2013 Buick Verano Turbo review:

Buick's compact is good, but not 'luxury-good'

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Starting at $29,500
  • Trim levels Premium Group
  • Available Engine Gas
  • Body style Sedan

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.5 Overall
  • Cabin tech 8
  • Performance tech 8
  • Design 6

The Good The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo features good power and Euro-caliber handling. The standard IntelliLink infotainment system is well-designed and packs in a full array of digital audio sources. The navigation upgrade is relatively inexpensive and adds Pandora and Stitcher smartphone app integration.

The Bad Even at this top trim level, the Verano's cabin falls short of the "luxury" claim. Turbo lag occasionally leaves the sedan wanting for power.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo falls short of my luxury sedan expectations, but good, turbocharged performance and accessible cabin technology keep this sporty sedan in the game.

When I responded to friends' and coworkers' inquiries about what my wheels for the week would be with "the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo," I was usually met with odd looks and replies.

"Ugh, I'm not a fan of big cars." "You must not be happy with that one." "Wow, they still make Buicks?" It seems that Buick has an uphill battle to get past all of these preconceived notions. Fortunately, while it's not a perfect car, there is much to like about the 2013 Verano Turbo.

What sort of Buick is this?
In assessing the 2013 Buick Verano, it's important to first figure out what sort of vehicle it is. Even before settling behind the wheel, it's obvious that this isn't your grandpa's Buick. The compact sedan shares its platform and 105.7-inch wheelbase with the Chevrolet Cruze, although the sleek Buick is a few fractions of an inch wider, longer, and taller than the Chevy.

With such similar underpinnings and dimensions, it's no surprise that the Verano and Cruze come within a few fractions of an inch of each other in interior dimensions, as well. The Cruze has about a cubic foot more trunk space, the Verano has an edge in cabin space. Additionally, the 3,300-pound Buick carries about 200 extra pounds of luxe that the Cruze doesn't.

2013 Buick Verano
The Verano shares its platform and proportions with the Chevy Cruze. Josh Miller/CNET

That's okay, because the Verano is more powerful, being available in either 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower standard or 2.0-liter, 250-horsepower turbocharged trim levels. Our Verano packed a turbo. Though these engines aren't used in the Cruze, either would, I think, feel at home in either vehicle.

After my first day with the Verano Turbo, I found myself drawing comparisons to the Acura ILX and Chrysler Sebring, err, 200. Buick confirmed these as targets when, in its follow-up communication, the automaker pointed out that the Verano Turbo is "more powerful, faster from zero to 60 mph, and less expensive" than the 2.4-liter Acura ILX and the 2.5-liter Lexus IS 250.

Turbocharged performance
Unfortunately, the naturally aspirated Acura and Lexus engines have one thing that the more powerful, turbocharged, and direct-injected Buick mill doesn't: predictable power delivery.

Looking at the numbers provided by Buick, the 2.0-liter engine's peak twisting force of 260 pound-feet of torque kicks in at 2,000rpm, which gives the impression of a nice and flat torque curve. If you keep the turbo spinning by keeping the engine's revolutions per minute high with the optional six-speed manual transmission, the Verano will happily deliver what feels like its advertised level of power and torque. The vehicle feels alive and there's a reasonable amount of get-up-and-go -- the Verano's not what I'd call a "fast car" but she's certainly not slow.

2.0-liter turbo
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine offers good power, but can suffer from turbo lag. Josh Miller/CNET

Adding to good, on-boost performance is the capable handling. The ride tends toward the softer side of sporty and the electric power steering is a bit overboosted and numb, but the front-wheel-drive Verano's European heritage shows in its predictable and responsive handling.

Unfortunately, if I let the turbocharger go dormant or let the engine rpms drop, then turbo lag became an issue. I was able to feel the car shake as the engine strained under the deficit of power. When this happens, you can either keep the pedal planted while you wait for the turbo to spin up again or lift, downshift, and try again. In the competing Acura ILX, transitioning from cruising to a passing maneuver was often as simple as giving the accelerator a bit of a push. The Verano more often than not required a double downshift.

Now, I love rowing my own gears, so what some drivers may consider a con, I consider only a minor inconvenience. However, owners who bought into Buick's claim that the Verano is a "compact luxury sedan" may take issue with occasionally being caught with their turbo down.

Luxury? No. Premium? Sure
Speaking of luxury buyers, I'm not 100 percent sold on the idea that the Verano is a compact luxury sedan.

As equipped, our Verano Turbo featured leather and wood trim, heated front seats, and passenger-pleasing LED ambient and dashboard lighting. The driving position was comfortable and the cabin was remarkably quiet thanks, in part, to double weather seals on doors.

Verano dashboard
The plastics that make up the Verano's dashboard just don't feel very luxurious. Josh Miller/CNET

However, settle into the leather seat and you'll find yourself facing a lot of plastic trim and cheapish switch-gear. Farther up, the dashboard is covered in swaths of a rubbery material that feels okay to the touch, but looks pretty bad -- particularly in our tester's "Choccachino" interior trim. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, but only the driver's seat, and then only for the fore-to-aft slider. (Tilt is still handled mechanically.)

Outside, the projector headlights aren't HIDs -- I don't know who Buick thinks it's fooling with those blue-tinted surrounds.

And our Premium Group turbocharged model is the top of line for the Verano. Base models are available without the benefit of leather seats, keyless entry, or push-button start.

Instrument cluster
The instrument cluster is simple and tasteful. Josh Miller/CNET

All of this considered, I have a hard time calling the Verano a luxurious vehicle. I'd be okay calling it a "premium" car, but I think that Buick is unfairly creating expectation for the Verano. When I hear "luxury," my mind starts drawing comparisons to BMW and Audi, but what Buick has built is a car that sits somewhere between the Chrysler 200 and the Acura ILX on the luxury spectrum. To be fair, the Verano trounces the 200 in power and appointments. To be even fairer, neither the ILX nor the Lexus IS that Buick compares the Verano to are what I'd consider to be luxury vehicles either, but both vehicles offer levels of cabin fit and finish that slightly beat the Verano's.

Buick's IntelliLink infotainment suite
One place that the Verano does shine among its competitors is in the cabin technology department, thanks to its excellent IntelliLink infotainment package, which is standard across all trim levels.

IntelliLink
The IntelliLink infotainment system and its 7-inch display are standard on all Veranos. Josh Miller/CNET

This unit is built around a 7-inch touch screen and features a well-designed interface that makes great use of the color display. When you're listening to a SiriusXM Satellite Radio station, the screen is filled with an appropriate background image. The main menu spreads its icons out across two home screens, requiring users to scroll to view all of the audio sources, but IntelliLink allows you to reorganize, show or hide, and reorder the icons to put the most frequently used options near the top of the list.

Standard audio sources include AM/FM radio, the aforementioned SirusXM, CD playback, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, USB and iPod connectivity, and an auxiliary input.

SiriusXM on IntelliLink
Background images for satellite radio stations are a nice design touch. Josh Miller/CNET

Pay your local Buick dealer an additional $795 and the IntelliLink software gets upgraded to include GPS navigation with a great voice command system that lets drivers input an entire address -- street name, number, city, and state -- in one go without waiting for half a dozen prompts. SiriusXM NavTraffic, NavWeather, stocks, movie times, and sports scores are added to the infotainment bag of tricks and Pandora and Stitcher app integration kick in when a compatible Android or iOS smartphone is paired with the system. The CD player is also upgraded to accept DVD media.

Our Verano was also equipped with a blind-spot monitoring system that illuminates an LED in the side mirrors when an obstruction is detected in the traditional blind spot located near the rear quarter of the car. Rear safety systems include a rearview camera and a rear proximity sensor with cross-traffic alert. The proximity sensor beeps with increasing intensity as the vehicle approaches an obstruction detected by its sonar sensors. While these systems are usually very useful, I found the system's incessant beeping like it was going into cardiac arrest -- despite the fact that there was plenty of space visible on the screen -- to be quite obnoxious.

Rear camera
I found the proximity sensor's beeping to be quite annoying. Josh Miller/CNET

In sum
The 2013 Buick Verano maybe doesn't live up to the claim of luxury, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good car. The interesting thing is that a Buick doesn't really need to be luxurious; that's what Cadillac, GM's real luxury brand, is for, but I digress. The turbocharged Verano sedan compares favorably to its competition from Acura, Lexus, and Chrysler, but not as well as a cursory glance at the vehicles' respective spec sheets might imply. The Japanese competitors may slightly edge out the Buick in real-world performance and fit and finish. Still, the American almost-luxury sedan wins in one very important way: price.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo
Would you believe that this paint color is a nearly $1,000 option? Josh Miller/CNET

The standard Verano starts at $23,080, but our turbocharged, Premium equipment group jumps up to a $29,105 base price, adding the more powerful engine, leather seats, the rear-proximity and blind-spot monitoring systems, Bose premium audio, and keyless entry and start along the way. We've also got the $795 navigation upgrade, $900 for a power sunroof, $995 for our tester's special White Diamond Tricoat paint, and $895 for destination and freight charges. That brings us to an as-tested price of $32,690.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Buick Verano
Trim Premium equipment group
Power train 2.0-liter engine, turbocharger, direct-injection, FWD, 6-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 20 city, 31 highway, 24 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 18.9 mpg
Navigation Optional with voice command and SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio, optional Pandora and Stitcher app integration
Audio system 9-speaker Bose audio
Driver aids Blind-spot monitoring, rearview camera with proximity alert, rear cross-traffic alert
Base price $29,105
Price as tested $32,690

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