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2013 Buick Verano Turbo First Drive Review: Pampering with Pep

By KBB.com Editors on October 18, 2012 9:07 AM
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Like the rest of Buick's vehicles, the Verano sedan is known for its comfortable accommodations and easygoing road manners. And as with the rest of Buick's recently freshened lineup, this compact car is trying to attract a new generation of buyers to GM's premium brand, not just those who enjoy boasting about their grandchildren.

The past few years have seen Buick achieving that goal by making smaller, more exciting vehicles with youthful looks and a focus on technology. The Verano's debut in 2012 continued that momentum, and Buick isn't wasting time trying to further capitalize on the compact car's success.

The plan was pretty simple, and put succinctly by a Buick engineer: "Add a bunch of power." Buick's team swapped the Verano's standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine for GM's well-regarded Ecotec 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The transplant means a bump from 180 horsepower to 250 ponies and a negligible loss in fuel economy. The Buick Verano Turbo achieves 30 mpg highway with an auto transmission and 31 mpg with a manual, compared with 32 mpg highway for the regular, auto-only model.

According to Buick executives, the goal wasn't to make the Verano into a tarmac burner, but to simply give it "unexpected performance." Was the operation a success? Buick invited us to drive the new 2013 Verano Turbo all over rural Kentucky roads to find out.

The first thing we noticed about the Verano Turbo wasn't its newfound muscle - we had yet to press the start button - but rather its plush accommodations and the price point at which they came. The turbo model now represents the Verano's top version, officially linked to the Premium Group within the trim level. Starting at $29,990 including destination, this Verano is loaded with unexpected goods such as a plush leather interior, heated steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring system.

Once we settled into the Verano Turbo's supple driver's seat, we began our journey out of Louisville. Power came on strong and without hesitation. The dreaded "turbo lag" - where a second or two can feel like an eternity when you stomp the gas pedal and wait for power to kick in while a semi-truck barrels down in the rearview mirror - was not evident. Power came immediately thanks to a twin-scroll turbocharger, and the 6-speed automatic transmission did a good but not wonderful job ticking up and down the gears. A sport mode and paddle shifters are not present in the 2013 Verano Turbo, but for those seeking complete control a 6-speed manual transmission can be had as a no-cost option.

Buick says the Verano Turbo's suspension is about 20 percent stiffer than the standard car, but tackling twisties is still not this car's strong suit.

So what is this vehicle's forte? Quiet, comfortable cruising. Like its naturally aspirated brethren, the new Verano Turbo stands out as a small car that is actually a pleasure to drive as the miles roll on. It's rare to find a compact sedan at this price point that is as quiet and comfortable as the Verano. Adding 70 horsepower has not transformed the Verano into a deviant, but with the ability to blast from 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, the Verano Turbo does indeed deliver unexpected performance.

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