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Buick's 2019 Regal GS offers stellar value, but nothing special about the ride

Key Points
  • The Buick Regal GS isn’t the kind of comfortable cruiser you’d expect from the brand, but we think that’s a good thing.
  • It has handling to rival sports sedans from Audi and BMW, though it doesn’t quite match the powertrain refinenment of the German luxury brands.
  • We were impressed by the value buyers get from the Regal. Our fully loaded tester came with a ton of equiptment and refinement for $44,115
2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

General Motors new Regal GS is a lot of things. It's a competent sports sedan. A stylish liftback. A German car in an American outfit. A comfortable cruiser. A stellar value.

It's not, however, what you probably expect from a Buick. That's good news for the brand and better news for prospective buyers.

You can get the Regal in three styles. The TourX is the lifted wagon that does duty as a crossover alternative, a role we thought it handled well. There's a regular sedan, though it should be noted that the "sedan" moniker isn't completely descriptive. All non-wagon Regals have a liftback and folding seats, making them a stylish alternative to a hatchback.

Last, there's this: the Regal GS. It's the high-performance version with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine providing 310 horsepower and a nine-speed automatic transmission. More importantly, the GS gets adaptive suspension and performance brakes that lead to a more dynamic driving experience.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

Though the company did once make the GNX muscle car, Buick is better known for cruisers like the LaCrosse. You'd be forgiven for assuming that it doesn't have the chops to build a modern sports sedan, but the Regal comes to us from Opel. The company, which used to be General Motors' German wing, but now belongs to France's PSA Groupe, is no stranger to fine-tuning sports sedans.

Impressive equipment

As a result, the Regal has suprisingly good handling for a big sedan on a front-wheel drive platform. The all-wheel drive system, fitted to all GS models, certainly helps. The Buick's adaptive suspension is also integral to the impresive dynamics, with seriously different driving modes that help the GS handle highway hauling and backroad burning without any fuss.

Plus, you'll also find an impressive list of equipment. Our $44,115, fully loaded model had a comprehensive suite of active safety features, a Bose sound system, active noise cancelling and some of the best seats of any car we've ever tested. They bear the seal of AGR, the German campaign for better backs, and feature a delightful massage feature to compliment the supremely comfortable buckets. The next-cheapest car we've sampled with massage seats was the Volvo V90 Cross Country, while some six-figure cars don't have the feature.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

The Regal also has GM's MyLink infotainment system. It's starting to look a little old, but MyLink still functions extremely well and is easy to use. Add to that a liftback and a gargantuan cargo area and it's easy to make a case for the Regal GS as the most usable sports sedan on the market.

Finally, we have to address the exterior. Simply put, this is one of the best-looking sedans on sale today. It's definitely the best-looking Buick we've seen in decades, garnering compliments and genuine "that's a Buick? " responses from friends who saw it.

Unimpressive interior

Inside, you probably won't be as impressed. The Regal doesn't have a bad interior, but — when the chassis can genuinely rival sports sedans from the likes of Audi — a ho-hum interior is a mark against the sporty Buick.

GM still liberally applies flat black plastics to the interiors of almost every car, despite about a decade of moaning from the automotive press. The design of the Regal's interior works around this relatively well, with the cabin still looking good overall. But when you touch things, it becomes clear that the accountants still run GM. For $44,115, I don't want to feel a lot of rubberized plastic.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

Similarly, the powertrain doesn't feel special. It may handle well, but the engine-transmission pairing isn't anywhere near as advanced as offerings from true luxury brands. The 3.6-liter V-6 is the same motor we've seen in dozens of GM products and continues to deliver good power without much excitement or character. No turbos, no special sauce; just a big V-6 that gets the job done.

The transmission is similarly nondescript, with it hunting for gears during aggressive driving. This wouldn't be as annoying if you could manage it while keeping your hands on the wheel, but the Regal GS is inexplicably the only sports sedan we can think of that doesn't offer paddle shifters. If you want to select your own gears, you have to use the gear shifter on the center console.

Simply put, the Regal GS isn't the best-driving sports sedan you can get. However, it does well as a feature-focused premium car that happens to drive well.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

How We'd Option It

The Regal GS starts at $39,995. Every color except this shade of red is an extra charge, but it looks so good in red that we wouldn't drop any more cash to pick something else. Unfortunately, the interior only comes in black.

The driver confidence package II brings a suite of automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, head-up display and adaptive cruise control for $1,690. We'd add that and the $945 sights and sounds package to get the upgraded Bose stereo. Finally, a moonroof brings some much-needed light into the cabin for $1,000.

That brings the final price to $42,630.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

Final Thoughts

It may sound like a lot for a Buick, but $42,630 buys you a lot of car. You get a serious chassis, great on-road behavior and pretty much all of the technology you want.

You can get much better interiors and better engines by going with a German-brand sports sedan, but you'll also be spending around $10,000 more to get there. With that in mind, we think the Regal GS is a stellar value.

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC

Rating:

Exterior: 5

Interior: 3

Driving Experience: 4

Value: 5

Overall: 4

Price as tested: $44,115

2019 Buick Regal GS
Mack Hogan/CNBC