Buick Verano 1SL
2012 Buick Verano 1SL Review:
There’s an old western saying that you should never bring a knife to a gunfight—unless, of course, you’re packing a derringer or two in your boots.
Buick has done something like that with its all-new 2012 Verano. The four-door, front-drive sedan competes in the luxury compact class, which is affected with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and even the Cadillac CTS.
All of those are relatively expensive, high-performance gunslingers, while the new Verano fights with its pocket knife: a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.Ordinarily, that would not be much of a contest except for Buick’s derringers: a comparatively low price and an obsessive attention to making the Verano as quiet inside as a capsule in outer space.
Of course, the Verano does not operate in a vacuum, so there obviously is a modicum of engine and road noise that intrudes into the passenger pod. But the intention, according to performance manager Matt Purdy, was to make the Verano’s aural comfort the opposite of an airplane by blocking and absorbing sounds.
Engineers employed a host of embellishments—hydraulic engine mounts, thicker insulation practically everywhere, laminated-glass side windows—to reduce the triad of noise, vibration and harshness, or NVH as it’s called in the car biz.
The effort succeeded, subjectively and objectively. Subjectively, the Verano has a whisper-quiet ambiance at almost any speed, with engine and tire noise sensed as much as heard, even when you’re listening closely.
Objectively, Car and Driver magazine measured the interior sound at 68 decibels cruising and 72 accelerating. That compares favorably with the magazine’s test numbers of 66 and 73 for the Lexus LS 460L, which has a price tag just south of $100,000.
The Verano, on the other hand, has a starting sticker of $23,470. That’s for the base 1SD model, equipped with remote starting, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and Buick’s IntelliLink system, which uses Bluetooth technology or a USB connection to connect cell phones to the car for such functions as streaming Pandora music or Stitcher talk radio. Upholstery is a comfortable vinyl-trimmed cloth, which Buick calls “ribbon fabric with leatherette.”
Step up to the $24,670 1SG convenience model and you get a six-way power driver’s seat, heated outside mirrors, a self-dimming inside mirror and a rear parking assist warning system.At the top is the tested 1SL model. Its $26,850 price tag included leather upholstery, heated front seats, push-button starting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose premium audio system. In addition, the test car had touch-screen navigation ($795) and a motorized glass sunroof ($900), which brought the bottom-line price to $28,185.
In one sense, the Verano—at least at the outset—has no direct competition. The Buick folks point to two imperfectly comparable cars—the Acura TSX, which is a front-driver about the same size but with a higher price tag, more power and an optional V6 engine, and the Lexus IS250, also more expensive with a more powerful V6 engine and rear-wheel drive.
With its acceleration time of about eight seconds from zero to 60 miles an hour, the Verano is outclassed on the performance front. That may be rectified on future models because the chassis could accommodate a more powerful engine like the Buick Regal’s 220-horsepower turbo four-cylinder.
But in an era of increasingly clogged roadways and environmental sensitivities, the Verano could find favor with older, more sedate buyers who value quiet comfort and fuel economy. It has a respectable EPA city/highway fuel consumption rating of 21/31 miles to the gallon.
The Verano’s basic architecture is the same as that of the economical Chevrolet Cruze and the extended-electric Chevrolet Volt. But the Buick designers say any resemblance ends there and, in fact, some of the chassis tuning can be traced to the Opel Astra from General Motors’ European arm. One welcome European trait: slight pressure on the turn signal lever delivers three flashes for lane changing.
Despite its relatively leisurely acceleration, the Verano exhibits solid road manners. There’s a heavy, luxury-car feel to the steering and slot-car-like tracking down the highway. Cornering on twisting roads is competent, though with a leisurely feel and not of sports-sedan caliber. On choppy pavement, sharp jolts make their way through to the passengers, but are mitigated by the cabin silence and seat design that minimizes vibrations.Interior surroundings have a luxury look, with soft-touch surfaces, simulated wood trim and tightly-fitted components. Driver comfort is first-rate, especially with the cloth upholstery. However, the driver’s seatback must be adjusted manually on the base model.
Outboard back seat passengers have decent head room but barely adequate knee room. The center-rear position, as is often the case, is impossible, and the back seat lacks vents for heating and air conditioning.
There’s an unusually generous trunk of more than 14 cubic feet. But large C-hinges are not shielded and could damage luggage or other cargo. The rear seatbacks, which include a fold-down armrest with cup holders, fold to expand trunk space, but the front seats have to be moved forward to clear the headrests.