You know Buick, but you probably don’t know their rich motoring history: they won the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are the oldest American automotive brand still producing cars and led industry innovations such as the overhead camshaft, a closed-body car and turn signals. So how does a brand more than 100 years old compete in the 21st century? The 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD ($40,000) has a few ideas.
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Like all prom queens know, the first way to compete is with looks. The waterfall grill, wrap-around LED tail lamps, angular LED headlights and 20-inch V-spoke alloy wheels certainly give the Regal GS more of an aggressive look than its name implies. On the inside, the driver is met with comfortable yet firm seats and a mix of analog needles and digital gauges on the dashboard that allows for customization of the center cluster. The eight-inch infotainment screen uses drag and swipe gestures for ease of use; conveniently, the most-used apps can be set to automatically live on the home screen. The exterior design and interior conveniences of the Regal GS manage to create a luxury experience without the stodgy feel sometimes found in other luxury brands.
Another way to stay relevant is by upgrading your hardware. Available for 2014 is the famous Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which bumps your price by about $2,000 but is worth every penny. It only rains about two days a year in Los Angeles; lucky for us, we had the Regal GS both of those days, and we put the AWD through its paces. This system has the ability to send up to 90 percent of the power from the front to the rear wheels when necessary — which is why the car came smoothly and quickly back under control every time it was pushed beyond the traction line. The three driving modes, Standard, Sport and GS, progressively tighten the suspension and steering feel. 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0-liter four cylinder turbo is more than enough to keep you happy taking the long way home from work.
The end of our second rainy day brought a close to the jaw-dropping test of performance. Throughout, we couldn’t shake a stupid question: “This thing’s a Buick?” Interior conveniences, safety tech like the Forward Collision Alert system (it saved us from rear-ending someone), and the overall performance provided a striking balance between tech showboat and luxury automobile. Add the available all-wheel-drive system to the mix and the Regal GS checks enough boxes to go head-to-head with some of the bigger European brands. Having more than 100 years of industry experience has its advantages after all.