Initial Report: 2012 Buick Regal GS
|Maintenance costs to date||$0|
|Repair costs to date||$0|
We're doing 109.2 mph according to the onboard GPS, so I bump the cruise control up to 110.5 mph. Until just recently, I'd never attempted to use cruise control above 80 mph—it just never seemed like a good idea—but for 90 miles my co-driver Chris Cantle and I must maintain an average speed of exactly 110 mph. Spotting a mile marker, Chris clicks on the laptop and confirms that we're on pace. We'd practiced the 90-mile race route twice before today's main event, and with help from the factory team of Bill Rietow and John Townsend we had a good idea how to maintain a precise speed. They won last year and were looking to do the same.
The closed road we're flying down—while competing in the —is Nevada's Route 318 between Hiko and Lund. The biannual event (in September it's called the Silver State Classic) is best known for its unlimited speed class, where cars go as fast as the drivers dare, often well over 200 mph. Most competitors choose a target average speed between 95 and 180, and that's just for starters. This year, Jim Peruto set a new record in his modified 2006 NASCAR racer. He averaged 217.6 mph and had a trap speed of 244 mph...a terrifyingly impressive achievement that makes Talladega seem tame.
Without a rollbar hoop, our new long-term Regal GS was limited by the rules to the 110-mph class. The GS, equipped with a 6-speed manual, arrived at our office just a month before with 213 miles on the odometer. It received its first oil change only a day before we hustled out to Ely, Nevada, a friendly place that welcomes the event with a parade and pancake breakfast in its park.
There's a standing-start shootout held on Friday that's a half-mile long, followed by a full mile event on Saturday. We decided to opt out, saving the equipment for the high-speed run...although with its direct-injected turbo four making 260 bhp, the GS wouldn't have been embarrassed.
The fact that Buick, not known for performance, offers a real enthusiast model is a significant change for the brand. And while some think it needs a V-6, we're quite fond of the turbo four that provides a youthful demeanor with its rush of intercooled boost. Yes, we would have preferred all-wheel drive, but we admit the HiPer strut front suspension is an excellent compromise. The design retains MacPherson struts, but adds an articulated spindle allowing for better steering geometry that does wonders to minimize torque steer. With $700 polished 20-in. wheels wrapped in massive 255/35ZR-20 Pirelli P Zero summer tires, it was a shame we had so few corners on the race route to exercise both them and the GS's standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
We did, however, use the 7-in. touch-screen navigation system (a $1145 option) in an attempt to set the finish line as our destination. Our $1000 sunroof was appreciated for not impeding head room; even with helmets on, we were comfortable in the well-bolstered seats. The thick steering wheel and driver-involving powertrain had us wondering if we had the best car in the class for the money.
We finished with an average speed of 109.9583 mph, or 1.1166 seconds slow, putting us in 8th spot. Blame landed partially on our laptop's clock that apparently loses a second every hour. The factory Buick team did better, at 134.9977 mph, placing them 2nd to a Corvette that beat them to the line by a mere 0.3064 sec. Just to make it clear, you can't win by beating your target time; you're penalized by being off the mark, whether above or below.
This isn't your typical long-term intro. Then again, this isn't your typical Buick. Will we still think so highly of it a year from now? We'll put some more miles on it and get back to you.