Vital Stats

Engine:
2.4L I4
Power:
180 HP / 171 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
8.6 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,300 LBS
Seating:
2 + 3
Cargo:
15.2 CU-FT
MPG:
21 City / 31 HWY

GM Seeks To Define Compact Luxury Very, Very Quietly



Every six months or so, we drive a car that exceeds our expectations. Such is the case with the all-new 2012 Buick Verano, the American automaker's fresh new entrant into the $25,000 compact luxury segment.

Wait a minute – what's this so-called "$25,000 compact luxury" segment?

Buick explains that there is a window of opportunity for a small luxury sedan priced below the Audi A3, Lexus IS 250 and Acura TSX sedan, but above the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze. After identifying the void, Buick's objective was to develop a vehicle that was quieter, more luxurious and better equipped than anything close to its $23,470 cost of entry. Even loaded with every option, the Verano won't exceed $29,000, a figure which cleanly undercuts all of the aforementioned luxury imports by several thousand dollars.

Buick flew us up to Portland, Oregon, last week for an opportunity to put more than 250 miles on its new Verano in the spectacularly scenic Northwest. We arrived intrigued, and left very impressed.


Buick's third new model in as many years debuted at this year's Detroit Auto Show. Its first compact since the Buick Skylark was dropped in 1999, the Verano (Spanish for "summer") is built on General Motors' Delta II platform, an architecture shared with the Chevrolet Cruze. But don't be mistaken that this is just another one of GM's ill-advised exercises in badge engineering – it isn't. The Verano shares some suspension underpinnings with its economy-oriented cousin, but the powertrain and cabin appointments scream upmarket Regal - or even baby LaCrosse.

Let's peel back the sheetmetal and take a closer look inside.

2012 Buick Verano side view2012 Buick Verano front view2012 Buick Verano rear view

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder model will arrive sometime in 2012.

Set behind the signature waterfall grille and beneath the silly do-nothing portholes on the hood is GM's Ecotech 2.4-liter four-cylinder powerplant that's shared with the Regal. A larger engine than the Cruze's 1.4-liter turbo and 1.8-liter normally aspirated four-cylinder choices, this all-aluminum engine features direct injection and continuous variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust to deliver 180 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 171 pound-feet of torque at 4,900 rpm on regular fuel. The naturally aspirated, E85-capable engine is mated to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission (Hydra-Matic 6T45) sending power to the front wheels. With a curb weight of 3,300 pounds, Buick says the Verano will hit 60 mph from a standstill in 8.6 seconds – respectable for a vehicle promising an EPA rating of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway. If you are seeking a bit more punch, you'll want to wait for the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder model that Buick says will arrive sometime in 2012.

The front suspension is independent with MacPherson struts, while the rear is configured with a torsion beam augmented by a Watts Z-link design to keep things in check. There are disc brakes at all four corners, with single-piston steel calipers clamping down on 11.8-inch ventilated rotors up front and 11.5-inch solid discs in the rear. Standard wheels are 18-inch cast aluminum alloy, wearing 235/45R18 all-season tires at all four corners (there is also a compact temporary spare under the carpet in the trunk).

Buick has gone the extra mile, or two, to isolate the mechanical underpinnings and their associated operating noises from those within the cabin. Before sound makes its way to the ears of people riding in the Verano's cabin, it must figure out a way to permeate two damping mats on the firewall, nylon and foam baffles strategically located within hollow parts of the chassis, five layers of acoustic headliner, sound deadener on the underbody sheetmetal and trunk, triple-seal doors, 5.4-mm acoustic laminated windshield and 4.85-mm acoustic-laminated side glass. Even the brake and fuel lines have been isolated to prevent vibrations from entering the cabin. We've talked before about how hushed this car's more plebeian Bowtie cousin is, and the Verano's Quiet Tuning checklist muffles things even further.

In a luxury car, noise abatement is frivolous without a rich interior, and Buick has addressed this as well. For a base price of just $23,470 (including destination charge), passengers inside the Verano are treated to standard leatherette/fabric seating surfaces, cloth-wrapped A-pillars, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sliding center armrest, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, remote engine start and full power accessories. A high-resolution seven-inch LED backlit touchscreen with GM's Intellilink technology (complete with voice control, integrated Pandora Internet radio and Stitcher application) is also standard on entry-level models.

2012 Buick Verano headlight2012 Buick Verano hood vents2012 Buick Verano wheel detail2012 Buick Verano badge

Verano models equipped with the Convenience Group are fitted with rear park assist, heated side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Leather Group adds natural hides (the same high-grade skins are used in the LaCrosse), a power-operated driver's seat, push-button keyless start and an upgraded Bose audio system. Navigation and a heated steering wheel are about the only options. Even fully loaded, the new compact luxury car will not surpass $29,000.

We put more than 250 miles on the new Verano last week in Oregon. The scenery was spectacular, the weather was semi-cooperative and the other traffic on the forest roads was simply frightening; nothing is more stimulating than an 80,000-pound logging truck coming the opposite direction on a wet two-lane road at 65 mph (the Verano has ten standard airbags and GM says it should be an IIHS Top Safety Pick, but we didn't want to run any tests for them).

2012 Buick Verano interior2012 Buick Verano front seats2012 Buick Verano rear seats2012 Buick Verano trunk

With such luxurious accommodations up front, it's easy to forget that the Verano is a compact car.

Strapped into the front left seat, the driver is presented with an instrument cluster that would be immediately familiar to a Regal owner. Two large analog dials (an 8,000 rpm tachometer and a seriously optimistic 170 mph speedometer) are visible directly through the steering wheel, with smaller coolant temperature and fuel level dials situated above. In the middle is a monochrome multifunction display with trip computer, odometer, and other engine information. The center stack houses the IntelliLink touchscreen at the top, audio/navigation controls in the middle and climate controls at the bottom. A traditional automatic transmission shift lever (PRND +/-) takes front billing on the center console, followed by the electronic parking brake and twin cupholders rimmed in chrome. With the exception of the oddly located start/stop button just below the touchscreen (leaving a strange growth on the side of the steering column on vehicles without it), everything seems logically placed.

We found both front chairs to be very comfortable. The driver's seat on our leather-equipped model was partially power-operated (just the lower cushion), while the front passenger's seat was purely manual in operation, but still adjustable for height (oddly, we genuinely liked it better than the driver's seat for overall comfort). Rear seating was tight for adults, requiring front occupants to slide forward a couple inches to fit everyone agreeably. Yet with such luxurious accommodations up front, it's easy to forget that the Verano is a compact car.

2012 Buick Verano gauges2012 Buick Verano multimedia system2012 Buick Verano engine start/stop button2012 Buick Verano shifter

The view outward was good, but the steeply raked windshield means the jutting A-pillar takes some time to get used to as it sits very far forward. Buick has thoughtfully put fixed quarter light windows at the base of the A- and C-pillars to improve cabin light and peripheral vision, while others in this class just plug them with black plastic panels. They work well.

The all-season tires, low displacement engine and soft suspension all seem to throw in the towel together at about seven-tenths.

On the road, Buick's obsession with noise reduction became immediately evident. From the muted hum of the four-cylinder spinning under the steel hood to the barely discernible slapping of all-season rubber on the pavement, the Verano is one quiet little vault. Low interior noise meant conversation was easy and driving became much less tiresome. Even after 250-plus miles with only a few short stops, we weren't the least bit mentally drained and the supportive seats meant our vertebrae emerged unscathed.

The power from the 2.4-liter was adequate, but much of its steam was lost above legal speeds when attempting two-lane passing maneuvers. We did try a few slower twisty sections with the transmission held in manual mode, running it up to the 7,000 rpm fuel cutoff just to see what happened (it bounces madly on the limiter while dire warnings flash on the center multifunction screen). When pushed to the limit, the all-season tires, low-displacement engine and soft suspension all seem to throw in the towel together at about seven-tenths. It performed better than we expected, but it still won't run with the more expensive Acura TSX, Lexus IS250 or Audi A3 with any of us behind the wheel. Of course, those cars all cost more, and Buick offers the Regal GS for those who prefer performance over pampering.



Admittedly, we initially questioned the need for a compact luxury sedan from Buick (after all, don't centenarians generally prefer larger vehicles?). But after spending some time with the Verano, all joking aside, Buick's strategy appears quite solid.

The new Verano is a remarkable entry-level luxury effort. Its long list of standard features and upscale cabin make other compacts in this bracket look cheap and overvalued, and its tranquil cabin will appeal to anyone who has driven noisy cars costing many thousands more. Its sweeping electronics suite, including standard OnStar technology with crash response, will do its best to tempt younger buyers while Buick's comprehensive warranty with free courtesy transportation serves to sweeten the deal. Driving enthusiasts need not apply, but from just about every other angle, the 2012 Buick Verano makes a pretty compelling argument for itself.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 201 Comments
      Smooth
      • 3 Years Ago
      The car overall seems nice, although the chrome spears on the back don't work on the taillights really IMHO and the wood stuff should be replaced with some "piano black" looking stuff. Everything esle seems fine.....price is good too. But what does it compete with? It's in-between according to the article. They keep bringing up the TSX, when I thought the Regal was TSX territory? What am I missing? Someone help me...... I honestly see this competing with Curze LTZ, Focus Titanium, Mazda3 Grand Touring, Jetta SEL and possibly Elantra Limited. No Civic EX-L......not premium feeling enough IMHO (maybe the supposed 2013 redesign will be though). I can also see this going up against the Lexus CT, new Acura RSX sedan, the A3, and the C30. Kinda all of the "in'-between" cars..... And I hope they quoted the EPA numbers cause those are kinda low for a car this size.....
        AngeloD
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smooth
        I think it matches up perfectly in terms of price and features with the Chrysler 200 with the Pentastar v6.
        languedoctor
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smooth
        The numbers aren't low for a car with a compact car with a curb weight north of 3300 pounds. There's your fueld economy problem, right there.
        languedoctor
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smooth
        Yup. The base price doesn't include the cost of having that chrome removed, and the paint re-touched.
        SYJ
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smooth
        as you noted, Lincoln and Acura will be making similar sedans within the next 2 years or so. There will be a segment for this car, its just the first.
          Uplanderguy
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SYJ
          Buick will trounce them before they even come out. Americans want quality, they buy Buick, not Acura. Nobody is that stupid or unamerican to buy an import
          aatbloke1967
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SYJ
          "Americans want quality, they buy Buick, not Acura. Nobody is that stupid or unamerican to buy an import" Which begs the question why Buick looks to Germany for the Regal and Verano.
          EChid
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SYJ
          Uplanderguy...you are so out to lunch. As aatbloke points out, the Verano is from Germany, and Honda/Acura builds an enormous number of cars in the US/Canada.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SYJ
          [blocked]
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      4gasem
      • 3 Years Ago
      Tail is a a bit funky (LOVE the Regals' tail), but overall, it looks like a good choice. The 2.0T will make it a true contender IMO.
      Chris A.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That's surprisingly poor gas mileage, and it's also sad to see that it doesn't have a four-wheel independent suspension. Although the suspension probably won't matter to the target market as long as it's smooth and quiet, and it probably has better mileage than cars it will be cross-shopped with.
      Raymond
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like a home run to me and quite the looker but I can not wait for the 3 door.
      S2000
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is an exact example of the practice Bob Lutz decried in his recent book, where GM's product planners use spreadsheets and imaginary numbers to slice and dice the market until they magically identify a new niche that is just begging to be filled. To be honest, the way Lutz describes it, this sort of behavior is a great way to waste money and build cars that never existed because nobody wanted them. But... This is a nice looking car, and yes, an entry luxury car that coddles its occupants really does seem like a sales success just waiting to happen. My guess is that Buick won't be able to make these fast enough to satisfy demand, especially in places like China where their brand is really hot and zillions of people aspire to own a car. Great move, GM. Put a decent turbo motor in it and tighten up the suspension a bit, and Buick's transformation to a relevant, lucrative brand will be complete.
      David Thompson
      • 3 Years Ago
      Here's to hoping they'll eventually offer this with the 260hp 2.0 turbo from the cobalt ss (and also ofter the 290hp gm performance parts upgrade), along with all the little handling bits n' pieces from the cobalt ss, since they'll apparently never do it with the cruze.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David Thompson
        [blocked]
        Xedicon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David Thompson
        Oh that would be sooooo sweet! The ride in a TC Cobalt SS is freakishly smooth for such a performance oriented car it really could be used under this baby.
        Elmo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David Thompson
        The LNF has been replaced by the LHO, which is a bit more powerful.
      Alex
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Regal looks better, but this works. Sort of.
        Radwon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Alex
        Yeah, of all the Buicks, have to say the Regal is the ONLY one I would buy. GM got it right. Good size, great ride, well priced for what you get. They should milk that for as long as they can and keep re-badging Opels. It seems to be working.
      JonZeke
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now where's the wagon... that with a 2.0t would be exactly what I want from my next car!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I thought this was going to have a 6 speed manual as well at one point...? did that get axed? (hope not!)
        SYJ
        • 3 Years Ago
        only the turbo will have a manual- just like Regal.
      JasonERF
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have mixed feelings. It's a bit too heavy and slow but that could suit someone like my mom who would just enjoy the safety and comfort. I'll hold out for a sport model to make my final assessment.
        S2000
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JasonERF
        Exactly my thoughts. I know dozens of middle-aged women who would love to have this as their upscale transportation appliance. It's perfectly aimed at that demographic.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        jwashfield
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Government Motors"? Really? I guess you'd be happier if the entire US auto industry tanked?
        jayss2k07
        • 3 Years Ago
        Some of your lines are worth their weight in gold. I idea of Buick sleeping around is priceless. I smiled reading this post. Well done!
        RL
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hey man it has a heated steering wheel. That is very much a luxury car feature. oh my bad this is Laser. forget I mentioned a real luxury feature, back to your ranting
        NightFlight
        • 3 Years Ago
        Wow, a post by Laser where I can actually agree to a couple points? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?!!? I especially agree with the EPA comment, I tried BEYOND what was safe to eek that 32MPG highway figure out of a 2WD 2.4 Equinox in Iowa. Flat roads and driving 65MPH (slower than traffic) and I couldn't even hit 30MPG over about 160 miles of highway driving.
        Tanooki2003
        • 3 Years Ago
        Awesome post Laser. Lol! Very entertaining. I couldn't have said it better, or funnier, myself.
        thealzabo
        • 3 Years Ago
        You forgot to work Obamacare in there...
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        It's not a very fat pig for a luxury car of this size. Comparing to 40 year old cars isn't useful. Just take a look at the inside of a Torino and you'll see instantly where the difference is, and that's before you take into account the safety equipment you can't even see. Weight of a car is not indicative of the engineering of the car. A Bentley weighs 2.5 tons. Poorly engineered? Give me a break. I agree this isn't a very luxurious car, but it also isn't very expensive. I don't see the beef. I'll have to get a better look at that wood sometime. It doesn't look any faker than any other wood applique (including real wood) to me.
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