Welcome to Pop The Hood, a weekly autoMedia.com feature that examines the industry’s latest innovations and what makes them tick. We’ve poked around inside the Scion FR-S, Ford Shelby GT500 and BMW 335i. Today, let’s have a gander at the Buick Regal GS.
By now, the secret is out: The 2012 Buick Regal GS is a major player in the midsize luxury market and packs a powerful performance punch under the hood.
The sedan’s striking design is justified by a 2.0L turbo Inline-4 producing 270 hp at 5,300 rpm and 295 lb.-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm, and the engine earned the esteemed distinction as one of Wards Auto’s 2012 Ten Best Engines for North America. Impressive. And all that for a modest $35,310.
Still, a Buick? We know, we know, but it’s time to put the old image of a plodding hunk of metal out of our minds and embrace the technologically advanced power and efficiency of the 2012 Buick Regal GS.
1. Ecotec: The 2012 Buick Regal GS is powered by the latest version of GM’s Ecotec Family II engine, called the LHU. It stems from the original I-4 developed by Opel in the 1970s. GM introduced as an updated 2.0L version called the LNF on the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice in 2007, with a focus on power and efficiency. The LHU is the most advanced version of the LNF and features E85 capability. The 270-hp LHU in the Buick Regal GS is the one of the most powerful Ecotec engines ever. Enough to make you forget that the car is FWD.
2. Turbocharger: A twin-scroll, electronically controlled turbocharged design whirls up enough pressure to give the 3,710 lb. Regal GS some real boost. Pair that with separate exhaust passage to eliminate turbo lag at low speed, and you’ve got the instant performance of a naturally-aspirated engine with the fuel economy of a small displacement turbo.
3. Variable Valve Timing and Direct Injection: Two of the most important aspects of our new Fuel Efficiency age show up in the Regal GS, and they make a big difference. Spark ignition direct injection – which allows high compression engines to run efficiently – results in a 25% reduction in cold-start hydrocarbon emissions, and works in tandem with variable valve timing that keeps the 270-hp turbo I-4 producing 19/27 MPG with either a manual or automatic transmission.
4. Sodium-filled stainless steel Iconel exhaust valves: You can’t overlook any detail if the goal is ultimate performance and efficiency, so even the exhaust of the Regal GS features the latest technology. Sodium-filled exhaust valves are not common in the auto industry but they do show up from time to time, particularly in engines that run at high temperature. The twin-scroll turbo heats up quickly, so GM turned to New York company Special Metals, who construct engineering tools that handle extreme heat. They provided their advanced Inconel alloy for the exhaust to promote valve cooling and keep that 2.0L Ecotec baby nice and fresh.
5. E39 engine control module: One of the coolest parts of the Regal GS engine is also the smallest. Intake air adjustments and spark optimization are controlled by a 128 MHz processor that can operate at 125 MIPS (million operations per second), making sure that every single combustion is as efficient as possible. It’s based on a Qorivva MPC5566 processor and is designed to operate without problems between -40 and 260 degrees Fahrenheit.