2012 Buick Verano Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Prior to the restructuring of General Motors in 2009 you could be forgiven for ignoring Buick as being largely irrelevant, but all that has changed over the past four years or so. Buick is back, and has its crosshairs aimed squarely at the top-selling import brands, with a lineup consisting of a popular crossover and a trio of well-executed sedans.

The newest and smallest Buick is the Verano, a compact luxury sport sedan that debuted in early 2011 as a 2012 model. Based on the same Delta II platform as the Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano encompasses all of its less-expensive cousin's many virtues, and expands upon them with much higher levels of refinement, dramatically different styling, a bigger, more powerful engine and a selection of high-end features not offered on the Chevrolet. Far from being an exercise in brand engineering, the result is a distinctive car that offers engaging performance while still maintaining the comfort and luxury expected of Buick.

Stylistically, the Verano shares the same basic profile as the Cruze, but the similarities end there. The two cars have entirely different sheetmetal, with the Verano delivering a much more sculpted, round-edged appearance, and more interesting detailing. At the back are slanted angular taillights with bold chrome brows, while at the front it has Buick's distinctive "waterfall" grille bracketed by swept-back headlights that feature blue highlight rings. In person the overall effect is very successful, and while the Verano's "face" is happy and approachable looking, the car as a whole has an undeniably purposeful, luxurious presence.

Under the hood the Verano gets a 2.4-litre Ecotec engine that develops 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, and is hooked up to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Manual shift control is offered via the console-mounted shifter. I found that the engine provided decent acceleration, and while it doesn't exactly qualify the Verano as a barnburner (published 0-100 km/h times are in the 8 second range) it picks up speed without fuss, drama or noise. Especially not noise: Thanks to Buick's quiet tuning - which uses thicker front and side glass, sound deadening on both sides of the dash, sound-absorbing panels in the wheel wells, foam in the body hollows and a variety of other sound-attenuating techniques  -  the Verano is one of the quietest, most serene cars I've driven recently, quieter even than many larger, more expensive luxury sedans.

In terms of economy, the Verano is quite good for a its segment with rated city/highway fuel consumption of 9.9 / 6.2 L/100km, and I found it possible to achieve mileage reasonably close to the rated numbers in real world driving.

Underpinning the Verano is a MacPherson strut front suspension featuring electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering, and a semi-independent Z-link rear suspension. The steering is quick and accurate enough to be engaging, although it could perhaps use a touch more feedback. Around the corners the Verano offers reasonably good grip and predictable manners, with eventual understeer scrubbing off speed if you overcook things. The ride is everything a luxury sport sedan should be: compliant, composed, and unruffled by minor imperfections in the pavement.

Inside, the Verano is nicely detailed, with soft-touch materials wherever it matters, discreet strips of woodgrain trim (although it's perhaps not the world's most convincing faux wood), a very well-executed touch screen interface (my kids loved the various background graphics that include a guitar and phonograph record player depending on which function is selected) and other nifty touches like perimeter ambient lighting around the console joint, and ice blue instrument lighting. I found the front seats perfectly comfortable for my 5'11", 160-pound (70-kg) frame, and the back seat elicited no complaints from my gangly teenagers. A cavernous trunk means that life's errands and grocery runs can be easily accomplished without having to pack things in Tetris-style.

With a suggested starting price of $24,090 including destination fees, the Verano certainly represents good value in its market segment. Standard equipment includes all the expected conveniences like power windows, power locks, air-conditioning, cruise control, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with USB input, tire pressure monitoring and a programmable driver information centre, but I'd guess that most buyers will want to pony up for the Convenience Group package ($25,460) that adds some of the more desirable luxury extras such as automatic dual-zone air climate control, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, voice-activated audio controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, remote start, and fog lights.

Moving up from there is a Comfort Group package ($26,495) that includes everything from the Convenience Package while adding ultrasonic park assist, a 6-way power drivers seat, heated body-coloured side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. My test car was equipped with the range-topping Leather Group package, which includes everything from the Convenience and Comfort Group packages plus leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a fabulous-sounding nine-speaker Bose premium audio system, passive entry with pushbutton start, heated front seats and 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (17-inch wheels are standard). At $29,115 (plus $1,100 for my car's optional moonroof) this is certainly a biggish step up from the base model, but even fully-loaded like this the Verano still compares favourably to competitors such as the Acura ILX, which starts at $29,735 including destination fees, or the Lexus IS 250 that starts at $34,850, destination in.

It certainly makes the Verano worth checking out if you're in the market for a luxurious and relatively sporty compact sedan.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Luxury Sedan, Buick, 2012, Verano, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Buick

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