COAL: 2014 Buick Regal GS – An Insignia in Disguise

In early 2015,  I decided I felt it was the right time for me to upgrade from the Astra, now 7 years old.  I was aiming high and was looking at a Certified Pre-Owned V-6 AWD Cadillac ATS.  I found a nice slate grey example at a local Cadillac dealer I’d done some business with. Before I could get up to see it…it was sold.  But Mrs. C was never keen on the Caddy idea. With us coming from humble roots, it felt a little too ostentatious.  With her being often being my balance and voice of reason, I had to agree with her. It just wasn’t me.

The Original GSs- Musclebound Bruisers!!

I wanted something attractive, comfortable, with a bit of performance and a yes, a GM product. And if anyone’s curious about why this is almost always so, this is simply because I wish to reciprocate my company’s long-standing business relationship with GM in some small way. I always had my eye on the Regal GS- Gran Sport.  I liked the profile and athletic stance, and thought it was a striking looking car. The GS label has been around for Buick since the mid 1960s, on and off.

So off to a local Buick-GMC dealer that seemed to be the foremost authority of used Regal GSs. Oddly enough, they had about 8 GSs and had three (!) GSs with 6 speed manuals, all pre-owned. A manual Buick?  I went there to test drove a nice burgundy GS, AWD, with 800 miles on it on a windy 10 degree day.  After the drive, my Saturn Astra refused to start, as if in protest that it would soon be put out to pasture. No worries buddy, that wasn’t happening!

That GS was the one, but I dilly-dallied and it was soon gone.  Inexplicably I ended up paying $500 more for a silver one with 3,775 miles, apparently they simply paid less at auction for the one I missed out on.   This one has every option box checked, including moonroof.  This was certified pre-owned, which meant another 25,000 miles of warranty, and it means it is a better warranty than for a brand new car. CPO is a great way to go, and I paid $10K less than the original sticker price.

The GS is a carbon copy of the Opel and Vauxhall (UK only) Insignia. It was the 2009 European Car of The Year and GM moved over 800,000 of these in its 8 year run. When we were in Ireland last summer, I was surprised how many Insignias I saw, mostly diesels with manual transmissions.  The early Regals were built in Germany, then ultimately were made at GM’s plant in Oshawa, Ontario, as is mine. With PSA/Opel now providing the current Regals under contract to GM, they are back to being built in Russelsheim, Germany.

Euro Spec Opel OPC Sports Tourer and OPC Sedan

North American buyers did not get all the goodies our brethren in Europe had.  In Europe, there is no “Opel Insignia GS” . The performance variant of the Regal is the OPC – Opel Performance Center. Europe’s OPC Insignias (badged VXR in the UK) were given a much more powerful 2.8L turbo V-6 and netted out 325 hp. The GS cribs the OPC front fascia and some mechanicals as well. The OPC variant included a wagon, and I would have bought that in a second if it came here as the GS Sport Wagon….but it was not to be. We have to make do with a 2.0 litre making 265 hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque. Again, how it made financial sense to spend all that money creating the GS instead of just making the OPC Insignia the GS is beyond me.

The Regal’s success in North America is much more modest against very stiff competition in that class, more so now that sedans are under assault in the marketplace.  As nice as the car is (at least I think so), nobody is going to buy this if they really want an Audi A-6 or a 5 series BMW. Still, for a bumpkin like Carlsberg66, and coming from the Astra and Prizm as my daily drivers? Well, it’s been the nicest daily driver I’ve ever had, or deserve.

For almost 4 years and 40,000 miles, it’s been nearly flawless. It’s quiet, composed, and very comfortable, with room for all of us on weekend trip, and all of us in the family like it. Inside, the 2014 refresh eliminated half of the dash and audio control buttons the 2010-2013 Regals had.

Its the first semi-fast car I’ve had, 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, and capable of a 150 MPH top speed.  It’s my first turbo and it’s a great powertrain. There is a very faint turbo whine at times if you listen close, no Fast and Furious here, all of that long since engineered out. It’s not V-8 powerful, but its very responsive and willing when needed. It’s easy to find yourself on a quiet stretch of interstate going 90 plus, it’s so quiet, you just don’t notice.  It’s 3800 pounds and thus not a little car by any stretch but it does feel firmly planted in corners and stops well with its Brembo brakes. You can have some fun with it.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course but I believe the design has aged very well. It has a tasteful amount of body cladding. About the only spurious thing are the hood ports which are strictly decorative. But I still look back when I’m walking away and think the car cuts a handsome profile.  I’m not tired of it.

Dislikes? Minor. There is an intermittent squeak that comes and goes in the dash panel somewhere – I haven’t taken it in for that because I know it won’t present itself to the mechanic.  Weeks go by between the occurrences, but I believe it will get worse over time. I love the look of the 20” wheels, but not the ride quality. It rides loud and it rides rough. And with low profile tires, the replacement interval is much shorter than normal tires.  I did invest in winter tires and rims, and I like that setup far better in terms of ride quality. It goes through anything in the snow and is our foul weather car. And the collision alert and lane departure warning work well but it scares the hell out of me when it comes on. Guess I should stop riding everyone’s ass?

This is my first car with heaps of tech. Collision alert, backup cameras, car-to-phone sync, lane departure alarm and so on… there’s a lot of stuff going on there. I’m going on 36 years of driving and I’ve managed to get by without all of that until now.  So far, all of it works well. But I wonder how all this electrical gee-jaws will hold up in the long run. I plan on keeping this car a long time. Will there be niggling and maddening electrical quirks and gremlins in 2022 or 2023 when it has 100,000 miles? Time will tell.

Since GM spun off Opel to PSA in 2017, a contract is in place for Opel to continue building Regals for the North American market for at least this generation that was released last year. We will see what will happen with GM as they try to survive and reinvent themselves at the dawn of the EV/Autonomous vehicle era. The LaCrosse is gone soon. Is the Regal on deathwatch as well, at least in North America? Will Buick still exist in the North American market, along with its co-brand at dealerships, GMC, in 2-3 years? Who can say.  Prohibitively, when I’m ready, 3-4 years out, I would consider another Regal GS. And with my Saturn Astra still around, I’m no stranger to orphan brands.