When we here at Techshake first met the Buick Verano back in 2012, we raved about the compact Buick’s handsome exterior styling, impressive list of standard equipment, as well as its slick interior design. However, many reviewers noted that the Verano did have one fundamental flaw: its base 2.4 liter four cylinder, which did not have the power needed to move a fairly heavy small car. While the Verano brings less-geriatric buyers into the fold, younger buyers tend to want more performance than the base Verano offers.
Buick has been listening to this feedback, and introduced the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo which aimed to give buyers a much needed boost in horsepower (with only a token fuel economy penalty). With the additional power, the car should be a more convincing contender to rivals such as the Volkswagen GTI, and the Audi A3 which offer a similar blend of performance and comfort. I urgently needed a replacement for my venerable but aging 2001 Chevrolet Malibu and was willing to put my own hard-earned money on the line to learn whether Buick has indeed succeeded in creating a viable contender in the compact-luxury segment.
The exterior styling of this Cyber Grey example is very handsome, and features several elements that not only tie it to Buick’s current lineup, but also the brand’s history. The front fascia takes much of its inspiration from the bigger Buick Lacrosse, and features the familiar Buick waterfall grille as well as Lacrosse-inspired headlight assemblies that allow the car to have a distinctive visual presentation at night. The rear fascia is understated with the exception of chrome “eyebrows” above the tail lamps that focus the eye on the prominent Buick badge in the center of the trunk lid. Buyers have a choice of either 18 inch machined alloy wheels or multi-spoke units outfitted with “Premium Manoogian finish” (a $450 extra). I personally recommend the base wheels as installed on this car because they offer a compelling look without the extra charge associated with the “Manoogian” finished wheels. While we are complaining, the non-functional hood vents are a subtle reference to Ventiports from Buick’s past, but unfortunately do add an unneeded bit of gaudiness to the otherwise clean lines. The Lacrosse’s designer once told us that every Buick going forward would have a Sweep Spear in the rear quarter panel, but neither the Regal nor the Verano have that Buick-specific design feature because the cars are derived from non-Buick GM cars sold elsewhere.
Overall the end result is very discreet and slightly understated, which in the case of the Turbo makes it fit the definition of a “sleeper car.” In fact, the only exterior giveaways that separate the Turbo from its lesser siblings are the dual exhaust tips, a small rear spoiler, as well as the red “T” badge on the trunk lid. However, this conservative suit of clothes also keeps the Verano Turbo from standing out against sportier competitors. The Volkswagen GTI which offers more expressive styling to match its performance intentions, but to my eyes, the Verano Turbo’s shape is a step above the awkward-looking Acura ILX.
The interior of the 2013 Verano Turbo also changes very little from its lesser siblings and comes equipped with much of the equipment that is found in both the Convenience and Leather Package models. The standard leather seats are very comfortable and feel first rate but lack the support that defines thrones from VW and Audi, especially side bolstering and lower back support. There is plenty of knee and leg room up front but like its relative the Chevrolet Cruze, rear seat room is tight and is best suited for small children or small packages. Gauges are clear, stylish, and easy to read, but the center digital display does look like it came from a 1985-vintage Apple IIe and lacks the size, color, and resolution found in some rivals. The center stack that houses the Intellilink infotainment system is very button-intensive and takes some getting used to, but using the built in voice command feature does alleviate some of the frustration, and inputs from the easy to use 7 inch touchscreen were accurate with little lag. Curiously navigation is an optional piece of equipment which is a bit baffling since many rivals offer it as standard equipment. Turbo models are outfitted with metal-look pedals which add a tasteful bit of sportiness to the understated cabin.
As mentioned earlier, the relative lack of performance from the 2.4 liter four cylinder engine was the one key flaw that the base Verano possessed, and I’m pleased to report that the Turbo model does an admirable job in addressing and somewhat resolving this complaint. Motivation comes from a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine borrowed from the Regal Turbo and is rated at 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. These figures are not only higher than the GTI, but also come extremely close to the Focus ST hatchback and are only 2 horsepower and 10 lb-ft short respectively when compared to the Ford. Due to my example not being fully broken in as of this writing, sprints with the turbocharger fully spooled were limited, but look for feedback in that area in a later long term test update when the car passes the 1000-mile mark.
Shifts from the six speed automatic transmission were smooth and accurate with manual mode slightly increasing the fun factor. A six speed manual is available as a no cost alternative but I chose the automatic due to winter driving needs as well as the ability for my parents to move the car in and out of the driveway when necessary.
Handling was composed and secure with good feedback from the electrically assisted steering (a welcome change from the floaty disconnected feel that defined grandpa’s era of Buick offerings), but the all-season tires do howl when pushed hard and generate slightly less grip than many rivals. The suspension in Turbo models is slightly stiffened to accommodate the heavier engine, but it is not that discernibly different from its lesser cousins and still does an excellent job soaking up various bumps dips and road imperfections.
Pricing for the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo begins at $30,000 before options and fees are applied. My example does not have any of the optional equipment installed (a rarity among Turbo models) which allowed the car to achieve a final out-the-door price a bit below that thanks in part to GM family discounts and incentives.
Stay tuned to Techshake for the ongoing long term updates on the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo to find out the pros and cons of owning the smallest Buick as well as how the car measures up against rivals such as the upcoming Mercedes Benz CLA250 and the Acura ILX in the rapidly growing compact luxury car segment. Don’t forget also that we are covering three other long-term testers: 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost, 2011 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost, and 2013 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD.