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Test Drive: 2013 Buick Verano Turbo

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The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo is available in eight different paint colors, but yellow is not one of them. This is odd, not because its name means “summer” in Spanish, but because it is one of the mellowest cars I’ve ever driven.

From the moment you hit the start button – it’s the silver one hidden on the center console among dozens of others – the air around the car is filled with a deep, resonant exhaust note that is as soothing as the voice of an AM radio host from the Midwest.

You don’t hear it inside, the cabin is better insulated than the sound booth at that guy’s station, but as you slip the six-speed manual (not a typo) transmission into gear, let up on the feather light clutch, press on the gas pedal and get pushed harder than you might expect into the cosseting leather upholstered seat, Buick’s place in the automotive world becomes clear.

This car is all about American-style personal luxury. Although a compact, it rides big, with a cushy suspension that ignores all but the largest road imperfections as it moves you through your day in a bubble of comfort and quietude. Both its body and upscale interior design are ported from Buick’s larger vehicles, just pared down to size.

The engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 250 hp and, more important for effortlessly gliding around town, 260 lb-ft of torque that comes on strong without any lag. A lower spec Verano is also available with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 180 hp four-cylinder that’s highly adequate, but has to try a little to get the job done. Better to chill.

That one starts at $23,975, and is a good deal at the price, but the turbo -- technically one of the top two trim levels in the Verano lineup and not marketed as a standalone model -- has a base sticker of $27,650. My top of the line Premium with upgraded audio, navigation and incredibly thick and luscious White Diamond Tricoat paint checked out at $31,280. For the totally laid back, a six-speed automatic transmission is available as a no-cost option.

The navigation is part of the Verano's standard Intellilink infotainment system, which delivers streaming audio, Pandora integration and a local gas price finder -- which may or may not be a high priority for you in a car that gets 20 mpg city, 31 mpg hwy. It’s controlled through voice commands, buttons and knobs on the dash, or a touch screen, and unlike a lot of one size fits all systems coming online these days, you should be able to find an interface that works for you.

The speakers are from Bose, which also makes those noise-canceling headphones that help you relax on airplanes, and the Verano is so quiet when they’re not in use that you’d think it was wearing a giant pair. A blind-spot alert system comes in handy as your hearing does little good at helping you appraise what’s going on outside of the car.

Steering is light around town, firming up some with speed, and the Verano enjoys, if not quite loves a spirited drive in the mountains. City and highway life is where it excels, isolating you from all of the awfulness outside. If you crave a blissful drive home from work each night, you’ll have a hard time finding one for less money than this.

Larger ones are a different story. Families of tall stock might find the back seat a little cramped. The trunk, on the other hand, is relatively cavernous. For the single, travelling salesman this car will do just fine.

Buick has carved itself a nice little niche with the Verano, particularly the turbo. It’s closest competition in the near-luxury compact class is the Acura ILX, a less plush and powerful, but more engaging car that’s really not cut from the same cloth. High content Ford Focuses might lure a few buyers away, but they don’t come with that image that says “I’m reasonably successful and good with that” like a Buick does.

Not everyone considers mellow an aspirational state of being, but perhaps they should.


2013 Buick Verano Turbo

Base Price: $27,650

As Tested: $31,280

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger sedan

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 250 hp, 260 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

MPG: 20 city/31 hwy