Turbocharged fours are the new V-6s, at least among compact and mid-size sedans. For the 2013 model year, the Buick Verano jumps on the forced-induction bandwagon, but it does it in a discreet way--making the "T" in turbo silent.
Silent, in that it's badged subtly, without reference to the added power under the hood, even though the new Verano T turns the smallest Buick into a much more energetic performer, according to preliminary performance figures. With its 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower four-cylinder, the standard Buick Verano is an adequate performer, if not too exciting. It accelerates to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, and earns EPA ratings of 21/32 mpg.
The Verano T? It's downsized in displacement to 2.0 liters, but uprated to 250 horsepower, with peak torque of 260 pound-feet on tap from as low as 1,700 rpm to 5,500 rpm, or most of the way to redline. With the new power levels, delivered through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, the Verano T is estimated to hit 60 mph in 6.2 seconds--or less--and top speed is tire-limited to 129 mph.
With the boost, the Verano joins a movement that's seen some even bigger sedans go four-cylinder only--sedans like the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, the 2013 Ford Fusion, and the current Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. But while the turbocharged four is expected to earn highway fuel economy of about 30 mpg, it will won't match the top gas-mileage numbers in the mid-size or compact class. The larger 2013 Nissan Altima four-cylinder earns 38 mpg on the highway; the bigger Buick four-doors now both have eAssist mild-hybrid technology standard, giving both the Regal and LaCrosse 36-mpg highway fuel economy.Buick says the Verano T is aimed at buyers wanting stronger power, not a high-strung driving experience. Steering and suspension settings are changed to give the Verano T its own driving character, but the tweaks aren't radical. The mechanical changes include retuned front shocks that are said to stiffen the ride less than 10 percent, while they manage the turbo four's nearly 100 pounds of additional weight on the front end. The electric power steering has revised tuning and remapped assistance levels; together they're intended to give it a firmer feel more in common with Japanese and German competition.
The Verano T's notable for what it didn't require: no aggressive air intakes were needed for better turbo breathing, there's been no change to the 235-series tires, and no changes to the rear Watt's-link suspension, either. It's specifically not a sport sedan in the mold of the Regal GS; Buick's engineering and marketing team feels there's a need for exactly one of those vehicles.
It's unlikely any more powerful Veranos are in the works, but, that said, the Verano T could have some backward compatibility. There's no official decision, but the changes wrought on the turbocharged sedan are clearly going over well enough that there's talk of applying them to the base car. For example, the ZF-sourced electric power steering system stores up to seven profiles used by GM vehicles around the world; switching base cars to Verano T spec could be as simple as a firmware upgrade.As the new top-line model, the Verano T gets the usual added standard features. They include dual exhausts; sport pedals; a small trunklid spoiler; and features from the Verano's leather and convenience packages, including Bose audio, heated seats, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.
As for the rest of the Verano lineup, the normally aspirated sedans earn some minor changes for the new model year as well. Intellilink, the app-connectivity suite, is now standard on all Verano sedans, as is a rearview camera, and Intellilink now connects to the available navigation system when it's fitted. Blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts are now bundled in the convenience, leather, and premium packages, and pushbutton start is available. A new FamilyLink feature lets subscribers ping the vehicle to find out where drivers might be--it's opt-in, for those with location-privacy concerns.
And finally, two new colors are added: Luxo Blue Metallic and Carbon Black Metallic.
The Verano's a quiet, well-executed piece, but it's been a difficult car to peg in traditional segments. It's a more luxury-minded choice than other compacts, and one of the most fully developed and best-priced options in a class of also-rans that counts the new Acura ILX and the more pleasing TSX; the outgoing Volvo S40; the pricey Audi A3; and non-premium-brand sedans like the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta.
The 2013 Verano T goes on sale in late 2012, with pricing yet to be announced.
Full disclosure: We've driven prototypes of the new 2013 Buick Verano T, but the prototypes are still in the final phases of engineering and approval. So while we've driven the car in this form, we've been asked to hold driving impressions until later this year when production cars are available. Stay tuned for seat time with us in the Verano T this fall--and until then, for more information on the current four-door, see our full review of the 2012 Buick Verano.