Sporty Buick Regal GS 3rd entry in Regal lineup for ’18

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Milford — Buick will have three Regals in its 2018 lineup, including a sporty GS sedan intended to attract younger buyers to the brand.

The automaker on Wednesday premiered the 2018 Buick GS sports sedan at the company’s Milford Proving Ground, speeding the red car past journalists. The sedan, available late this fall with a sticker price starting at $39,990, has a new 3.6-liter V-6 generating 310 horsepower and 282 foot-pounds of torque. The current GS represents about 10 percent of Regal sales.

“It’s a true performance car but also great for everyday driving,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick.

The company this spring showed off a midsize Regal five-door coupe-like hatchback and a wagon variant, a first for the brand since the mid-1990s. The trio of Regals will help GM compete in a shrinking but important midsize sedan market, Aldred said.

“We want to attack that challenged segment,” he said.

Keeping the GS as the performance offering and highest-priced Regal in the lineup is important key for the near-premium brand, according to Aldred, who said the GS will serve as a sort of halo car to pull buyers to showrooms. The automaker has boosted the output of the GS model by 51 horsepower — nearly 20 percent more than the current generation, last refreshed for the 2014 model year. The 2018 GS is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, which moves the power through standard all-wheel drive.

Buick opted to give the GS a performance V-6, bucking the trend to downsize performance-car engines into turbocharged four-cylinders.

“We found it the best balance between sport and fuel economy,” Regal Chief Engineer Martin Hayes said during a spirited drive around the proving grounds. “This car won't have enough volume to affect the Regal overall mpg figures.”

“The other advantage of the V-6 is that great sound,” he said as the GS powered out of a long sweeper.

2018 Buick Regal GS

The Regal GS has aggressive front and back fascias, 19-inch wheels that come standard, a rear decklid spoiler, standard Brembo brakes and GS badging. The interior has seats that heat, cool and massage. The flat-bottom steering wheel is also heated.

“Another major difference from last gen is the GS mode,” Hayes said. A step above Sport mode, the GS mode changes steering feel, suspension damping and transmission mapping for a more aggressive ride.

The entry-level Regal will be a bit cheaper, in part because GM axed production of its entry-level compact Buick Verano sedan last fall. The 2018 Regal Sportback hatchback will start at $25,915, about $2,000 lower than the 2017 entry-level Regal. It should hit showrooms in the final quarter of this year.

It’s at least the second price drop for a Regal sedan in recent years. In 2015, GM cut the price of the 2016 Regal GS by $3,300 to about $35,000.

The TourX wagon will hit showrooms in February, with a starting price of $29,995.

The new Regals are based on the design of the Opel Insignia. The Regal was designed in Germany by Opel and each version will be built there. GM in March announced plans to sell its European business — including Opel — to French automaker PSA Group. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year and maintains existing supply agreements for Holden-brand vehicles and certain Buicks.

Aldred said PSA will build the Regal lineup for Buick for their life cycle, which typically ranges from five to six years.

U.S. passenger-car sales are down 11.4 percent through June this year across the industry as consumers increasingly buy crossovers, SUVs and trucks.

Buick brand sales are up 5.9 percent for the first six months this year, but Regal sales have fallen by nearly 30 percent year-over-year to about 6,500.

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific Inc., said the research firm expects about 28,000 Regals to be sold in their first full year on the market, a good figure for the brand but below historical highs for the Regal.

“The Regal is kind of almost the anti-sedan,” he said. “It’s not something that’s going to be for everyone. A Sportback body style is unique, but I think that’s part of the appeal for it.”

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Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne contributed.