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2012 Buick Verano Performance

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The 2012 Buick Verano is hardly pulse-quickening, but we don't think that's part of the Verano's mission statement (its extreme quiet might have something to do with it, honestly). For raciness, there's the refined but still giddy Regal GS.

The Verano gets a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission in all variations (it's the only powertrain), and it's by no means quick, but it's responsive enough for most needs and very smooth. Buick says 0-60 mph takes 8.9 seconds (just a few tenths shorter than the Cruze 1.4T), and the 2.4-liter, while it has decent grunt off the line, seems to lack its full stride if you're much below 4,000 rpm or not really mashing the throttle. There are no paddle-shifters, but you do have full manual control if you slide the shift lever over to the side.

For a vehicle that emphasizes comfort and quiet, the 2012 Buick Verano is surprisingly capable and fun to drive.

The suspension layout, and the basic geometry of it, are actually shared with the Cruze, although the pieces themselves are different. With a MacPherson strut design in front, paired with a Z-link (Watt's linkage) design in back, GM engineers argue that you actually get better, more predictable response and better body control on quick transitions—no matter the surface. even compared to an independent setup. Four-wheel disc brakes and a relatively quick steering ratio (with a fat, somewhat small-diameter steering wheel) complete the hints of sportiness.

Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, even if the pedal feel is old-lux spongy. Handling is better than you might think, given the Verano's relatively soft ride; it's safe, responsive, and even quite fun, with a sense of confidence and more enjoyment than in cushy alternatives such as the Lexus ES 350.

And all the while, if you're driving hard, this whole “quiet tuning” thing plays mind games. With so much foam and matting, engine sounds distant, even at full throttle--not at all a bad thing, really.

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