By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – Fun and drive are two nouns not usually found in the same sentence as Buick.
But that was the first impression of Buick’s 2013 Verano compact sedan equipped with a turbocharged four cylinder engine and a manual transmission.
Now don’t get it twisted. Buick was a premium brand decades ago, before the phrase was even coined in the automotive industry. And of late, the brand has recaptured much of its luster with some top notch products with top notch driving characteristics. But fun to drive?
The Verano Turbo was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that made 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed manual transmission and power was put to the pavement through the front wheels.
At 250 horsepower, the engine had more than enough oomph to move the Verano smartly. The car was powerful without being overbearing. The transmission shifted as smooth as any AboutThatCar.com has tested in European luxury sedans with manual transmissions.
And what Buick calls quiet engineering made the Verano dangerous. Not from a safety stand point, but because of speed. At a relatively low 2,000 rpms, the car’s 260 pound-feet of torque meant that from any given point, a standing start, or coming down an expressway entrance, or from 50 mph or from 80 mph, smoothly and quietly the Verano accelerated with authority.
Any number of times, the car easily exceeded the speed limit without effort. Most of the time you can get a sense of the speed by the transmittance of engine sound. But not in the Verano; it was awfully quiet?
The Verano Turbo is a car to remain alert to its capabilities. In other words, the smart driver will be aware of what it is capable of doing. That kind of power and torque in a compact car with a manual transmission means instant speed no matter how smooth and quiet the car. So it was with the Buick Verano Turbo.
Buick engineers did a great job of eliminating torque steer. It was easy to forget that our test car was front-wheel-drive. Not once did the front wheels pull to one side or another because of the power being put to the pavement through the front axle.
The Verano’s ride was smooth, handling was effortless, and the suspension was tuned to be a shade stiffer than soft but a smidge less than firm
This car had an ambience that was lacking in the Buick Verano Turbo with an automatic transmission that was test driven months ago. The interior was different, not in terms of layout but it was different in terms of color. In the automatic the interior was dark, perhaps black. But in the manual Buick called it “cashmere,” It was beige.
The color made for a light airy atmosphere. The bucket front seats were comfortable and heated. The thick heated steering wheel felt good. Although Buick said the car could carry five-people, four adults seated in relative comfort was its reasonable capacity.
One quibble with Buick is that the brand has a penchant for front seats with power seat cushions and manually adjustable backs. How about all or nothing, fully manual or full power front seats, enough of the hybrids?
These days, there’s enough computing power in a car to rival artificial intelligence. The Buick Verano Turbo had ambient interior lighting, a touch screen, a navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, OnStar, CD/MP3 capability, Internet streaming, voice controls, auxiliary and USB jacks.
The test car’s audio system seemingly had a mind of its own. Set the radio station, drive, get to a destination, turn the ignition off and when the Verano Turbo restarted the radio would be on another station. As quickly as this malfunction appeared; it disappeared a few days later.
Still, it did not dampen enthusiasm for the Buick Verano Turbo with the six-speed manual gear box. And what was better was the price; $32,010 as tested for this car was awfully reasonable for a lot of car.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com