The revitalized Buick division of General Motors has been turning out some interesting vehicles over the last few years, and the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo could be a good choice for a buyer looking for full-size luxury in an entertaining down-size sedan.
Instead of cradling its passengers in floaty, semi-soporific splendor like many of its predecessors, this compact Buick pumps a little adrenaline into the experience,
The turbocharged two-liter, four-cylinder engine can catapult the attractive front-wheel-drive sedan to 60 mph in a tad over 6 seconds, the stiffened suspension grips the road authoritatively without unnecessarily jarring the passengers, and, surprise of surprises, driving enthusiasts can even opt for a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment.
But this is no braggadocio of a car like, say, the upcoming all-new Chevy Corvette Stingray. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to spot the difference between it and the standard Verano (which looks a lot like the larger Buick Regal) unless you knew to look at the dual exhaust pipes and the tiny "T" and discreet spoiler on the trunk lid.
As a result, you can enjoy the smooth thrust of 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque while friends, neighbors and maybe even the police think you are simply gliding along peacefully in, well, a Buick.
Buick marketers are not even trying to target the Verano Turbo as a compact carouser, opting instead to spotlight the quiet cabin and amenities of this gussied up sibling to the down-market Chevrolet Cruze.
Actually, there appears to be sound reasoning behind the decision to advertise this Verano as a luxury car rather than a sports sedan. The next big competition among luxury car makers appears to be in smaller vehicles.
Acura recently introduced the ILX, Audi is updating the A3, BMW has the 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz will soon introduce the CLA, which looks much like the larger coupe-like CLS sedan. In addition, Jaguar is likely to enter the small-car sweepstakes and Lexus has just updated its IS models.
So let's take a look at what the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo has to offer.
First of all, while the Verano is classified as a compact, its interior dimensions are very close to mid-size. The Verano will hold four average-size adults adults in comfort and it's possible to squeeze a fifth one in the middle of the second-row bench for short trips.
Add to that a 15-cubic-foot trunk that can be enlarged by folding forward the 60/40 split rear seatbacks and you have a sedan that is as practical as it is luxurious and sporty.
The engine is more than just quick. It is exceptionally refined, smooth and quiet with almost no turbo lag. Another thing almost unnoticeable is torque steer, that annoying tug on the steering wheel that can be the bane of powerful front-wheel-drive automobiles under acceleration.
Because of its relaxed demeanor, a driver might actually be surprised to find out the Verano Turbo can turn in that 0-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds and cruise at well over the legal limit seemingly without even breathing hard.
The baby Buick doesn't gulp gasoline, either. In a week of mostly sensible driving, I averaged a little more than 24 miles per gallon of gasoline. The EPA predicts that the Verano Turbo with manual shifter will average from 20 miles per gallon in the city to 31 mpg on the highway. Opt for the automatic and the EPA estimates are 21 mpg city/30 highway. Premium fuel is recommended, but not required.
Traditional enthusiasts might automatically lean toward the do-it-yourself transmission, but after a week in a Verano Turbo so equipped I'm not so sure that's the best bet.
Clutch take-up is smooth and linear and the shifter moves smoothly through the gears in ordinary driving. But try to slam it up and down through the gates for maximum performance, and the transmission turns balky, exhibiting a notchiness that fights efforts to guide it quickly from gear to gear.
Based on my earlier experience with a standard Verano, the smooth-shifting, 6-speed automatic transmission seems much more in tune with this Buick's overall character and Buick's marketing plan.
Combining to provide the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo's surprisingly strong driving dynamics are the taut suspension (MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam at the rear), accurate and reasonably communicative electric power steering and strong four-wheel disc brakes.
The upscale demeanor of all Veranos is emphasized by what Buick calls Quiet Tuning. Triple-sealed doors, thicker windshield and side glass, sound-deadening material throughout and special work on the exhaust and intake systems allow the passengers to cruise comfortably in near total isolation from the outside world.
For the base price of $29,105, every 2013 Buick Verano Turbo includes dual-zone climate control, driver and front-passenger heated seats, remote vehicle starter, leather upholstery, driver information center. Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music, 9-speaker premium sound system, heated steering wheel, automatic on/off headlights, satellite radio (free for 3 months), power heated outside mirrors, 7-inch diagonal LED backlit color-touch radio display with Intellilink technology, and more.
Oddly, the driver's power seat has no power seatback adjuster and the front-passenger seat must be adjusted manually.
However, a comprehensive package of safety features is also standard, including rear-vision camera, blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and OnStar emergency communication system.
Three options rounded out the test-car package --- a sunroof for $900, premium audio system with navigation for $795 and Crystal Red paint for $325. Add the $885 delivery charge and the total comes to $32,010.
Over the last few years Buick has been upgrading itself with the Enclave luxury crossover vehicle and the full-size luxury LaCrosse and sporty Regal sedans. The 2013 Verano Turbo is a welcome addition to the Buick stable.