a new engine that just happens to have the same displacement. Tech stuff follows: The new engine uses a twin-scroll supercharger, which has two inlets for the exhaust gas and gets up to speed quicker for faster engine response.  The engine has an air-to-air intercooler and direct injection allowing boost levels as high as 24 psi (1.65 bar), with a nominal compression ratio of 9.5:1.

It’s not all just about power, however. It’s also about reducing vibration and harshness. To do that, the engines twin balance shaft were relocated into the oil pan, and the oil sump itself is now two-piece, aluminum with a vibration-absorbing stamped steel lower section. The engine has a forged steel crankshaft and cast iron bearing cap inserts in an aluminum bedplate. Stronger means less vibration.

The 2014 Buick Regal GS comes standard with front-wheel drive with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting. A six-speed manual gearbox is a no-cost option, but unfortunately the Regal GS intender must choose between all-wheel drive with the automatic, or front-wheel drive and the stick. It’s a shame because the manual transmission transforms the car. While the automatic is well-behaved when left to shift on its own, and is responsive and quick-shifting in the manual mode, the manual has an intimacy with the machine the autobox can’t match, plus it’s seat-of-the-pants faster. And an objective measure really doesn’t mean much uless you’re actually under a stopwatch.