Earlier this year, we learned that the 2012 Buick Regal with eAssist is a fuel-sipping sedan that delivers up to 36 highway miles per gallon. This week, we learned that the 2012 Buick Regal GS is a much different animal.

The real driving thrill comes in the GS, which is powered by a turbocharged Ecotec 2.0-liter I4 engine hooked to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine in the GS model – the much cooler cousin to the base Regal – delivers 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The GS took test drivers from Edmunds.com to 60 mph in a quick 6.2 seconds. The base Regal took 9.9 seconds, and the Turbo model shaved that time to 8.4 seconds in Edmunds tests.

We conducted our own scientific tests – which consisted of looking for a stretch of open road and then hitting the accelerator when we believed no law enforcement officers were around. On the basis of our testing, we conclude that for a $34,000 sports sedan…the 2012 Buick Regal GS really cooks.

With instant response to the throttle, the GS model of the Regal is worthy of its sports sedan positioning. GS mileage figures aren’t as good as the eAssist, but at 19 city mpg and 27 highway mpg the GS will still keep you rolling past lots of fuel stations.

There are four Regal models for 2012: the Regal luxury sports sedan, the Regal with eAssist, the Regal Turbo and the GS. The eAssist and the GS are new for 2012, with each one offering specific driving experiences.

The GS has selectable drive settings for standard, sport and GS that allow the driver to adjust steering and suspension settings to suit individual preferences, although we didn’t detect pronounced differences in the settings. On the road, the GS is responsive and sure-footed, with a quiet ride. Steering is linear and precise, with appropriate feedback. Hard cornering shows some body roll, regardless of what drive setting is selected.

Meanwhile, on the inside, the Regal has lots of standard upscale features, including dual zone air, heated leather seats, remote keyless entry, a CD and MP3 player with speed-sensitive volume, USB, Bluetooth and Sirius Satellite Radio. Three premium packages are available that upgrade the interior significantly with things like parking assist, seat adjustability, automatic HID headlights, upgraded Harman/kardon sound and upgraded wheels.

Fit and finish on some interior surfaces could use a little work. Our test car had a minor squeak inside, but materials otherwise were upscale and attractive. Seats were firm and a bit narrow, but otherwise fine. There was headroom galore for my 6-foot-plus frame.

And if you’re a fan of chrome, or at least shiny plastic that looks like chrome, the Regal is sure to please. Shiny as a disco ball, accents abound inside and out, surrounding the front grille, front air intakes, non-functional hood vents, windows and dual exhausts. The shiny stuff is also on door handles and along the trunk lid.

The 2012 Regal recently scored well in testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Regal got the IIHS top rating of “good” and was named a “Top Safety Pick.” The GS is equipped with 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, with Brembos in front. The Regal also has standard stability and traction control systems, a full complement of airbags and daytime running lights.

Our test 2012 Buick Regal GS had a base price of $34,835. The special “Crystal Red” color added $325 and the 20-inch polished alloy wheels boosted the price another $700. With freight charges of $885, the bottom line on a well-equipped Regal GS was $36,745.

Since GM coalesced its products into four brands – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac – the company has been building good, affordable vehicles. Buick, in particular, is on a roll and may even be leading the way.

2012 Buick Regal GS

  • Engine: Turbocharged Ecotec 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual
  • Horsepower: 270
  • Test model base price: $34,835
  • EPA mileage rating: 19 mpg city / 27 mpg highway