Buick Regal GS Gets Nod for Production

Staff - CAP staff
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We all said it was a no-brainer, and obviously General Motors and particularly the product planners behind its Buick brand agreed. Not only would a hopped-up Regal be a great sport sedan that should find its share of enthusiast drivers, but it also could serve to further gloss up the division's staid and conservative image and thus attract the younger crowd that will allow the brand to thrive well into the future.

Buick has been steadily revitalizing that image and therefore pulling in younger buyers since the inception of its full-size Enclave crossover, and more recently its all-new LaCrosse luxury sedan. A four-cylinder LaCrosse will drop the price of entry and attract an even younger crowd, but 2011 will see the introduction of an all-new Regal to the lineup too, a smaller, lighter, four-cylinder powered sedan which, like the LaCrosse, finds its roots in Europe's Opel brand.

A sport sedan worthy of European enthusiast's interest is Opel's Insignia OPC, so Buick dressed up a version with Regal design cues and threw it at Detroit auto show goers last January, to much praise, but the General was quick to quell queries as to production by stating it was nothing more than a concept, and that it wouldn't see the light of day. The show car looked production-ready, mind you, with 20-inch performance-oriented rims and tires that filled out its wheel cutouts with newfound purpose.

Fingers were still crossed, however, and this week Grand National fans got their wish. A report comes in from The Detroit News that has Tom Stephens, Vice Chairman of Global Product Development for GM, confirming the Regal GS for production, and that it will likely arrive in a showroom near you some time next year.

Obviously performance specifications can't be had for a car that hasn't even been officially announced, but we know what the Opel has under its hood and what the Buick show car sported beneath its; a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 255 horsepower and V8-like 295 pound-feet of torque!

At least as exciting is its six-speed manual transmission, not to mention its all-wheel drivetrain that will all but eliminate torque steer and provide better all-weather traction. The Regal GS also boasted Interactive Drive Control, a system that lets drivers opt between normal and sport modes, plus a special GS mode that transfers greater torque to the rear for more tail wagging fun.

Additionally, the Regal GS concept received a thoroughly revised front fascia, reworked rocker panels, an upgraded rear deck lid plus cool new twin tailpipe outlets. Some updates to the interior offered a sportier appearance while sport seats planted driver and front occupant more securely in place, prepped for tackling the twists, turns and undulations the GS promises to be capable of straightening and flattening.

It's too early to tell whether the production Regal GS will be identical to the concept, although being that the concept largely reflected the Insignia OPC already on the road in Europe, it's likely what we saw in Detroit we'll see again in roadworthy trim come November in LA or once again at January's Detroit show.

The Regal GS and its more conservatively trimmed siblings will certainly go far to expand the brand into new Buick territory, which causes one to speculate as to which Opel model will get the three-shielded crest treatment next. With Saturn being the recipient of Opel goodness previously and that brand having gone the way of Pontiac, RIP, it was largely expected that Saturn's green icon would get the nod for Buick. A compact crossover the likes of the stylish and nicely finished Vue would have fit into Buick's lineup with ease after a few minor styling modifications, the trademark waterfall grille being first and foremost, whether conventionally powered or enhanced by electricity, yet the latter would not only have bought Buick the younger generation it so desperately wants and needs, but also the ever-growing environmentally conscious crowd who, like performance zealots that will ante up for the Regal GS, makes decisions that go beyond their wallets. Just why Buick decided not to opt for the Vue when it had the chance, and by so doing get "regular" and plug-in hybrid variants, is the proverbial enigma wrapped in a conundrum, as it would have also gone to further placate Washington. Nevertheless, Opel will bring to market another generation of Antera, and from that a Buick skinned model will likely result and progress the brand into the all-important compact crossover segment.

Next in line would seemingly be a premium compact based on Opel's Astra, a car that Saturn imported as-is without even upgrading it with options like OnStar. By so doing it went after a Teutonic compact icon, Volkswagen's Golf, and lost spectacularly. If Buick goes down market with a compact model, following the lead of its main premium competitor, Lexus, we'd be safe to bet it will receive significant Americanization before it crosses the Atlantic. A move into this critically important class, however, must be on the minds of Buick's execs, especially with most premium players in the game already or on their way to the field.

Lastly, there are rumblings about a new Opel Calibra coupe to be based on the Insignia/Regal architecture, which also underpins the larger LaCrosse. If built, instead of a GS version of this two-door Buick might consider GN, for Grand National, or better yet, GNX. Either way, a two-door hardtop would fit well into the Buick lineup, with historic nameplates available ranging from Somerset at the lower end to Riviera at the top-end.

For now Buick performance fans will have to satisfy themselves with the Regal GS, a much more useful and hardly less enticing alternative.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Buick, Regal GS Concept, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Buick

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