On Autos: Buick’s sports sedan combines European, American virtues


The 2019 Buick Regal GS puts lots of horsepower into a svelte European-designed liftback. Photo by Brady Holt

Historically, American performance cars were focused on the spec sheet: How fast could you go for how little money? Meanwhile, European models were poised and agile, lithe and sleek.

The 2019 Buick Regal GS, a mid-size sedan priced from $39,995, combines virtues from both lists. Originally an All-American hunk of Detroit iron, today’s Regal is designed and manufactured in Germany. It’s sold in Europe as the Opel Insignia, a product of General Motors’ former European division.

This heritage gives the Regal the firm, composed suspension of a European model, quite unlike Buick’s image of focusing only on quiet comfort. It also gives the Regal a useful liftback design — popular in Europe but rare in the U.S. — that opens up far more cargo space than a similarly sized conventional sedan.

However, Europe can’t buy an Insignia with the Regal GS’s 3.6-liter, 310-horsepower V6 engine. That engine roars its way up to speed quicker than pricey four-cylinder Audis and BMWs, while an all-wheel-drive system gives that power to all four tires to avoid old-school tire-smoking “burnouts.”

The 2019 Buick Regal GS looks like an ordinary sedan, but its trunk and rear windshield open in one piece to provide exceptional cargo capacity for a midsize car. Photo by Brady Holt

Then again, despite its European provenance, some aspects of the Regal are traditionally American drawbacks. Except for the GS’s extra-supportive sport seats, the Regal’s interior is merely plain and functional compared to the gorgeous, technologically dazzling Audi A5. And as impressive as the Regal GS is, some driving enthusiasts will wish for even crisper steering and handling responses.

The Regal GS also faces tough competition from the recently introduced Kia Stinger, which is available with even more horsepower (365), zestier handling, and richer interior materials at similar prices.

Meanwhile, if spacious yet relatively affordable liftbacks sound appealing but you don’t demand blastoff-fast acceleration, both the Regal and the Stinger are available in toned-down four-cylinder base models.

The Regal Sportback starts at $25,995 with a 250-horsepower engine and front-wheel-drive (with all-wheel-drive optional), which is the largest engine the Europeans can buy in the Opel Insignia. For even more space than the Regal liftback, there’s a Regal TourX station wagon with standard all-wheel-drive and prices starting at $29,995. Meanwhile, the four-cylinder Stinger, with standard rear-wheel-drive and optional all-wheel-drive, starts at $33,985, with more standard luxury and safety equipment than the base Regal.

To see more photos of the tested 2019 Buick Regal GS, visit tinyurl.com/regal-gs-current.