Years ago, I used to cover weekly cruise nights for the local newspaper. It was an enjoyable gig consisting of hours spent listening to endless stories from friendly old guys who owned Studebakers, Edsels and '57 Chevys.
Muscle-car owners were a different breed, cool guys who subscribed to the Clint Eastwood brand of stoicism – not much rocked their Bardhal t-shirts. But once in a while, a local guy busted his '87 Buick Regal GNX out of storage and rolled into the parking lot, and everyone, even the muscle-car dudes, stared with wistful longing.
Once dubbed "Darth Vader's car", the ominously blacked-out, rear-wheel drive Grand National was, for its time, the fastest V6 vehicle to ever roll off the production line.
Over the years, the Regal slowly metamorphosed into one of the cars most reviled by drivers who live in retirement towns and those populated by recent arrivals hailing from cultures who've only just embraced the skill of driving.
A beige Regal drifting in and out of its lane, 20 km under the speed limit like a leaky barge wallowing off-course, two cottony-white heads peering over the dashboard has long been my personal nemesis. It became a source of great amusement to my friends whenever the familiar droopy beige backside would inevitably appear in my windshield.
But recently, I drove a couple of Buicks that have turned my long-held prejudice on its side.
After driving the Regal CXL Turbo several hundred kilometres to attend a family wedding, I pronounced it the perfect cruiser, sublimely comfortable and infinitely respectable – not to mention stylishly attractive.
The new Regal GS hammers another nail in the coffin of Buick's formerly frumpy image; it’s a genuine performance sedan that's a joy to drive.
Is it the reincarnation of the Grand National, a street warrior returned to defend its legacy?
Instead of a brawny muscle car smoking its rear tires between stoplights, the GS is sleek and refined, with the outline of a premium European sedan. Based on Europe's Opel Insignia, the front-wheel drive Regal GS boasts a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that cranks out 270 hp with 295 lb.-ft of torque.
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2012 Buick Regal Specifications
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