Frank Aukofer, Motor Matters

If the 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD were an item on a restaurant menu, then it would be the fettuccine alfredo. The experience is richly flavorful, but a bit bland compared to some of its competitors like the Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Billed as a sport sedan, the Regal GS nevertheless embraces the Buick heritage of delivering comfortable premium cars for buyers who either cannot afford or don't want to own an expensive luxury car.

The Buick Regal does everything it's designed to do quite well, but does so in an low-key manner, more like a Lexus than a BMW or Audi. You'd buy this car more for its quiet competence than its road running sizzle.

The Regal GS is classified as a midsize. At 15 feet 10 inches long with 111 cubic feet of interior volume, it's just a couple of cubic feet into the midsize classification, so it feels more like a compact car. That's verified by outboard back seats that are tight on head and knee room, a departure from some other Buick models, which have generous back seat space.

The well finished trunk, at 14 cubic feet, is the average size for a midsize car. To save weight and space, there's no spare tire. A pump with sealant substitutes, so if you have a blowout punch the button on the OnStar communications system for roadside service.

Up front, the seats offer good support and are well bolstered to hold the torso in corners, as you might expect in a sports sedan. The flat bottom steering wheel tilts and telescopes and, with the eight-way power seat, offers enough adjustments to accommodate almost anybody.

The sporting ingredients are extensive. Motivation is provided by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that uses a turbocharger to deliver a healthy 259 horsepower, enough to get the GS to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. That acceleration is enough so that you won't feel deprived in quick off-the-mark sprints. The EPA's city/highway/combined fuel economy rating is a respectable 19/27/22 mpg.

The power gets to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Buick doesn't emphasize it, but the automatic transmission can be shifted manually. A six-speed manual transmission gearbox also is available but not likely to find favor with many traditional Buick buyers.

Different driving modes can be selected by the driver, ranging from standard to sport to the high-performance GS mode, which increases steering effort and feedback along with stiffer shock absorber settings for reduced body roll. It also changes the shift points for the six speed automatic.

On the road, the Regal GS exhibits good manners, tracking true in a straight line and holding good lines around curves without anxiety at higher than posted speeds. Although the electric power steering is a bit short on feel and feedback, handling is enhanced by the GS sport setting along with Buick's StabiliTrak electronic stability and traction control. With anti-lock braking and brake assist, stopping is confident.

Interior ambiance is enhanced by quality materials, good workmanship and decent ergonomics. Power windows roll right down and the seats are genuine leather. Leather also covers the steering wheel and the owner/driver can start the car from elsewhere with the remote control.

Instruments and controls are handy and easy to use. The parking brake is conveniently electric and both sunvisors slide on their support rods to block sunlight from the sides.

The turbocharged GS starts at $37,830. (The base 182-hp Regal starts at $29,077). The tested Regal GS came equipped with optional 20-inch wheels, navigation, adaptive cruise control, forward collision preparation and alert, rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure and blind spot warning.

Other equipment included an 8-inch color touchscreen with Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system. It includes OnStar communications, Sirius XM satellite radio, AM-FM with high definition (HD) radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a CD player.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 BUICK REGAL GS

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD midsize sedan

BASE PRICE___________________ $37,830 (as tested: $44,480)

MOTOR TYPE___________________16-valve turbo 4-cylinder w/DFI

DISPLACEMENT_________________ 2.0-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 259 at 5300 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 295 at 2500 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 190.2 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___38.1 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,981 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 18.0 gal.