As the Buick Verano enters its second year on the market for 2013, it now comes with a turbo-engine option that does a great job of pepping up the performance of this entry-level premium compact sedan.This is the same 250-horsepower, 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder that's also available in the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.While base Verano prices begin at just $23,080 (plus $885 freight), the Turbo model - the top of the line - starts at $29,105.Here's how much zip it brings: With the turbo engine, the Verano can accelerate from zero-60 mph in just 6.2 seconds; with the base 2.4-liter engine, it takes 8.6 seconds.The 6.2-second time comes with the optional six-speed manual transmission (no extra charge), which was included on our test vehicle. Standard on the Turbo is a six-speed automatic, which is the only transmission available with the base 2.4-liter engine.With the manual gearbox, EPA ratings for the Turbo are a decent 20 mpg city/31 highway; with the automatic, 21/30. The best fuel economy comes with the base engine, 21 city/32 highway, but there's just 180 horsepower and 171 foot-pounds of torque.Of course, spirited driving in the Turbo model won't give you those published EPA ratings, and the car's not much fun unless it's being pushed.The turbo engine has 260 foot-pounds of torque, and provides more power than the competing Lexus IS 250 sedan, which has the same EPA ratings. The IS comes with a 2.5-liter V-6 engine with just 204 horsepower and 185 foot-pounds of torque.The Verano also costs less than the Lexus, which begins at $35,065 for the base model with a six-speed automatic (no manual is offered). The IS takes 7.9 seconds to reach 60 mph.I've tested the IS and both the base and Turbo models of the Verano, and found the Verano to have better handling and performance than the IS 250, even with the base engine.With the turbo, though, the Verano is almost in a class by itself. While I personally would choose the automatic transmission because of my daily 60-mile commute in often stop-and-go freeway traffic, the manual is the best choice for pure driving enjoyment.The Verano Turbo handles confidently on curvy country roads or when making unexpected quick maneuvers on the freeway (thanks to the jerks who do stupid things).Electric power steering is standard, and is precise and predictable - more so than I had expected. I also appreciated the Verano's tight turning radius - just 36 feet.Inside, the driver and front passenger ride in comfort in leather bucket seats. The heated steering wheel was a nice feature for mid-winter driving, but the automatic climate-control system tried to roast me at normal 68-70 degree settings when it was in the 30s outdoors. I had to turn it down to 60 to make the cabin comfortable.There is a three-person bench in the rear, but it's most comfortable for two small adults or children. Knee- and legroom are limited.Other special features on the Turbo model include aluminum sport pedals, dual exhaust, rear spoiler, Bose nine-speaker audio system, keyless entry with pushbutton start, rear park assist with backup camera, radar-based blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, and heated front seats and steering wheel.Options include a sunroof ($900) and navigation system with upgraded audio ($795).The Verano initially went on sale in late 2011 as the newest Buick model, featuring the normally aspirated 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission.That remains the base engine for 2013. The backup-camera system was added to all 2013 models as standard equipment.With the additional of the Verano Turbo, Buick now offers three vehicles with turbocharged engines. The others are the Regal midsize sport sedan and the redesigned 2013 Enclave large crossover, which has a standard turbo engine.The Regal also offers a six-speed manual transmission in both the Turbo and GS models. The Regal Turbo has a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while the GS comes with a high-output, 270-horsepower four-cylinder.The Verano is the smallest Buick model for the U.S. market, as well as the third new sedan the GM division has introduced in recent years. The others are the midsize Regal and LaCrosse.Designed to compete with cars that start from $6,000-$10,000 higher - such as the IS 250 and Acura TSX - the Verano has more passenger and cargo space than either of those vehicles.The Verano models with the normally-aspirated engine range from $23,080-$26,755.Based on the architecture of the Chevrolet Cruze compact, the Verano was designed to help Buick bring new, younger buyers into the brand, with the hopes that they would later move up to larger and more-expensive Buick models.Styling is very well done, and the interior is a cut above that of its Chevy counterpart, although the Cruze doesn't really have anything to be embarrassed about - it's quite a nice vehicle as well.The Verano's exterior includes blue translucent projector-beam headlights, fog lights and 18-inch, multi-spoke, forged-alloy wheels. Optional are 18-inch split-spoke wheels. The windshield has been steeply raked to give the car a sporty look.Premium features abound, including a high-resolution seven-inch color LED touch-screen audio system, automatic climate control, remote start (with seat heaters activated by the remote control), and steering wheel audio controls.The heated steering wheel is standard, and is something that isn't even offered on the IS 250 or G25. Pushbutton engine start is optional on the base model, but standard on the Turbo. The heated steering wheel and seats are automatically activated by the remote-start feature in temperatures lower than 45 degrees.For safety, the Verano has 10 standard air bags, antilock disc brakes, electronic stability control and standard OnStar, GM's in-car communications, navigation and automatic crash-reporting system.While standard on the Turbo, leather is optional on other models, along with metallic or wood interior trim.Interior color choices include neutral and medium titanium with the standard "leatherette" (faux leather) upholstery. Leather interiors come in ebony, cashmere or Choccachino colors. The leather is the same Buick uses in the LaCrosse.Our Turbo tester came with a Crystal Red exterior, a $325 option. We had the cashmere interior. Other color choices include Claret Red Tintcoat, White Diamond Tricoat, Olympic White, Switchblade Silver Metallic, Cyber Gray Metallic and Mocha Bronze Metallic.The Verano was designed to be quiet inside, even at highway speeds, thanks to acoustical laminated glass, triple door seals, refined chassis dynamics, and forged aluminum-alloy wheels that have been made to minimize road noise, Buick says.Also helping to provide a quiet ride are a five-layer headliner with acoustical fiber, nylon baffles with insulating foam in hollow areas of the body, and recycled denim insulating material between the rear-body structural components.Other features include an electronic parking brake, a locking center console armrest between the front seats, power windows with express up/down in the front, and reading lights in the front and rear.Besides the special paint, our car came with the sunroof and navigation. I wasn't impressed with the basic nav system, though. An aftermarket system for about $100 would serve just as well.Total sticker for our tester was $32,010, including freight and options.The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at 817-471-2871; firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 Buick Verano
The package: Compact, four-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive sedan.
Highlights: All new just last year, the Verano is Buick's entry-level sedan. Besides having great fuel economy, this is a delightful, sporty car - especially with the optional turbo engine. It's aimed at a much younger crowd than the Buicks of the past, and even comes with a manual transmission in the turbo model for more-spirited performance.
Negatives: Back seat leg- and knee room make it a bit tight for adults; base engine can be sluggish on hills and uphill freeway on-ramps.
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder (naturally aspirated); 2.0-liter four-cylinder (turbocharged).
Transmission: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual (optional, turbo).
Power/torque: 180 HP./171 foot-pounds (2.4-liter); 250 HP./260 foot-pounds (2.0-liter turbo).
Length: 183.9 inches.
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock, brake assist.
Trunk volume: 14.3 cubic feet (14.0 with Bose premium audio).
Air bags: Front; front knee (driver/passenger); front/rear seat-mounted side; front/rear roof-mounted side-curtain.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 15.6 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/32 highway (2.4-liter, automatic): 20/31 (2.0-liter, manual); 21/30 (2.0-liter, automatic).
Major competitors: Cadillac ATS, BMW 1-series, Audi A3, Acura ILX, Acura TSX, Lexus IS 250.
Base price range: $23,080-$29,105, plus $885 freight.
Price as tested: $32,010, including freight and options (Turbo 2LT model).
On the Road rating: 8.6 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.