2012 Buick Verano Review | National Post
By Brian Harper, National Post
It moves in silence through the night.
Though that sounds like the start of a really cheesy poem – or lyrics from an equally terrible touchy-feely ’70s “love ballad” – it also describes a moment I had with Buick’s new Verano compact sedan.
It was late, I was heading home from the airport after a long day, yet there was still enough traffic on the highway that I couldn’t switch to auto-pilot. I pulled into the far lane and joined a line of cars. With some rock anthem playing in the background on its radio, the Verano glided along with unruffled calm – as Buicks are wont to do – clearing my mind of the stresses of the day.
Perhaps I was a little too unstressed as I looked down at the speedometer and saw I was zipping along at a scofflaw 130 kilometres an hour. Alrighty, then, time to take it down a notch and rejoin the land of the law-abiding.
The thing is, the Verano is powered by a 180-horsepower 2.4-litre DOHC Ecotec four-cylinder, not a larger-displacement underworked V6. So, the fact that the car could sneak up to that speed without offering an audible clue is a testament to both the smoothness of what is fast becoming my favourite non-performance-oriented General Motors engine as well as the sound-deadening qualities of the sedan.
And, make no mistake, GM has sweated the details in its goal to make the Verano the quietest compact sedan on the road. The company developed a number of systems, processes and components – under what it calls QuietTuning – that are designed to block or absorb sound and dampen or eliminate vibrations.
Some of the features include a headliner comprised of five layers of thermal fibre acoustic material, triple-sealed doors, nylon baffles in various hollow parts of the body structure and extra-thick acoustic laminated windshield and side glass. The result is a car that has the characteristics of its larger Buick siblings in a four-fifths-sized package.
The Verano might not have quite the same tomb-like quality of a Lexus ES, but it comes damn close – and at a price point significantly lower than the high-end Toyota.
The silent ride is not the only song on the Verano’s playlist.It’s a handsome vehicle as well – carrying some blingy Buick design cues from the LaCrosse and Regal – without going to the extremes of similar-sized Asian products. I especially like the steeply raked windshield and sloping rear pillars as well as the black chrome waterfall grille and portholes.
The EcoBoost engine delivers reasonable performance and fuel economy along with an overall pleasant driving experience.
The Ecotec 2.4L is mated to a six-speed manumatic, which results in an acceleration time of about nine seconds to reach 100 kilometres an hour. That’s not bad considering Buick makes no pretense regarding the Verano being a sport sedan of any stripe. That said, General Motors has debuted the Verano Turbo for the 2013 model year, replete with a 250-hp turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine under its hood.
As for fuel economy, the Verano is rated at 6.2 litres per 100 km on the highway – which will ease the pain at the pumps during longer trips – though my week with the tester saw a far more realistic 10 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway usage.
Buick considers the Lexus IS 250, Audi A3 and the recently replaced Acura CSX to be the Verano’s key competitors, not the BMW 1 Series or Mercedes C-Class. From that, it’s reasonable to assume that the Verano won’t wallow like a canoe in a motorboat’s wake, but neither should you consider autocrossing it.
Steering inputs are handled by an electric power steering system, which has a nice weight to it without the dead feeling that appears in some similar systems on competitors.
And, in addition to the standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution, the Verano comes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control with traction control.
The sedan also has an impressive number of air bags – 10 in all – including frontal, head curtain side air bags, front and outboard rear-seat side-impact air bags and knee air bags.
The interior is typical Buick in that the overall cabin layout is warm and inviting, with soft-touch materials, nice use of trim bits, easy-on-the-eyes ambient lighting and seats that provide an equal measure of comfort and support. The only things that disappoint are the instrument gauges, which are remarkably downmarket in a car with more than a few nods toward the upscale side of the compact sedan segment.
Speaking of compact, the utility of the Buick as a family four-seater is, like most cars of its dimensions (4,671 millimetres in length), totally dependent on the size of the family. Rear-seat comfort will take a hit if those in the front have their seats back in the tracks. Maybe you can stash some members in the trunk (just kidding) as there is a very usable 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space to be had.
The Buick Verano, while not textbook, is still another feather in GM’s cap – an über-quiet, comfortable sedan (a Buick trait), right-sized and priced for people who don’t mind a taste of luxury in a smaller package. Its serenity might even inspire bad poetry.