The 2013 Buick Verano stands by with its mildly entertaining levels of performance, courtesy a well-sorted independent suspension, electric power steering, and a smooth four-cylinder engine. When it's turbocharged, straight-line performance is much more urgent--but handling is only mildly altered, leaving us to think the Verano might be better off with the turbo's suspension and steering settings across the board.
The Verano may be related to the Chevy Cruze, but instead of the Cruze's turbocharged 1.4-liter four, it derives its power from a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. The front-driver teams power to a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination is smooth and responsive enough, but not truly quick--Buick estimates its 0-60 mph acceleration at 8.6 seconds, a bit quicker than the Cruze, and roughly competitive with the like of the Acura ILX and Audi A3. The four-cylinder requires a heavy touch on the throttle, really only coming to life over 4000 rpm. And since it lacks paddle shifters, you'll want to slide the automatic's shift lever to the side to engage manual control of the gears.
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.
The Verano Turbo has a different story to tell. With displacement downsized to 2.0 liters, power is boosted to 250 horsepower through the small miracle of turbocharging. Peak torque of 260 pound-feet arrives down at 1,700 rpm and sticks around all the way 5,500 rpm, near the redline. Behind the Verano's thickly padded firewall and dense layer of acoustic glass, there's hardly a whistle or a growl, not much of an audible that it's working at full boost--but it's still shoving the Verano Turbo to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds or less. Top speed is tire-limited to 129 mph, and gas mileage barely suffers a mile per gallon. You can look at the choice between powertrains as an economics test, or a Darwinian challenge. Either way, you're weeding yourself out of one pool or the other.
It's a much more subtle difference between the cars at the ride-and-handling level. The Verano's suspension layout, and the basic geometry of it, are shared with the Chevy 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. A relatively quick steering ratio (with a fat, somewhat small-diameter steering wheel) complete the hints of sportiness, and 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. Still, the Verano Turbo has more solid moves, more confidence, and it could easily be tuned even more aggressively for the power on tap. The front shocks are stiffer, but only by about 10 percent, to accommodate about 100 pounds of added weight; the electric power steering gets remapped for quicker, slightly more weighty responses. There are no aggressive air intakes, no fatter tires than the base 235-series rolling stock, either.
The Verano Turbo is faster, yes, but it's only slightly more taut. We can see stiffer shocks, thicker anti-roll bars, even faster steering and another twist of the screw on the turbo's boost--but Buick says there's only one place for that in the lineup, and that place belongs to the Regal GS. The Verano is hardly pulse-quickening, but for now, mission creep isn't one of its problems.