Three editors, three opinions and one common conclusion.
February 13, 2013
By: Alex Villani, Mark Rickan, Nick Saporito
Only a few short years ago, the idea of a compact Buick sedan with a turbocharger and available six-speed manual was unthinkable. The 2013 Verano Turbo is positioned to prove that the "new Buick" can be at once youthful, luxurious and sporty.
The Verano Turbo trades out the base model’s 2.4 liter engine for a 2.0 liter turbo that churns out an impressive 250 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. Additional tweaks have been made to the chassis, including lowering the ride height, stiffening the dampers and re-tuning the steering.
Three of our senior GMI editors recently had the rare opportunity to test out the Verano Turbo as their daily drivers. We asked each editor to independently submit their thoughts and rankings for our major evaluation criteria. While Alex, Nick and Mark tend to have very unique perspectives on vehicles, we were a bit surprised to find that all three shared similar conclusions.
Mark: While taking in the Verano for the first time, my septuagenarian-aged mother concluded with complete sincerity that it would “make a nice car for older people.” In the most succinct terms, that pretty much sums up the Verano’s exterior: it’s about as imposing as a jelly bean.
Aside from the addition of chrome door handles, dual exhaust tips and a rear spoiler, the Verano Turbo is indistinguishable from the base sedan, meaning that its ventiports and tail lamp eyelashes are its standout features. It’s not that the Verano Turbo is unattractive, it’s simply that its exterior design benignly contradicts its positioning as a performance vehicle. It’s not a sleeper, it’s a snoozer.
Bring on the Verano GS. 
Nick: Unlike the LaCrosse and Enclave, the Verano looks bland. Buick has spruced up the exterior of all Verano's for 2013 by adding body colored roof moldings and chrome accented door handles, but more bends and folds in the sheet metal would be a welcomed change. That said, the Acura ILX isn't much better. Adding LED accents to the headlamps (a new Buick trait) and the deck-lid from the Astra sedan would make the Verano look 100 times better. 
Alex: Verano gets a bad rap for its chunky styling, and rightfully so. Sadly, apart from the dual exhaust, the turbo model does not get any fancy exterior bits that visually separate it from the models with the 2.4-liter engine. For those looking for the more subdued look of a buttoned down sports sedan, the Verano should be right up your alley. I would like to see (and this goes for all Veranos), a look that more closely fits in with the Regal and Enclave. Add LED accented headlights, a little Euro-flare to the taillights and a slight reduction in the grille. That being said, the current offering is a handsome vehicle with a little something special under the hood: a modern day sleeper. 
Nick: Like the base Verano, the Verano Turbo's interior is an area of unanimous praise. Much of the interior is borrowed from the Opel Astra in Europe, which probably explains the use of high quality materials, such as real aluminum around the center stack and soft-touch surfaces on the dash and door panels.
By far the capstone of this interior is the seating. Buick spent years developing the seats for the Verano and it shows. Just looking at them, one gets flashbacks of old Park Avenues and LeSabres, an era when Buick seats seemed to come from the living room. Bottomline: this a quiet, serene interior that also looks fantastic.
While front space is entirely acceptable for this segment, the backseat space is limited. With four adults, the car can feel cramped and backseat passengers will likely complain on long road trips.
The Turbo model changes nothing with the interior, until you look down. Buick has --almost playfully-- added aluminum-look pedals that serve as a subtle hint that this Verano is packing more power. 
Alex: The mixture of tans and browns on the inside of my tester made me feel as if I was sitting inside a Milky Way bar and that's good (unless you are a diabetic). While I wish there were more adjustments for the seats, they are very supportive and serve as thrones that you and your passenger can use to gaze upon your kingdom of leather, faux wood and metal.
For those worried about buttons disappearing from your interior, fear not as the Verano has plenty to spare, along with a very easy to use touch screen and voice command system. I even liked the shifter knob for the manual transmission, with it's almost jewel-like inlay for the gear positions. It was a nice hand-me-down from the GS and adds a little something to the interior. 
Mark: Along with the Regal, I consider the Verano interior to be exceptional. The seats are excellent, all controls are within arm's length and the dual cockpit provides a terrific balance of luxury and sportiness. If I have a minor quibble, it's with the DIC - the monochrome display is a holdover and it's due for an upgrade to the higher resolution, color display found in other GM offerings. 
Alex:The LNF is still alive and kicking, although under a different RPO code this time. The Verano's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine provides potent power that is delivered quick with a nice firm push at the small of your back. While the Verano Turbo is only a few ponies away from the Regal GS, the torque tells a different story. The GS comes on with a big wallop of torque at first, but the Verano's turbo engine does not have that same wham off the throttle. The way the power comes on is with a gradual push, jumping into the next gear keeps the power coming. It is a bit more refined, with a smooth power delivery all the way to the redline. This would be a nice upgrade for those that feel the Regal Turbo does not have enough umph, but don't need the all-out performance of the GS.
Sitting next to the potent turbo engine is a six-speed manual transmission. Yes, that means that two of Buick's three sedans can be had with a turbocharged engine mated to a manual. Is this real life? With a tighter-than-expected gate, the Verano's shifts were, at first, notchy, but over time you start to get used to the feel. Throws are relatively short and firm, and the gearing seems to be decent, but errs on the side of fuel economy. While many automakers maintain that turbocharging engines increases fuel efficiency, that claims goes out the window when you take full advantage of the additional power. And trust me, you are going to want to get on it as much as you can. There is something about a manually operated, turbocharged engine that makes life just a little bit better. Imagine if you took this car, made it rear-drive, added a bit more power - I bet you that even our fearless leader, Nick, would buy one! 
Mark:My time was spent exclusively in the Verano Turbo equipped with the automatic transmission. I found the increased power and torque to be a welcome upgrade over the lumbering 2.4-liter engine found in the base model. Acceleration is crisp, with smooth shifting and negligible turbo lag. Down-shifting can be a bit reluctant and the fun factor, as always, is unfortunately inversely proportionate to the fuel economy. Given it's mass and subdued appearance, this car is surprisingly fast and raises eyebrows. 
Nick: Despite being an engine that is technically on its way out, we need not forget that just a year ago it was on the Ward's Top 10 list, and rightfully so. Power delivery is smooth, and thanks to the Verano's church-like cabin, the engine is rarely heard - even if it does toss you back a bit in your seat under hard acceleration.
Buick deserves many accolades for offering a manual gearbox, however it should not be mistaken as a performance option. The throws, while not particularly long, are somewhat cumbersome. This isn't a gearbox you'd want to use while recording track times. Compared to other GM products, it also feels geared very high, and the clutch, while linear, is heavier than some performance cars. 
Alex:One would think that with more power would come more stuff, right? Usually when people think of an optional turbocharged engine, they start to dream up of vehicles like the Subaru Impreza WRX, Ford Focus ST, Renault Megane RS, or, if you are a true GM'er, the Opel Astra VXR. Thoughts of upgraded suspension bits, bigger brakes, tighter steering ratios, big wheels with sticky rubber on them come to mind. But, the Verano Turbo does not slot into the "performance" arena like these other cars. The Verano Turbo takes a different, more traditional Buick road, where everything is made just a little bit better by adding more power. No need for European track-tuned suspension, flashy red multi-piston calipers or fake carbon fiber rear diffusers.
The Verano Turbo driving experience is very similar to the regular Verano, only with a bunch more power to pull out of the apex faster. Steering feels the same, the car brakes just as firmly and quickly as the regular 2.4-liter car, leaving the overall driving experience just a little better than a regular Verano. The additional power just makes for a better overall driving experience, but does not make this car a true performance machine. 
Mark: I would argue that the tweaks made to the Verano Turbo provide for a driving experience that in many approaches that of the Cadillac ATS. Handling is nimble, road feedback is excellent and cornering is sharp if slightly prone to understeer. You can confidently and comfortably maneuver it while driving with enthusiasm. It's really that good. 
Nick: Buick will tell you the Verano's personality is quiet and unpretentious and that carries over to the car's handling. It isn't a Cobalt SS, but Buick didn't aim for it to be one either. The car manages to strike a near-perfect balance of fun-to-drive and daily-driver-worthiness. The main hardware limit to the car appears to be the all-season rubber. 
Nick: Buick appears to be aiming to become the brand with no stripper base model cars, a strategy which fits them nicely. Buick has structured the Verano Turbo as a high-end trim level of the base Verano, meaning this car comes loaded up with lots of standard goodies. In addition to the long list of features on all Veranos, the Turbo trim adds a nine-speaker Bose sound system, side blind zone alert and rear park assist. When all is said and done, buyers literally select if they want a moonroof and/or navigation system.
There are however, some features that are not available in what is positioned as a premium car. The competition already offers HID headlamps, which is not an option for on Verano. We'd also like to see the addition of a color driver's information center and power passenger's seat. 
Alex: The feature-set on the Verano is an interesting one for sure. On one end, you have things like blind-spot detection, heated steering wheel, well-integrated infotainment and navigation system, as well as key-less entry and start, but then you have big omissions like four-way power seat for driver only, no HIDs, no capacitive touch surfaces for the touch screen and no digital displays for the instrument panel.
I could not help myself from asking which of the other options I would trade off for one that is not available. Would I give up blind-spot detection for, say, lumbar adjustments? Would you trade in the heated steering wheel for a color driver's information display? The Verano Turbo has an impressive list of standard features, even for a luxury car, but will some of the missing features hurt sales? We shall see. 
Mark: Let's face it, the main feature of the Verano Turbo is the 2.0-liter engine and any other amenities seem like trinkets compared to the significantly increased value of additional power. Sure, I'd love to see a heads-up display, a lane departure warning system and crash avoidance alerts and maybe, just maybe even paddle shifters. 
Mark: The turbo version of the Verano is offered at a fairly nominal increase in price over the higher-end trim levels of the 2.4-liter equipped base model. With the upgraded 2.0-liter turbo engine, the increased power and wide torque band provide for a much more refined and significantly faster driving experience. Add to that improved steering and handling, a few passable exterior enhancements and an already excellent interior and the additional cost for the Turbo is simply a no-brainer.
However, we also believe that a dedicated performance package should be offered for those buyers who find power and driving dynamics to be more compelling than luxury amenities. If you're simply looking for a Verano with a 2.0-liter mill, there are no affordable options. 
Alex: At over thirty large, value can have various meanings. This price point is slowly turning into the gray area where it might be tough to judge what customers actually "value" in a car. Style over substance? Sure, Verano isn't setting the design world on fire, but it's light surfacing and bold grill seem to be attracting about 4,500 people a month. Power or economy? Verano offers best-in-class power with a marginal hit in fuel economy. Badge image? Despite what some may think, Buick's image is changing as they try to find a footing in the entry level luxury game, a market that the Japanese have had sewn up for quite some time. Verano Turbo adds power to an already solid car, something that can only help to keep sales moving up and to the right. 
Nick: The value factor of the Verano Turbo is excellent, depending on what you're looking for. If you seek a loaded up luxury compact, the car's $30,000 price tag is a no-brainer. If you're looking for a compact with a lot of power and a little features, Verano is not a value for you. 
The Verano Turbo is really playing in the sandbox with one competitor: the Acura ILX 2.4. Even in the ILX’s case, it still has a near 50 horsepower deficit to the Verano, meaning the Verano has the upper hand if you’re concerned mostly with performance. Both, respectably, offer six-speed manuals for the enthusiasts. The key takeaway from Verano Turbo is that the car isn't what a lot of people assumed it to be - it isn't a smaller Regal GS with a firm ride, growling exhaust note and slightly more pretentious looks. Instead, the Turbo is a Verano with more power. For those that have not experienced the Verano, it's a quite, well-mannered small car with tons of creature comforts.
The extra juice under the hood tips the Verano's scale just enough in the fun-to-drive category that we feel the car is worthy of enthusiasts' consideration. In fact, with the manual transmission, the Verano Turbo is near the top of our list for the perfect daily driver.
2013 Buick Verano Turbo specifications summary:
Vehicle 2013 Buick Verano Turbo Segment Compact luxury Format Sedan Class competition Acura ILX, Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L Highline Manufacturing Orion Township, Michigan Base model price USA:
Price as tested USA:
1. $30,800 (USD); 2. $31,795 (USD)
Upgrades Power sunroof, navigation, 10-spoke aluminum wheels Additional available upgrades - Platform Delta II Engine 2.0L turbocharged ECOTEC I-4 (LHU)
Horsepower: 250 @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 260 lb.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
Hydra-Matic 6T50 6-speed
Estimated fuel economy EPA (city/highway):
20 mpg | 30 mpg (automatic)
20 mpg | 31 mpg (manual)
10.1 L/100 km | 6.6 L/100 km (automatic)
10.2 L/100 km | 6.3 L/100 km (manual)
Observed fuel economy 22 mpg | 31 mpg (automatic)
20 mpg | 30 mpg (manual)
10.5 L/100 km | 7.6 L/100 km (automatic)
10.2 L/100 km | 6.3 L/100 km (manual)
Length 183.9" (4,671 mm) Wheelbase 105.7" (2,685 mm) Width 71.4" (1,814 mm) Height 58.4" (1,483 mm) Curb weight 3,300 lb (1,500 kg)