Buick finds right luxury mix with 2012 Verano
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media July 20, 2012 12:13PM
2012 BUICK VERANO 1SL
ENGINE: 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 21 city/32 highway
BASE PRICE: $25,965
AS TESTED: $27,345
Over the years General Motors has had mixed success with luxury compacts. The granddaddy of disasters was turning a Chevrolet Cavalier sedan into a Cadillac Cimarron. For 2012 GM has tapped Chevrolet once again for a platform but this time it has done much more than simply engineer badge the Chevy as a Buick.
The 2012 Buick Verano is a new entry-level luxury sedan that GM hopes will not remind buyers of a Chevrolet Cruze. Shared parts include the stuff you don’t see like the suspension, floor plan, electrical, climate control, exhaust components and other behind-the-scenes items. It’s also noteworthy that Cruzes and Veranos are built at separate plants and stylists put considerable effort into differentiating the two cars inside and out.
The Verano takes a few styling cues from the bigger LaCrosse and Verano’s exterior design makes it look like a larger car. The sloping hood and roofline blends nicely with the Buick waterfall grille and fender creases. Unlike Cruze, the Verano has plenty of chrome accents applied to the car. The large 18-inch alloy wheels are handsome and add improved grip. Overall, the exterior styling looks upscale and luxurious. One suggestion is that Buick should abandon the simulated hood “ventiports” on vehicles.
I really liked the inside; the interior appointments are in keeping with luxury car buyers’ expectations, including sculpted interior panels, leather trim and a great looking dash. Technology is represented with standard Buick IntelliLink using Bluetooth or USB to connect smart phones to a 7-inch LED high-resolution full-color touch-screen display radio that enables streaming stereo audio from the phone through services like Pandora Internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio or any Bluetooth media device.
Verano has a spacious interior complemented by comfortable, supportive front seats. Headroom is great for those up front and adult rear-seat occupants will not feel penalized unless they’re behind very tall front passengers. Comfortable seating for five, especially for three kids, makes this car good for summer driving vacations. Buick’s quiet tuning with its additional sound deadeners, door seals and laminated glass really keeps exterior noise out. Aiding summer jaunts is a huge trunk with 15.2 cubic feet of storage without a mini spare.
Verano features a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine to drive the front wheels. Acceleration is adequate, but to add a truly luxury experience a bit more punch is needed. The six-speed automatic transmission is ultra-smooth. I was delighted that this Buick did not have the “float” of previous Buick compacts and was pleasant around town. The surprise was the agility exhibited on curvy back roads. The electric power steering had good response and feel; braking was stout, but the pedal was mushy.
GM engineers took the Cruze suspension and revised it. The front suspension uses decoupled MacPherson struts for better isolation, providing greater separation of extreme road conditions, like large potholes, from everyday driving conditions. The rear suspension features a Watts Z-link design that helps center the rear axle during cornering, which helps keep the Verano’s handling responses symmetrical on both left-hand and right-hand turns. When I pushed the Verano hard I didn’t hear the typical four-cylinder engine strain and wind rush due to all the quiet tuning Buick did.
So, is the 2012 Buick Verano a fancy badge-engineered version of the Cruze? No. GM did take a proven world-car chassis in the Cruze and put the proper engineering, design and luxury features into it to create a compact that does not look like a Cruze with a Buick badge.
The Cruze is a good compact car that I would recommend. The Buick Verano is a better compact that I would consider if I were looking for a luxury compact. Verano does not have the power or sporty car ride of some of its competitors, but it is above midpack and it’s available for a reasonable price.
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