2013 Buick Verano Turbo
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  • 2013 Buick Verano Turbo
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Not Luxury. Not Sport. Not Buick. Not Bad.



Those of you who still think of the Buick Verano as some sort of callously badge-engineered, gussied up version of the Chevrolet Cruze ("Why would anyone spend that much money on Buick's Cruze?" you may have been heard to mutter) have got the wrong idea. Entirely. Even in its most modest form, the Verano turns out to be a sedan that is feature-rich, insulated from wind and road noise in proper luxury car fashion, pretty good to drive and not bad to look at in the new school of high-nosed pedestrian-impact-regulated fashion. In a less modest form then, one that attaches the word "Turbo" to the moniker and plops a force-fed 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood, the Verano is downright interesting.

Of course, "interesting" is rarely a descriptor that fills one with lust – and so it goes with this example. There are two competing forces within this near-premium subcompact sedan, and the balance struck between them must resonate with any potential customer before the Verano Turbo can become a serious purchase consideration.
The first, and arguably most potent of these forces, is the overarching "new Buick" tuning and vibe that percolates through the Verano. The interior is clad in soft but not particularly rich leather; the seats are quite comfortable but a long way from sporting or very supportive in dynamic situations; the car is whisper quiet pretty much all of the time, even under full-throttle acceleration; and the sound system offers clear and bright audio, without an overabundance of power or depth. Everywhere we look and feel in the Verano, we're met by materials and workmanship that offer a clear cut above the average, without ever being truly exceptional.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo side view2013 Buick Verano Turbo front view2013 Buick Verano Turbo rear view

Just a few degrees of throttle has the Verano Turbo doing its best Mazdaspeed3 impression.

The other force evident in the Turbo is headlined by the eponymous 2.0T engine, and to a lesser extent, in the case of our test car, the six-speed manual gearbox that manages its power. In the accessible, forceful thrust of this 250-horsepower, 260-pound-feet four-cylinder engine, we feel something that is pretty un-Buick-like – at least in terms of existing brand stereotypes. The company lists a 0-60 miles per hour time of 6.2 seconds, and we'd believe it if someone told us that a few tenths quicker than that is easily possible. And the run up to 60 mph is hardly the point with this mill. The real fun is had by way of its broad torque curve, at mid-range speeds (say, 50-70 mph), where just a few degrees of throttle has the Verano Turbo doing its best Mazdaspeed3 impression. Yes, that means it's pretty quick.

The aforementioned 6MT may not be a standout in the increasingly small world of do-it-yourself transmissions, but it's pretty slick. The short throws and positive, light action of the gear lever are bolstered by a clutch that is progressive with an easy-to-find take-up point. There's a fair amount of slop in the wide shift gates, but not so much that the overall shifting experience is spoiled for us. The engine and trans work well together, delivering a feeling of accessible enthusiasm with all of the sharp edges sanded down.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo engine

Buick hasn't really touched the underpinnings of the Verano for this go-fast iteration.

That elusive third pedal in this manual-trans sedan is also, we should say, the best of the trio in terms of feel. We were initially put off by the spongy feel of the brake pedal in slow-speed stopping situations, and grew to be legitimately annoyed by it when we starting hauling the Buick down from higher speeds. Outright stopping power wasn't the issue, the standard issue 16-inch units front/rear got the job done, but the rate at which we felt the initial bite of the brakes was disappointing. Similarly, the throttle response at low-revs was pretty lackluster for an engine this torquey – due in no small part to the long-travel of the unsporting gas pedal.

The car certainly benefits from having a well-tuned basic chassis to start with, especially because Buick hasn't really touched the underpinnings of the Verano for this go-fast iteration. The Turbo doesn't offer the same torque-steer reducing HiPer Struts of its big brother, the Regal GS, but its independently sprung MacPherson units still manage to keep the nose headed quickly in the requested direction. And, critically, they offer a smoothly modulated ride over bumps, swales and potholes. The Verano, as ever, feels particularly well balanced for a front-wheel-drive vehicle when moving from corner to corner, though the Turbo certainly does nothing to break new ground in the sport handling department.

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The Verano Turbo could be one hell of a Chevy Cruze SS.

By now, we'd be surprised if you weren't catching on to the head-scratching ambivalence that this small, quick Buick generated in us. At heart, it's a perfectly nice car in almost every area, fitted with a potent engine/transmission combination for this class, but without any trace of the involving character that would engender passion in someone who cares about driving for pleasure.

Part of the problem, we can't help thinking, is that, pushed in the "sport" direction, the Verano Turbo could be one hell of a Chevy Cruze SS. Stiffen the springs, quicken the steering, bolt on a throatier exhaust and tweak the throttle mapping a bit (don't forget bigger brakes), and you've got a hot-hatch-like sedan that would give every GTI, GLI, Speed3 and Focus ST a real scare if you also brought it down to Chevy-scale pricing.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo interior2013 Buick Verano Turbo gauges2013 Buick Verano Turbo infotainment system2013 Buick Verano Turbo shifter

Pushed towards the true luxury buyer, the Verano might shine brighter as well. We've mentioned that we do like the car's overall cabin design and suite of technology, but the truth is that a few more dollars spent on metal, leather and real wood (if you must) in the cabin would make it more of a credible premium space. A slightly glitzier center stack in place of the dull, button-heavy unit there now could potentially net Audi comparisons. Don't misunderstand – the Verano Turbo's insides offer quite a good luxury-like value, but that's a different thing than being luxurious.

It easily outpaces the few other quasi-luxury players in the country.

Even as it stands now, though, the Turbo is a dominating competitor for cars that make very little noise in the US market like the Acura ILX 2.4 and the Audi A3 2.0T. In terms of both performance and specification, the Buick easily outpaces the few other quasi-luxury players in the country. In fact, the competitors that feel most closely aligned with the Verano Turbo in terms of size and performance are entry-lux stalwarts like the BMW 328i and the Audi A4 2.0T.

But the Buick brand is still so poorly defined and badly regarded by young, hip premium car buyers that we might be considered optimistic if we said the Verano is a "few generations" away from having the reputational chops to dice with those traditional luxury marques. And, as Acura has learned over the years, front-drive luxury cars are always going to be stigmatized as being somewhat second-rate compared to rear-drive and all-wheel-drive competitors.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo rear 3/4 view

The Verano Turbo, like the Regal GS introduced before it, will likely be pointed to as an example of Buick turning the corner, if, years from now, General Motors' most ill-understood brand can start to build a reputation for itself again amongst youngish American shoppers. Dual-natured though it may be, the high-po Verano is, quite honestly, entertaining to drive, and priced and spec'd very well against a pretty weak set of direct competitors. But that future is both uncertain and likely to be pretty far off.

As a proposition for buyers in the here and now, then, the confusing messages abound: Buick's core values have never really included having cars that are small, tech-laden, quick and fashion-forward – at least not all of those, all at once. (To both members of the Buick Reatta Fan Club, you have our sincerest apologies.) A semi-sporting, near-luxury subcompact Buick sedan (with optional manual transmission, don't forget) is anything but run of the mill, but it may not be the car that turns buyers out in droves, either.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 204 Comments
      NMeng
      • 2 Years Ago
      I have quite a soft spot for Buick these days. I'd say this is the best value on the market for someone who just wants a 4-door with some pep and a nice interior. I'm waiting to see if GM gives us a Buick on the ATS platform, with the Gen5 4.3 V6 and a manual transmission....
        steve
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NMeng
        Yeah, I'm really liking Buick these days, except this car is my least favorite. I feel like the Regal GS is still the best option and can't quite understand why Buick is selling 3 similiar in size and price sedans. I am so excited for Cascada to make it stateside and maybe even a Regal coupe. I disagree with the writer here and actually see Buick gaining steam faster than he expects. They just next Cascada as a halo and an ATS platform Flagship plus a good advert sceme.
      jtav2002
      • 2 Years Ago
      Quicker than the GS. SMH.
      Hello
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car should be really fun to drive, I have a Cruze Eco 6MT with the trifecta tune which gives it an extra 30hp/50torque and its a blast to drive while still getting 38.5mpg for the 30k miles I've put on it.
        foxtrot685
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hello
        We have the trifecta tune on our 2LT cruze 6M/T (It is so much fun, torquey lil thing!), and as far as I know they do have a tune for the 2.0L turbo so you could turn up the heat a bit in one of these :D
        ChaosphereIX
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hello
        Verano Turbos with trifecta tunes are putting out impressive numbers, think 300hp/320tq, and that makes it amazing fun. I can relate kida as I have a 285hp 2.0T Saab 9-3, JZW tuned, and it is freakishly fast from a roll...
          ChaosphereIX
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ChaosphereIX
          @Nightflight: You have no idea what you are talking about. JZW is amazing. His website is not the greatest, he is not a web designer. He is a racer and a tuner. His customer support is second to none, ranks right up there with Mushkin [for those reading this in the know for computer hardware, you know what I mean]. His tunes are fantastic and infinitely variable. He works with you until you are completely satisfied with the tune, often going above and beyond. He races Saabs and is a vault of knowledge on their workings. Just check out the Saabcentral forums and read some of the anecdotes concerning his service. His product is better than all of the other Saab tuners like BSR, Maptun, Nordic, etc., save perhaps Brian from VTuner - who is also very good. Do some research before you go spouting disrespectful comments like that. A fancy website is not an indication of a quality tuner. Almost all reputable tuners who are not big companies have poor websites - they put all their time and effort into their craft and their customers. I would rather have an amazing tune with great customer support LONG after I purchase their product than a fancy website where I am just another number and I get a canned tune.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ChaosphereIX
          JZWs website is garbage. I honestly would be afraid of buying a product from such an unprofessional looking/sounding company.
          ChaosphereIX
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ChaosphereIX
          why would you downvote me for defending a reputable tuner who takes the time and effort to tune a car long ignored by the big box tuners? His work is impeccable and he is a really nice and professional guy. Do you downvoters have personal experience with John that I am not aware of? Instead of just downvoting because you have a hate on for Saabs [baaaaaaaaa I say] then speak up and say what John did to earn your ire.
      features
      • 2 Years Ago
      Those Chrome Eyebrows on the rear look like AngryBirds from the game.
      Cruising
      • 2 Years Ago
      Now with Pontiac gone, Buick must take advantage of that void left. Granted these are luxury cars but Buick has always had the itch for performance. Cars like the 1910 Buick Bug race car, 60s and 70s Riviera, Gran Sport, Skylark all traditional musce cars and GNX. Heck even the Reatta was intended to be a sports car until they went more tradional GT car, big mistake. Not be out done the late 90s Riviera with supercharged engine of all things.
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      How things change. A Buick with a manual would have been unthinkable a few years back.
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        A Buick that young people want would have been unthinkable a few years back.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        Nickoo
        • 2 Years Ago
        California young professional here. Not sure where your claim is coming from. Not a single person I know drives or would seriously consider driving a buick. As a matter of fact, I can't recall even having seen a single buick of any year in any of the multiple large parking lots at work. Almost everyone drives Trucks/SUVs/performance sedans or don't care about cars and drives a bland-mobile. Then again, there is that one guy who drives a SAAB...One of GMs other failed brands.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nickoo
          [blocked]
      le9193
      • 2 Years Ago
      "But the Buick brand is still so poorly defined and badly regarded by young, hip premium car buyers that we might be considered optimistic if we said the Verano is a "few generations" away from having the reputational chops to dice with those traditional luxury marques." It's comments like this, that make me infuriated I wasted my time reading articles like this. Review the car, not the brand. Especially with such a strongly negative demeanor... This car is absolutely everywhere, and down in the Princeton, NJ, Post 2008 Buick's are just as blended in with the Mercedes and BMW's. The Verano is a response to the dramatic turn around Buick has managed. And throwing such exaggerated comments such as that, do nothing but degrade a car, it's current/potential customers, and the brand.
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @le9193
        @ le9193 "This car is absolutely everywhere" Umm, no it isn't at all actually. It isn't even selling that well, and neither is the Regal which has been a sales flop.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          @ le9193 Awww, did I offend you? You must own one of these things. In Great Falls, a MORE affluent area than Princeton, there isn't a single one on the road. Affluent people wouldn't buy a POS entry level Buick either, so it isn't like your opinion means anything anyway. The ILX is a joke as well, but so is the Verano. It isn't a luxury car, at all. Just buy a loaded D segment sedan and you are better off. Nice job with the insults though. Do you lack the intelligence to actually have a conversation?
          le9193
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          Umm, no. Sorry to disappoint you, but like I stated this car, IN THE PRINCETON area like I had stated is everywhere. An affluent area, therefore I think Buick is achieving what it has intended. And you're a fool. Since when is 40,000 sales of a car in a new category a sales flop? Lets compare it to the ILX. You sound absolutely clueless. And I never stated it was a huge success story, or that buick so far in completely transformed into one. So relax with your ridiculous, clearly biased remarks.
          Fixitfixitstop
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          Really? I see them all over the place here.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          @ Fixitfixitstop Great Falls, VA. Look up the demographics.
          Fixitfixitstop
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          NightFlight, if you're speaking about Great Falls, MT and comparing it to New Jersey, that's absurd. There are 8x as many people in NJ than in the entire state of Montana, and we're probably 10,000x more densely populated. You will see a lot more cars near Princeton than you will near Great Falls. Period.
        artandcolour2010
        • 2 Years Ago
        @le9193
        I couldn't agree with you more, Le9193. Well written.
      ilski
      • 2 Years Ago
      haha I would rather get an Accord V6 for the same money (30k). Much much bigger, roomier, more reliable, 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, 21/34 mpg. It's terrible that this 2.0L turbo from GM can only muster 21/31 mpg. This car arrived 5 years too late.
        Chris
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ilski
        If this is all true, how come the Acura ILX (made by Honda) cannot achieve the same? All said and done, the Accord chassis is BRAND new, as in months, while the Verano chassis has been out years as the Cruze. You're comparing apples and oranges. And the term "more reliable" is purely subjective especially considering who's mouth it's coming from. Isn't it cliche yet to say (by default) that your Japanese import is "more reliable" than an American car, with nothing to back up your claim to compare the two cars in question? You're showing your age, my friend.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris
          It isn't a stretch at ALL to predict that the Accord will be more reliable than this turbo Verano.
        ChaosphereIX
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ilski
        Verano and Accord are not competitors. Apples and oranges here. Acura ILX is the Verano competitor, and it fails to compete until Honda wakes up and gives it more power. ILX cant compete with the Verano in terms of quiet ride and interior refinement, however. I know I am biased, but go and sit in both and tell me different.
      • 2 Years Ago
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        tylermars.design
        • 2 Years Ago
        Here, ladies and gentlemen, we see the wild troll in it's natural habitat. Picking apart the tiniest of terrible nuances to make his attack, obviously entirely unknowledgeable about his prey..............
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tylermars.design
          [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      kopter28
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sure, it's not some sort of callously badge-engineered, gussied up version of the Chevrolet Cruze, but it is a BADLY badge-engineered Opel Astra. Technically and mechanically this is a great car but I would never buy one because it just looks wrong with all the unnecessary chrome and useless Buick port holes. Buick would do much better if they did callously badge-engineered this to look exactly like the Opel Astra with Buick badges. Better yet, as someone suggested GM should just kill the Buick name and bring Opels here. Than I would buy one for sure.
        James
        • 2 Years Ago
        @kopter28
        You could just buy a set of Opel badges on eBay if the brand label is all that's holding you back.
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