It is no small secret that I am likely the biggest fan of Buick since Harley Earl and David Dunbar Buick himself. To me, Buick is all about speed, comfort and class. The last 20 years of Buicks has not been about any of those things. It has been a bastard child, playing second and sometimes even third fiddle to Cadillac. The 1990s and 00s were not kind to fans of the tri-shield. Cheap plastic interiors that broke before you hit 100K, doggy V6s and weak 4-bangers that wouldn’t impress a turtle; they just were not very good. And I should know, I owned several of them. The last couple of years however, GM has allowed Buick to step up their game however. The latest offerings have done wonders for the image of Buick, especially in the eyes of the younger buyers, which has eluded Buick for eons. With comfort coming back into the equation, Buick needed some punch so that we could bring back the old moniker “going fast with class” that was the calling card for the original Buick Gran Sport and Grand National, the only muscle cars to ever come from Buick. While the newest Buicks are not waging battle on the front lines of the second generation of Horsepower wars, they are taking on a formidable opponent- the luxury European market.
The Buick Verano is a mid-range luxury car with more features than you can shake a stick at. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to drive the Verano, and I really like it. It is a 4-door that seats 5, although as my 3 kids made ridiculously clear over the Christmas break, 3 people do not fit comfortably in the back, at least not for long trips anyway. Two rear passengers, however, are quite comfortable. The trunk is spacious with enough room to carry a family of 5’s Christmas gifts.
The Verano is an excellent car; it is comfortable and easy to drive, in my book, that is a given, seeing as how this is a Buick. What you might not expect are some of the features such as standard Intellilink with touchscreen radio and Pandor/Stitcher apps, electric power steering which saves fuel and the heated steering wheel. Let me tell you- buy a car in the summer and you won’t care about a heated steering wheel, but when the winter comes around, you will love it. LOVE IT!
The ride is quite nice, and I would really love to put the Verano on a road course. The rear suspension is race inspired, featuring a Watts Link design that eliminates side deflection as the suspension moves up and down. This plants the rear tires, keeping the back-end of the car firmly on the road. This is a front-wheel drive car, so there is never going to be any oversteer situation, but the rear suspension design reduces body roll and certainly makes the Verano comfortable to drive hard. Up front is a standard strut-style FWD suspension that has minimal torque steer and no wheel hop when the 18” alloy wheels and tires break loose.
There are several powertrain options, and luckily the Verano I drove this week had the turbocharged 2.0 liter DOHC 4-banger with a 6-speed transmission. Say what you want about 4-cylinders, but any 4-slug engine that screams out 250 horsepower while maintaining 20 city and 31 highway fuel economy is top shelf in my book. Just for reference, my 71 Buick GS350 made 265 horsepower with a 5.7 liter V8, that’s more than twice the engine. I really enjoyed banging gears in the Verano, it makes the driving experience so much better. Thank you for the 6-speed.
In the world of critiques, it always appropriate to say something nice before you mention the bad stuff. There are a few oddities and not-so-great “features” in the Verano:
Electric E-Brake: I hate it. You have to apply the foot brake to disengage it, it does not automatically engage when you shut off the vehicle and you can’t engage it on the fly while driving for a drifty fun. It is just a pet peeve of mine. All manual cars should have a hand-operated E-brake, period. It will however auto release if you drive off with it on though, so that is good. The electric E-brake is also part of the hill assist function, which is automatic. I like that, but the E-brake isn’t automatic when you shut off the car. If you are going to put an electrically actuate E-brake, in the car, make it automatic with an override release.
Door grip placement: The door panel on the front doors has a long vertical grip that is right in the way of the soft spot in my knee. It hurts. I have to shift my legs around to get comfortable. There are positions where it is not a problem, but on a long road trip, it would be frustrating.
No passenger electric seat: 6-way power driver seat, heated seats, push-to-start and no power on the passenger seat? Huh?
Lots of buttons: If you like buttons, this is the car for you, because there are a ton of ‘em. And they are not all labeled either. I think we counted 150 between the center stack and the driver door.
None of these issues is a deal breaker, I would certainly drop the $32k on the specific model I had. It is a well-built car that performs better than it should. I just don’t like electric e-brakes.
Really cool features that I like a lot:
Lock/Unlock button on handle: Buick calls it “EZ Key”, I call it cool. On each exterior door handle there is a small square button. When the keyfob is in range, a press of this button locks or unlocks the doors. You never have to get the key out of your pocket. And with push-to-start, it can stay there.
Heated steering wheel: On the surface it seems silly, but when you hop into the car and it is 14-degrees outside and your hands are freezing, grabbing frozen steering wheel sucks. Within 2 minutes of hitting the button, the warmth radiates throughout the wheel, easing the pain of sub-human temperatures. Daddy like.
Headlight width: This is one of those safety things no one ever talks about- when the high beams are on, the Verano lights up the side of the road. I don’t just mean in the distance, I mean it lights up the side of the road starting at about the front wheels, it is incredible. This gives you such a better sense of security while driving at night, stalled vehicles, animals and people walking on the shoulder or sidewalk get lit up so you know they are there. This is probably one of my favorite cars to drive at night because of this.
Blind zone alerts: Every car has a blind spot, and the Verano lets you know when there is something in yours with a light on the side mirrors. I would like the addition of a selectable chime, but the light does wonders for safety.
The Verano is a top safety pick, has won numerous awards for style, comfort, and powertrain. This certainly has the potential to be a long-running nameplate for Buick that will take down its competition with ease, one turbcharged pass at a time.