By Jeff Stork- the Palm Springs Automobilist
Buick has had many successes over the years by making luxurious compact cars that were in tune with the times. The original Special of 1936, the compact Skylark coupe of 1962, and the front drive Skylark series if the 1980s were all 'little limousines"- cars that offered a high degree of comfort and style in a compact size.
For 2012, Buick again enters the compact car world with the all new Verano, but this time they go beyond the traditional small Buick and created a compact car with unprecedented levels of content, luxury, and quietness. They started with GM's compact Delta platform (shared with the Chevy Cruze) but created their own completely unique exterior with Buick touches such as the waterfall grille and signature Buick ventiports. I spent a day with Verano courtesy of the folks at Reynolds Buick and had the opportunity to capture my impressions.
The handsome exterior is complemented by an equally handsome and highly contented interior. Among Verano's many niceties are a standard audio system which incorporates a 7 inch color display screen with a USB port- for your portable music device or even to download a photo album. The optional Navigation system uses this same screen, as does Verano's standard Bluetooth interface and Sirius XM Satellite radio.
Our test car had the leather package and the interior was ultra luxurious. The seats themselves were beautifully stitched leather and sported a six way driver's seat with recliner, heated front seats, and a rear 60/40 split folding seat with even a rear center armrest. Other luxury features on our test car included Navigation, Bose 9 speaker audio, keyless entry, steering wheel controls, and even remote start which is great on sunny So Cal days. The base price of the Verano begins at $23,470 including destination, our fully loaded leather group model with Navigation and Moonroof listed for just over $28,000.
The standard engine is a 180 hp 2.4 litre inline four cylinder, mated to a six speed automatic transmission. The combination proved to be both smooth and responsive on our test drive, and the six speed was smooth and really quite innocous in its task. GM had really gotten the six speed transmission down to a science these days. The suspension, including the Z-link rear axle, is tuned for a quiet and comfortable ride. That's not to say it isn't a pleasure to drive, or that it doesn't have responsive handling, but that it's not a kidney buster like some sedans out there. It is a Buick, through and through.
Once inside the luxurious cabin, the most noticeable characteristic is quiet. Verano benefits from what Buick calls Quiet Tuning. The entire interior of the car, as well as the suspension components- are carefully chosen to minimize interior noise. “By positioning the Verano against the very best, our noise and vibration team went above and beyond to deliver the quiet driving experience for which Buicks have become known,” said Chuck Russell, Verano vehicle line director. “Quiet-tuning components and systems are built into every facet of the Verano’s architecture.” Another benefit of Verano is safety. In recent testing, the Verano earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with a five star crash test rating and its ten standard airbags.
Buick is known for a long line of "little limousines: that incorporate luxury, comfort, technology and safety into a compact size. After a drive, I'd say that the Verano indeed lives up to that proud heritage.