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.
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
2.0-liter DOHC I-4 turbo
Horsepower: 250 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
235/45R18 Continental ContiProContact tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 14.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.0/34.7 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.3/37.8 in
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
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
Blue ambient lighting
Chrome exhaust tip
18-inch aluminum wheels
Ice blue ambient lighting
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Crystal red paint- $325
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Volkswagen Jetta GLI