Developed to “demonstrate the bandwidth of the new Buick Regal,” according to Chief Engineer Jim Federico, the GS concept car appears to be ready for production.
Indeed, General Motors Vice Chairman and global product development chief Tom Stephens told AEI that the GS concept has such strong support within GM that “we should just go ahead and have it be the only Regal, end of story.”
Federico chuckled when we relayed Stephens’ whimsical comment, but he noted that his development team quickly recognized the potential of the standard Regal’s Epsilon II (also known as Global Epsilon) architecture to support a serious performance model. So they decided to resurrect the Gran Sport nameplate that adorned Buick muscle cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s and put it on the 2010 show circuit to whet the public’s appetite.
The GS concept is highly promising because the car it’s based on already has a performance heart. The 2011 Regal that enters production in late spring is a rebadged-and-retuned version of the Opel Insignia, GM’s first sedan based on the stout, stiff Epsilon II platform. The new Regal’s only engine choice initially will be the 2.4-L Ecotec DOHC inline four rated at 182 hp (136 kW) and 172 lb·ft (233 N·m).
Later in the year GM will make available its 2.0-L direct-injected turbocharged four offering 220 hp (164 kW) and 258 lb·ft (350 N·m). Performance options engineered to supplement the turbo package include a six-speed manual transmission (the first manual gearbox in a 21st Century Buick) and an optional Hyperstrut front suspension system developed by Opel.
To lead GS development, Stephens and Bob Lutz tapped Federico, known within GM Engineering as a hard charger who accepts no compromises. He assembled a team of U.S. and European engineers to execute the project.
“We used the OPC version of the Insignia as our foundation for the Regal GS,” Federico explained following the car’s introduction. “It’s basically the entire Insignia performance package except for the V6 engine.”
He recited the suite of goodies borrowed from the Opel, most importantly a Haldex all-wheel drive system; electronic limited-slip differential, and the patented Hyperstrut front suspension.
According to Federico, the Hyperstrut system is designed to minimize torque steer in a vehicle with a transversely mounted engine. It supplements the AWD driveline’s benefits in this regard when applied to the Regal. The real-time strut damping is part of a system GM calls Interactive Drive Control. It offers three distinct driver-adjustable modes (Normal, Sport, and Tour) to tailor shift, throttle, and suspension response.
“Think of it as virtually shortening the spindle length, with the result offering improved steering precision,” Federico explained.
The system is a key to the Regal’s sporty dynamic performance balanced with a comfortable ride quality, he said. The Hyperstrut dampers were developed entirely in-house—“100% build-to-print from our supplier’s perspective,” he said.
Online the Insignia OPC, which is powered by a 2.8-L turbocharged V6 rated at 325 hp (242 kW), the GS concept gets its thrust from a hotter version of the 2.0-L turbocharged Ecotec four delivering 255 hp (190 kW) and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m).
According to Federico, the lighter four-cylinder engine was a benefit when it came time for his suspension-engineering team to tune the chassis and balance the car’s dynamic performance and fuel efficiency.
The concept car is lowered 10 mm (0.4 in) compared with the standard Regal and mounts 20-in forged aluminum wheels. Its subtly unique bodywork includes a pair of vertical air inlets in the front fascia designed to help cool the Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors.
The other minor visual giveaways on the car’s exterior are an integrated rear spoiler, more prominent rocker panels, and a dual exhaust that exits through the rear fascia.
Inside, sport seats supplied by Recaro may remain with the GS if the program is approved for production.