2013 Buick Verano Turbo Driven

Joe Lorio
2013-buick-verano

The Buick Verano is quiet. There is very little engine noise. There is very little road noise. There is very little wind noise. More than any other aspect of the Verano, the silence tells you that this model has ambitions as an entry-luxury machine. Now Buick has added a turbocharged model, which is available with a six-speed manual transmission. This powertrain might have made the Verano into a sport sedan -- but again, Buick is speaking very softly.

Automotive journalists are to blame

Auto journalists can reliably be counted on to lecture and harangue automakers about offering manual transmissions. Undercutting that argument is the fact that only a tiny fraction of buyers actually choose manuals -- and even that number is shrinking, in part because many younger buyers have never learned how to drive one. Ignoring this sad fact, car writers will complain about the lack of a stick shift and then take it up a notch by suggesting that what said carmaker should really bring out is diesel all-wheel-drive station wagon -- with a manual.

Smaller engine, much more power

For now, though, Buick isn't doing the diesel or the wagon, just the stick-shift. (Wisely, Buick offers an automatic as well.) Aside from the row-your-own shifter, the Turbo brings considerably more power to the party. Whereas the standard Verano’s 2.4-liter normally aspirated four musters 180 hp, the 2.0-liter turbo marshals 250 ponies, a hefty increase. Torque jumps from 171 lb-ft to 260 lb-ft. The turbo chops the factory-measured 0-to-60 time from 8.6 to 6.2 seconds. Buick has done a good job smoothing out throttle response so that it’s always predictable, but there’s a definite turbocharged quality to this engine’s acceleration. When the turbo is spooled up and pitching in, the 2.0-liter feels plenty speedy -- before that happens, it doesn’t.

It could be that the muted quality of everything else going on in the Verano conspires against any impression of excitement. There’s the aforementioned quietness. The steering is fairly numb. And visual stimulation is lacking, as Buick has done very little to differentiate the Turbo from the standard Verano -- a model that is already pretty anodyne. This car is just too buttoned up to be really engaging.

Perhaps it’s best to ignore the whole stick shift thing -- as buyers certainly will -- and focus on the Verano Turbo’s real mission: giving entry-luxury buyers the kind of acceleration that will assuage any anxiety about leaving a V-6 behind. Well, consider that anxiety assuaged.

Size matters

While buyers who are trading down in engine size are unlikely to miss a V-6, they might have other issues if they’re coming from larger entry-luxury sedans. The Verano is a small car, and its cabin is pretty cramped. The way the narrow windshield and prominent A-pillars constrain one’s forward view makes the front compartment seem constricted, but it’s in the rear where space is truly at a premium.

Compact exterior dimensions can be their own reward if you often park or maneuver in tight spaces, but most people expect small cars to deliver big fuel economy numbers, and here the Verano falls short. At 20/31 mpg (or 21/30 mpg with the automatic), the Turbo suffers very little fuel economy penalty over the standard Verano’s 21/32 mpg. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that neither engine’s mpg is really any better than the larger, six-cylinder Lexus ES350 (21/31 mpg). The Verano is also easily beaten by plenty of other midsize sedans.

The Verano Turbo might be better off if it were a little less self-effacing and instead made a stronger statement as a sport sedan. It’s got the power -- and, yes, it has the stick shift -- but how about some visuals? How about a little excitement? Or is that just another loopy, automotive journalist idea? Maybe the thing to do is bring out a wagon version, add all-wheel drive, and ditch the 2.0-liter Ecotec for a diesel. For some reason, that sounds right to me.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo 1ST

MSRP (with destination): $29,990
PRICE AS TESTED: $31,110

ENGINE:
2.0-liter DOHC I-4 turbo
Horsepower: 250 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

TRANSMISSION:
6-speed manual

DRIVE:
Front-wheel

WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
235/45R18 Continental ContiProContact tires

FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
20/31/24 mpg

CURB WEIGHT:
3300 lb

CAPACITIES:
Doors/Passengers: 4/5
Cargo: 14.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.0/34.7 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.3/37.8 in
Towing: N/A

STANDARD FEATURES:
Ecotec 2.0L DOHC 4-cyl turbo
6-speed automatic transmission
Stability and traction control
OnStar w/6-month subscription
Rearview camera w/cross-traffic alert
Side blind zone alert
Power windows and locks
Power driver’s seat
Passive keyless entry and ignition
Remote start
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/audio controls
Sport bucket seats
Leather interior trim
Heated front seats
Heated steering wheel
7-in color touch-screen Bose premium audio system w/ 9 speakers
Buick IntelliLink w/Bluetooth phone and audio
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
Cruise control
Blue ambient lighting
Fog lights
Chrome exhaust tip
18-inch aluminum wheels
Ice blue ambient lighting

OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Navigation- $795
Crystal red paint- $325

KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
N/A

COMPARE TO:
Acura ILX
Audi A3
Volkswagen Jetta GLI

OMEGATALON
Buick's Verano is still a Chevy Cruze which means if you want this car and can live without the leather, the Cruze has a starting price of about $16K and better yet is that Chevy is planning a 2014 Chevy Cruze SS with the turbo-motor which means you can probably get everything in the Buick for less.
doctrsnoop
It's a fine car that I wouldn't mind driving daily.  It's a little too expensive, a little too demure, a little too small, a little too inefficient , to make an impact.  It's a classic car that shows really well in the studio and on display, but on the road it just turns invisible.
Super King
So.......it runs pretty well against a Jetta GLI?
DERRECK
2013 Camary V6 starts at 27.345 the Buick is priced to high
DERRECK
it's a thousands dollars less than a Altima 3.5 V6 that's not good
DERRECK
it's a few thousands less than a Lacross not good
ed124c
I kind of agree with nknorka, but:  Anyone who can't afford an automatic certainly can't afford a Verano Turbo.  Cars can be ordered, unless you are a person who just can't wait.  Many car makers only offer manuals in the lowest trim levels, meaning that most car makers are still thinking that people will only buy the cheapest models.  Obviously, the demise of manuals in bread and butter cars is near.  I haven't purchased an automatic car since 1978, but now I am much older and I am starting to realize that the manipulations of stick-driving and shifting are getting somewhat difficult, and not the fun it used to be.  My next car (coming shortly) will be an automatic.  I guess I have done my best for the manual transmissions.  I gave my daughter her first car (a stick shift Accord) 30 years ago, and to this day she drives stick, her current model being a Jetta TDI wagon with all the goodies.  (Thanks, VW and good for you, Missy.)  Carry it on.  
nknorka
We will never know if buyers would buy a manual because the dealers will not have any on their lots to sell. Dealers are the ones who order and buy the cars from the manufacture, not us car buyers.Most dealers believe that only someone who can not afford an automatic would buy a manual. Unfortunately for us manual lovers in most cases the dealers are correct. 

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