Buick's Verano a fine entry-level luxury offering
2012 Buick Verano Review:
Buick moves into the compact sedan market with its new Verano based on a front-drive Opel platform from Europe.
This has been a successful General Motors strategy of late, revamping its European models and offering the restyled versions in the North American market. Verano’s goal was to reach the entry-level luxury sedan buyer, the first-time luxury car shopper. Buick says its primary targets were buyers aiming at the Acura TSX, Lexus IS 250 and Volvo V30.It’s good to have a target and, in some respects, the Verano is a strong competitor. Its pricing is much more attractive than those other models, and it has a stronger engine than some of its competitors and reasonable gas mileage.
I tested a sparkling white diamond tricoat version of the Verano FWD 1SL with leather interior. That’s the top model, with a starting price of $25,965. The only extra was $495 for that gorgeous paint job. Toss on the $885 delivery charge, and the test car was $27,345. A base Verano lists at $22,585, and the next-level-up Convenience model is $23,785.
Gas mileage is attractive, too. The EPA estimates it at 21 mpg city and 32 highway, with the car capable of taking E85 fuel or regular unleaded. I got 26.6 mpg in about 70% highway driving.
In size, Verano is about 5 inches longer than a Ford Focus sedan, has about an inch longer wheelbase and weighs about 300 pounds more. Compared with the current Acura TSX, the Buick is about 140 pounds lighter, an inch shorter in wheelbase at 105.7 inches, and about 2 inches shorter in length.
Buick offers a 2.4-liter direct-injected 180-horsepower engine, which is perfect for this size car. That’s still 30 horsepower less than the sportier handling TSX, but then the Verano delivers a fine six-speed automatic transmission, compared to a five-speed in the Acura. However, a manual transmission is available in the TSX, while none is offered in the Buick.
The upshot is that, at 3,300 pounds, the Buick feels solid, with good acceleration from the engine and smooth shifts from its new transmission. It’s not racy, but Verano is competent getting up to highway speeds, with no sudden up or downshifts.Designers use an independent suspension up front and semi-independent Z-link rear suspension that softens up our often harsh area streets for a comfortable, controlled ride. In compact cars, a stiff ride often is the biggest turnoff for potential buyers. The Buick doesn’t try to be sporty in this area, being content to offer comfort over performance.
Steering is relatively heavy and moderately responsive, but there is a bit of play in the wheel. Again, Buick goes for luxury over sporty precision. Handling is good, but there is some slight lean during cornering.
Braking comes from four-wheel discs with ABS and GM’s Stabilitrack stability control system. Traction control also is standard. The car rolls on 18-inch tires and alloy wheels.
Inside you’ll know this is a luxury make once you start the engine. It’s quiet, very quiet. Buick has used more sound-deadening material, including thicker acoustic laminated glass. The quiet interior helps you enjoy the Bose sound system, not to mention other passengers’ conversations.
I like the interior styling. Materials look and feel good, with soft leather seats and dash and door trim. This one had a brown dash over a tan that was too caramel color for me. The brushed metal accent trim around small fake wood inserts in the doors and around the center stack look great.
This model had a power driver’s seat, but manual passenger’s seat, that were generally comfortable. Rear seat passengers liked the seat’s comfort level, and headroom is generous. But if there is an average height or taller person up front, there is precious little legroom in back. Some of that legroom may have been sacrificed for a larger, 15.2 cubic-foot trunk.
In keeping with the Buick’s luxury leanings, there’s a heated steering wheel, three-speed heated seats and both cruise and radio controls on the steering wheel hub. The wheel tilts and telescopes.All the gauges and buttons are well arranged and look fine. Everything is easy to see and use. There’s a digital trip computer readout between the main gauges, which is controlled via a stalk on the steering column’s left side. A ring turns to select new readouts.
My only real concern, as with many cars of late, is the large A pillar, which partially blocks front to side vision. Buick tries to help that with a small fixed vent window in the pillar, but I still found it obstructing my view at times.
Few cars are perfect, especially the first time off the drawing board. But the Verano is a fine entry-level luxury sedan at an attractive price. If you value luxury and value over sporty feel and performance, check out this quiet, fine riding new sedan.