Hot Turbo Time Machine: Buick Races Back to '70s

March 4, 2012 12:00 am

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TESTED 2012 Buick Regal GS

WHAT IS IT? A midsize Buick with fresh looks, robust performance and a manual transmission, just as in the 1970s.

HOW MUCH? $35,310 base; $38,650 as tested with navigation system ($1,145), sunroof ($1,000), 20-inch wheels ($700) and White Diamond paint ($495).

WHAT MAKES IT RUN? A 2-liter turbocharged in-line 4; 6-speed manual gearbox; front-wheel drive.

HOW QUICK IS IT? The GS races to 60 m.p.h. in a decidedly unBuick-like 6.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver magazine.

IS IT THIRSTY? Compared with some rivals, yes: the E.P.A. rating is 19 m.p.g. in town and 27 on the highway.

ALTERNATIVES: Audi A4, Acura TSX, Volkswagen CC, Volvo S60 R.

"HIGH performance Buick" may seem an oxymoron, akin to full-contact mah-jongg or a Red Bull-and-prune-juice cocktail.

Buick's reputation for stodgy goes back decades, but the brand has occasionally cut loose with muscle cars, including the GS (or Gran Sport) models of the 1960s and early '70s, or the bullying Regal Grand Nationals of the '80s.

But today, a fast-reviving Buick is relying on German sport sedan virtues, rather than Detroit muscle, to shake the old-fogey blues.

The Regal GS is the latest example. The name nods to the old Gran Sports, but this 270-horsepower sedan hails largely from Germany. Like standard Regals, the GS is based on the award-winning Opel Insignia from G.M.'s European division.

When I reviewed the bread-and-butter Regals last October, I called them the best-looking, most contemporary sedans from an American automaker.

For attention-seekers, the GS is better. The body is lowered, and the front end gets the biggest flared-nostril air inlets this side of a Lamborghini, along with trapezoidal exhaust outlets and optional 20-inch chrome alloy wheels.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:04:50

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