Sportback Performance: 2019 Buick Regal GS


Buick’s identity in the GM fold places this brand squarely between Chevrolet and Cadillac. It shares this position with GMC, as the two brands are typically sold under the same roof.

The Buick brand has successfully made its appeal to younger buyers and is no longer considered an “old people’s brand.” Its strongest market by far is China, which is why Buick is around today and not Pontiac. Still, GM’s middle brand has its work cut out for itself as it builds more utility vehicles and drops car models as consumer tastes shift.

One car model that is still around is the Buick Regal. It remains one of Buick’s most recognized names, with the earliest models dating to the early 1970s. Those rear-wheel-drive models were the midsize coupes and sedans of that era and later included a wagon. Later models switched to front-wheel drive before the nameplate was canceled in 2004.

Buick resurrected the Regal in 2011, relying on GM’s Opel division to supply it with a four-door sedan. For seven model years, the Regal brought premium features to the midsize sedan segment, although it measured slightly smaller than most competing models.

The Current-Generation Buick Regal

2019 Buick Regal GS

Beginning in 2018 and continuing for another year, Buick once again relies on Opel to supply it with Regal models. But there are a few important differences of note:

1), Opel is no longer owned by GM. The brand is now owned by France’s PSA Groupe, which includes Peugeot, and

2), The sedan is dead, but two new body styles roll out. The Buick Regal is now defined by three models — the Regal TourX, Regal Sportback, and the Regal GS. The first model is a wagon, the second two are “sportback” models, which is another name for a hatchback.

2019 Buick Regal GS Review

2019 Buick Regal GS

Buick supplied us with a 2019 Regal GS sedan, therefore that’s the model we’ll discuss herein. We already evaluated the Regal TourX. Likely, the standard Regal Sportback offers a similar experience, at least from a driving perspective.

What’s the main difference between the Sportback and GS? Its what’s found under the hood, that’s what. The TourX and Sportback have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and upwards of 295 pound-feet of torque (265 with front-wheel drive).

The Regal GS has a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. It also has standard all-wheel drive.


A Matter of Design

2019 Buick Regal GS

The Regal GS has a handsome look with a bold front fascia, crisp lines, and a modern style. Front to back, the look is elegant and sporty. You’d be forgiven if you thought it was a sedan even as the big rear window eases down to a rear deck.

It is only when you inspect the rear window that you realize that its size is proportionally larger than what’s found in most sedans. Flick the tri-shield log and the hatch rises up, just like a utility vehicle.

Hatchbacks of old stood out from the rear and sometimes included a pair of clasps (here’s looking at you, Ford Pinto). The Regal Sportback/GS does its best to look like a sedan and that’s a very good thing.

2019 Buick Regal GS

Buick dresses the GS in its own sport front and rear fascias as well as side skirts and a rear spoiler. You’ll also find 19-inch alloy wheels and performance brakes with Brembo front calipers. LED lighting elements amplify the tail lamps.

Buyers may also select an Appearance Package ($485), which adds such features as LED headlamps, headlamps with auto leveling, and cornering lamps. Buick also bundles wireless charging with this package.

Inside, the GS’ cabin is roomy, uncluttered and comfortable. But especially up front. Though all-wheel drive, the GS sits barely above other cars in this segment. Still, the sight lines are wide and unobstructed.

The dashboard is layered, but not overstocked. Other standout features include a three-dial instrument panel, a padded steering wheel with a flat bottom, and an orderly center stack with a touchscreen, knobs and switches to control the cabin features. Buick also includes metal pedals to enhance this model’s sporty persona.

2019 Buick Regal GS

The front sport seats with twin stitching are sufficiently bolstered and supply sufficient back and neck support. They have the look of very expensive sport seats, but they’re as thickly padded as some. Happily, they’re not over bolstered to the point where your hip points feel squeezed.

The rear seat holds three, but tall passengers may find the sloping roofline not to their liking. It shaves away about 1.5 inches of headroom compared with the TourX and that makes for a noticeable difference.

On the other hand, legroom and hip room is an improvement over the previous sedan. Indeed, the GS has about an extra 3.5 inches between the wheels over the previous sedan.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Standard features include full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, a heated steering wheel, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control, and a 40/20/40 split-folding rear bench seat.

The lone package offered is a Buick Interior Protection Package ($200), which brings in a cargo tray along with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats.

Behind the rear seat is 31.5 cubic feet of storage space, which is about double what you’d find in a comparable sedan. It also rivals what some small crossover SUVs offer. Drop down the rear seat and that space expands to 60.5 cubic feet.

Now you know why the Regal Sportback/GS is an attractive alternative to a utility vehicle.

Safety & Technology

2019 Buick Regal GS

We don’t yet have a safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but we expect the 2019 Regal in all its configurations will fare well. Standard safety features include a rearview monitor and Teen Driver, the latter making it possible for parents to monitor teen driving behavior.

Additional safety features can be had through the available Driver Confidence Package II GS ($1,690). This package bundles such features as forward collision alert, forward automatic braking, front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and a head-up display.

This is one area where Buick trails the competition — most manufacturers offer some if not all driver-assist safety features as standard equipment.

On the tech front, Buick equips the Regal GS with an 8-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. You’ll also find HD Radio, satellite radio, OnStar services, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability.

Also available is a Sights and Sounds Package ($945). This package ties together remote start, navigation, and an 8-speaker audio system.

On the Road

2019 Buick Regal GS

Is the Buick Regal GS a performance model? That depends on how you define the term. Typically, any model with performance attributes has enhanced power, steering, handling, and an adaptive drivetrain. This Buick has all that.

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter, V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. Buick pairs this engine with a 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The performance numbers are laudable as they beat every other model with a naturally aspirated V6 engine, although there aren’t many left.

For instance, the Toyota Camry with its 3.5-liter V6 earns 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. There’s also the turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 engine powering the Ford Fusion Sport. This one bangs out 325 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque.

Notably, the Fusion Sport and the Nissan Altima are two models available that offer all-wheel drive, which happens to come standard with the Subaru Legacy.

Competing luxury models usually offer standard rear- or front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. However, the Audi A5 Sportback supplies standard all-wheel drive.

Step-off acceleration is strong and passing power is equally satisfying with the Regal GS. You’ll find both “sport” and “GS” drive control switches, with both adding more weight to the steering, faster transmission shift points and more “boom” from the exhaust system. The sport setting, however, barely seemed different from the default or “normal” setting.

Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive sets the Regal GS apart from the pack. That said, it isn’t on the level of the Audi A5 Sportback in driving dynamics as the pricier of these two German models navigates twisty roads and pulls out of corners with all four wheels firmly planted. Body roll is more evident in the Buick than it is in the Audi.

Is there something missing here? Yes! Paddle shifters. This is an egregious omission for a car claiming performance attributes as it removes an important slice of driver engagement. You can’t get a manual gearbox with the Regal and, sadly, you can’t control shifting with AutoStick or paddle shifters.

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The Buick Regal GS is a special trim level of the Regal Sportback. If the general design interests you and you’re less concerned about performance, then the standard model may appeal to you. It also starts precisely $14,000 less than the GS.

That said, we think one of the better-equipped trims, such as the Essence — with its leather seating, heated front seats, and available all-wheel drive is the place to begin your search.

As for the Regal GS, its appeal targets a narrow range of drivers. Besides the mainstream sedans, there are two models that share its body style in this segment — the Audi A5 Sportback and the Kia Stinger.

The Buick is priced between the two, but the best value and performance lies with the Kia. The Stinger also offers standard rear-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive and two choices of engines, including a blistering twin-turbo V6.

2019 Buick Regal GS Specifications

Buick 2019 Regal GS
Segment Midsize Sedan/Hatchback
Base Sticker Price $39,070 (plus $925 destination charge)
Price as tested $43,115
Standard Engine 3.6-liter, V6
Horsepower 310 @ 6,800 RPMs
Torque (lb.-ft.) 282 @ 5,200 RPMs
Transmission Nine-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,796
Wheelbase (inches) 111.4
Length (inches) 192.9
Width (inches) 73.3
Height (inches) 57.3
Head room (f,r…inches) 38.8; 37.4
Leg room (f,r…inches) 42.1, 36.9
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 56.9, 55.4
Hip room (f,r…inches) 55.2, 54.1
Storage (cubic feet) 31.5; 60.7
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) NR
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel Regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 16.3
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway) 19/27
Manufacturing Plant Ruesselsheim, Germany

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2019 Buick Regal GS photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Matthew Keegan