In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned as a note above the mass market rabble, VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a Eurpoean near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in. Say what? That’s right, Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from. The Buick Regal I had for a week is in even more of a tight spot being the middle child’s middle child slotting between the Verano and LaCrosse.
GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axises more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.
The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feeback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Coupled with a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths where things go pear-shaped and you start oversteering off into the bushes. Trouble is without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.
2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007
Driving a FWD Regal back to back with out AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition.
Put your foot to the floor and the 2014 GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference of course is that the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car ans part carnival ride while the 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s 3.0L turbocharged models; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL.
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