When I responded to friends' and coworkers' inquiries about what my wheels for the week would be with "the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo," I was usually met with odd looks and replies.
"Ugh, I'm not a fan of big cars." "You must not be happy with that one." "Wow, they still make Buicks?" It seems that Buick has an uphill battle to get past all of these preconceived notions. Fortunately, while it's not a perfect car, there is much to like about the 2013 Verano Turbo.
What sort of Buick is this?
In assessing the 2013 Buick Verano, it's important to first figure out what sort of vehicle it is. Even before settling behind the wheel, it's obvious that this isn't your grandpa's Buick. The compact sedan shares its platform and 105.7-inch wheelbase with the Chevrolet Cruze, although the sleek Buick is a few fractions of an inch wider, longer, and taller than the Chevy.
With such similar underpinnings and dimensions, it's no surprise that the Verano and Cruze come within a few fractions of an inch of each other in interior dimensions, as well. The Cruze has about a cubic foot more trunk space, the Verano has an edge in cabin space. Additionally, the 3,300-pound Buick carries about 200 extra pounds of luxe that the Cruze doesn't.
That's okay, because the Verano is more powerful, being available in either 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower standard or 2.0-liter, 250-horsepower turbocharged trim levels. Our Verano packed a turbo. Though these engines aren't used in the Cruze, either would, I think, feel at home in either vehicle.
After my first day with the Verano Turbo, I found myself drawing comparisons to the Acura ILX and Chrysler Sebring, err, 200. Buick confirmed these as targets when, in its follow-up communication, the automaker pointed out that the Verano Turbo is "more powerful, faster from zero to 60 mph, and less expensive" than the 2.4-liter Acura ILX and the 2.5-liter Lexus IS 250.
Unfortunately, the naturally aspirated Acura and Lexus engines have one thing that the more powerful, turbocharged, and direct-injected Buick mill doesn't: predictable power delivery.
Looking at the numbers provided by Buick, the 2.0-liter engine's peak twisting force of 260 pound-feet of torque kicks in at 2,000rpm, which gives the impression of a nice and flat torque curve. If you keep the turbo spinning by keeping the engine's revolutions per minute high with the optional six-speed manual transmission, the Verano will happily deliver what feels like its advertised level of power and torque. The vehicle feels alive and there's a reasonable amount of get-up-and-go -- the Verano's not what I'd call a "fast car" but she's certainly not slow.
Adding to good, on-boost performance is the capable handling. The ride tends toward the softer side of sporty and the electric power steering is a bit overboosted and numb, but the front-wheel-drive Verano's European heritage shows in its predictable and responsive handling.
Unfortunately, if I let the turbocharger go dormant or let the engine rpms drop, then turbo lag became an issue. I was able to feel the car shake as the engine strained under the deficit of power. When this happens, you can either keep the pedal planted while you wait for the turbo to spin up again or lift, downshift, and try again. In the competing Acura ILX, transitioning from cruising to a passing maneuver was often as simple as giving the accelerator a bit of a push. The Verano more often than not required a double downshift.
Now, I love rowing my own gears, so what some drivers may consider a con, I consider only a minor inconvenience. However, owners who bought into Buick's claim that the Verano is a "compact luxury sedan" may take issue with occasionally being caught with their turbo down.
Luxury? No. Premium? Sure
Speaking of luxury buyers, I'm not 100 percent sold on the idea that the Verano is a compact luxury sedan.
As equipped, our Verano Turbo featured leather and wood trim, heated front seats, and passenger-pleasing LED ambient and dashboard lighting. The driving position was comfortable and the cabin was remarkably quiet thanks, in part, to double weather seals on doors.
However, settle into the leather seat and you'll find yourself facing a lot of plastic trim and cheapish switch-gear. Farther up, the dashboard is covered in swaths of a rubbery material that feels okay to the touch, but looks pretty bad -- particularly in our tester's "Choccachino" interior trim. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, but only the driver's seat, and then only for the fore-to-aft slider. (Tilt is still handled mechanically.)