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    Two Extroverted Sedans

    autoThe two sedans we’re checking out this week–the Buick Regal GS and the Toyota Corolla S Special Edition–aim to attract attention. That’s not the usual role of a practical car, which is typically more concerned with fuel economy and trunk space and the like. But these hotter sedans from Buick and Toyota promise more excitement over the road and a stronger presence when you pull up to the curb, like a sport coupe.

    The presence is stronger with the Regal, so much so that I had a real-life re-enactment of the commercials where an onlooker checks out a car’s contemporary lines and wonders, “Is that a Buick?”

    “It is,” I replied to the owner of my favorite Castro coffee shop, and he launched into an American-car rant, as he detailed the catastrophic unreliability of his Oldsmobile 98 and a friend’s Buick Century. He bounced to Toyota and never looked back. The Regal therefore ends up as an unconventional choice, which can be a way to further distinguish yourself. The Corolla occupies the opposite extreme; it’s the go-to for buyers wanting a car backed by a sterling reputation.


    Both the Regal and Corolla compete in tight markets. The Regal sits in the gap between the mainstream and upscale, which means it’s fending off everything from Mazda 6s to Mercedes-Benz CLAs. It’s important that Buick has a version with performance and luxury credentials, and the Regal GS does.

    The Corolla sits in a step lower in the compact-sedan market, and it faces stiff resistance from the sharply styled Honda Civic and Mazda 3. The Corolla continues as the sales leader, with volume in 2015 up seven percent over 2014, but Toyota recognizes that to keep people interested, you gotta have some flair.

    That’s where the Corolla S Special Edition comes in. Base price with destination charge is less than $22K, and it looks the part with black alloy wheels and colors that are limited to white, black and red. It caught more eyes than you’d think any Corolla would.

    The Corolla S’s CVT transmission has a Sport mode, and you can run it up and down the rev range with paddle shifters. It has the same 132-horsepower engine as the regular Corolla, so while the S gives a sharper response, the engine’s coarseness indicates its core mission of economy. The Corolla S ends up feeling perky, and its 32-mpgoverall EPA MPG rating keeps it frugal.

    car2In comparison, the Regal GS is ready for some good-ol’ American tuckus kicking, with an upgraded, 259-horsepower turbo engine (24 mpg EPA overall) and steamroller-wide tires. The $31K GS’s sport seats hug your butt, and its handling feels dialed-in. The Regal GS’s cool competence ultimately overshadows its personality, but the extroversion compensates; it was a unique pleasure to have a BMW M4 driver at the Market Street Safeway give the test car’s chromed 19-inch wheels a pointed double-take.

    So if you’re looking for a little extroversion in your sensible sedan, these two are worth a look.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant. Check out his automotive services at and