On The Road

An unlikely king of the road

k The 2019 Buick Regal GS AWD features a 3.6-liter V-6 engine offering 310 horsepower. The sedan goes 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds and gets 27 mpg on the highway.

Shopping for a sports sedan? Here’s a radical idea: Buick.

OK, I know; this is the Bay Area. The last time Buicks were hot on the Peninsula, Grandpa went down to Simpson Buick at California and Castro streets in Mountain View and came home with a block-long Electra 225 with tailfins.

Things change. And now, things have changed back in Buick’s favor.

The 2019 Buick Regal GS AWD (all-wheel drive) is the car you probably didn’t think Buick or its parent company, GM, could make. It’s legit. It feels European. Check out that fine print at the bottom of the window sticker; it’s in, like, seven-point type: “Final Assembly: Russelheim, Germany.”

The Regal GS is the final fruit of the 88-year-long ownership of German automaker Opel by GM. It was sold to Groupe PSA, makers of Renault and Citroen, two years ago. And it makes a strong case for that “saving the best for last” stuff.

For a base price of $39,070, you get what looks like a sedan but is actually a cleverly styled hatchback. That means tons of usable space behind the back seats, and when you fold those down, station-wagon level acreage for hauling stuff.

Speaking of hauling, the 3.6-liter V-6 is good for 310 horsepower and mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and it delivers a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Zero to 60 mph happens in under 6 seconds. And a serious set of Brembo brakes (with red-painted calipers) makes sure that stops are short and straight.

Best of all, this Regal handles. It loves the twisty stuff. A run out El Monte Road to Page Mill Road and onto Skyline Boulevard will leave you with a grin on your face that will take hours to go away. The all-wheel drive enhances the cornering and gives you an edge in wet weather. And you can set the sportiness to your particular comfort zone, thanks to a three-setting drive mode: Touring, Sport and GS. Touring’s the softest and quietest, with Sport and GS incrementally dialing up the suspension firmness and elevating the revs that prompt the gear shifts.

Bells and whistles

Inside, the surroundings are contemporary and tasteful. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of the infotainment package, as is an in-vehicle 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

GM is also trying to up the “my car does that for me” game with Marketplace. It’s the automotive industry’s first in-vehicle commerce platform for making purchases and reservations. Companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebee’s, Yelp, Shell, ExxonMobil, Priceline and more have signed on.

Our test vehicle did have some extra-cost options:

• Sights and Sounds Package (8-inch color touchscreen with navigation, HD Radio, premium audio): $945

• Driver Confidence Package No. 2 (adaptive cruise control, following-distance indicator, forward collision alert, forward automatic braking, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, front pedestrian braking, head-up display): $1,690

• White Frost Tricoat paint: $1,095

• Appearance Package (wireless charging, LED headlamps, cornering lamps, automatic leveling headlamp control): $485

With the $925 destination charge, the bottom line came to $44,210.

So has Buick built a BMW-killer? No. The 2019 Buick Regal GS’s natural competitors are the Acura TLX V-6 and the Kia Stinger GT. The Buick has a bit more power than the Acura and a bit less than the Kia. It’s more refined than the Kia, but that’s part of the Stinger’s charm. My take is that if you test-drive those three cars, you’ll have a tough choice – and the Buick Regal GS could end up in your driveway as easily as the other two.

Mike Hagerty has been writing about cars since 1997 and is on the board of the San Francisco-based Western Automotive Journalists. He is co-anchor of the KFBK Afternoon News (93.1 FM/1530 AM) in Sacramento. To read more of his reviews, visit tirekicker.blogspot.com.

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