In the past, the Buick division’s forays into the compact car category have been unconvincing. But with the Verano, its more recent attempts are much more positive. To win buyers over, the Verano combines an efficient platform, complete equipment, a meticulous finish and flawless handling. In a few months, it has become one of the most popular cars in the luxury compact category, surpassing quality cars like the Audi A3 and Lexus IS.
In offering the Turbo version, Buick adheres to the same policy as with the Regal, in that it has a more powerful engine that gets the most out of the platform and enhances the driving experience for those who want a more dynamic car.
First things first: You should know that Buick resisted the temptation to make the Verano Turbo a semi-luxury “little hot rod” with an ultra firm suspension, a flashy exterior and low-profile tires that would improve handling but negate comfort.
Instead, they installed a more muscular engine under the hood, adjusted the suspension accordingly, and ensured that the exterior remained tasteful in appearance. In fact, the only external signs that the Turbo is different from the regular version are the very discrete insignia at the rear displaying the letter T, a dual exhaust and a small deflector on the edge of the trunk. The rest is identical. The choice to keep it subtle was logical as I don’t believe that Buick buyers necessarily want to drive a really flashy car. Several decent Pontiacs died for that very reason: they were just too showy.
Not changing the car’s unassuming nature and raising its equipment level were good decisions. In addition to the 2.0-litre turbo with 250 horses and 260 lbs-ft of torque, the factory standard equipment includes packages that are offered on option on the version with the naturally-aspirated engine. But before going into the details, I should specify that you can order this model with the factory standard six-speed automatic transmission or with an optional six-speed manual gearbox. Regardless of your choice, the price remains the same.
Otherwise, this slightly more powerful and more posh version also includes leather seats, a back-up camera, aluminum sport pedals, Side Blind Zone Alert and the IntelliLink computerized radio and satellite navigation management system. Also note that there’s a heated steering wheel and a Bose audio system with nine speakers.
Equipping a car with a more powerful engine doesn’t necessarily translate to a more fun ride or improved handling. Engineers often try to do too much to the handling with the result being that the ride isn’t much more fun and comfort goes out the window.
This time, modesty won out and they did just enough to take advantage of the Turbo’s 70 additional horses. It has the same 18-inch tires as the regular version and their relatively high profile guarantees good comfort while offering more than adequate handling. Same goes for the suspension that has been made slightly firmer to guarantee better control in curves, but here again, the philosophy was to do no more than necessary.
We first got our hands on the Verano Turbo on the winding roads outside of Louisville, Kentucky. There, we discovered a car that goes from 0-100 km/hr in less than seven seconds and devours curves confidently, even when travelling faster than the legally posted speed limit. Also note that the turbocharger produces neither a whistling sound nor lag. We should add that the torque effect in the steering wheel is imperceptible.
The brakes are powerful and progressive. My travelling companion, Costas Mouzouris, tested the braking power when a stray dog jumped out in front of our car. The dog came away unscathed thanks to Costas’ reflexes and the car’s braking ability. I should also mention that the soundproofing in the passenger compartment is efficient.
But that doesn’t mean that we were driving a soundproof cocoon completely devoid of any feedback from the road. Despite its comfort and very quiet passenger compartment, this car allows the driver to appreciate the ride, be it on a back road or on a highway. And although the manual transmission that we tested is equipped with a progressive clutch and good gear selection, it doesn’t seem to belong in this car. Personally, I’d go for the automatic gearbox that is on par with anything else in this category.
In short, the Verano Turbo is a pleasant car that offers good performance, sound handling and reasonable comfort. And when you consider that it costs just $30,900, our verdict is even more positive.