Reader Davefromcalgary discusses what it’s like to own one of the rarest unicorns in the automotive world: the Buick Verano Turbo with a 6-speed manual. Part 1 discussed the buying process, while Part 2 takes you through the day-to-day ownership of the car.
When ordering a Verano T, there are not many decisions to make. The 1ST package brings most of the goodies to the table including keyless start, Buick’s “IntelliLink” infotainment system, 18” rims and leather seating surfaces. The only remaining options are transmission type, exterior and interior color, rim style, navigation, sunroof, and the typical additional options such as the cargo net, block heater and protection package. GM charges a few hundred dollars for metallic black or red, and $995 for “diamond white tricoat”. Happily, the metallic blue was a no charge option. As well, there are three no cost options for interior color; black, white and tan/brown. I selected the 6MT, sunroof, navigation, upgraded rims, Carbon Blue Metallic paint, ”ebony” black interior, as well as the engine block heater and protection package. The window sticker for this particular car was $37,000 Canadian Dollars including freight and PDI. I gave them a $3000 deposit which was refunded upon delivery, and delivery took a shade over two months
As I alluded to previously, I have mixed feelings on the look of the Verano. At first I wasn’t sure about the chrome “eyebrows” at the rear, but in the grand scheme of things they really don’t bother me. I find the Verano’s rear to be squared off and solid in design, which is excellent given my presence for a more conservative (some say boring) shape. The vestigial spoiler neither adds nor subtracts from the look. It was included in the 1ST package, so that is neither here nor there. I find the rear and rear quarter to be the Verano’s best exterior angles.
Moving around to the side, Buick has taken care to ensure that the Verano has no black plastic triangles at the front and back of the greenhouse like the Cruze. Buick has accomplished this by including triangular glass “portholes”. While they are thickly framed and don’t add a lot to visibility, the overall shape of the greenhouse glass is pleasant and the chrome trim sets it off well. While the beltline does gently slope upwards towards the rear, I am a big fan of how the thickness of the C-Pillar is roughly constant along its length, accented by a slight lift of the back glass. I find the Verano to be a tad short in length for the height of its hood and trunk lid, but the hood length to cabin length to trunk lid length all seem to work. The car will never be described as sleek, but the proportions come off as inoffensive at the end of the day. It is not a handsome car but it is honest.
The worst feature of the side profile happens to coincide with the worst feature of the front, namely the grill. When viewed head on, the grill is only slightly odd looking, but it’s not so bad. But, move around to the side and you can see that the leading edge of the hood, rather than forming the top of the grill, runs through the grill. The Verano and Enclave are the only two vehicles I can think of that are styled like this, and in my opinion it looks pretty poor. I would have rather see them move the Buick shield down, and coordinate the grill shape with the hood line, ala Regal. However, I am quite pleased that the hood opens along the grill line, so there are no unpleasant straight body gaps cutting across the hood, as we have seen on other modern cars.
Other than that, like the rest of the car, the front end is generic and unassuming, though not ugly. However, I will say that the traditional Buick portholes on the top of the hood have got to go. I am not a fan of non-functional aero. I am also extremely disappointed by Buick’s placement of blue glass rings around the low beam projectors. The blue visible from legal OEM HID lamps is simply an artifact produced by the cutoff shield, but illegal HID drop-in kits play up this “cool” look, all while blinding those around them. The headlights on the Verano are halogen, and even if they were HID, I don’t believe any of the OEMs should be even tacitly giving illegal blue headlights any sort of positive endorsement.
I ticked the “Protection Package” on the build sheet because it promised color matched molded splash guards, dealer installed. I did this for three reasons: one, I don’t like following vehicles without them in the rain, two, I don’t like the six foot long chunk of ice on the sills that forms in winter, and three, installing mudflaps on ones own can be difficult, if they are the kind that do not have any alignment tabs. In this case, the molded guards are specific to the car and I am happy with the way they look. The protection package also includes a thick rubber trunk mat and some floor mats, which I don’t need because I bought WeatherTech floor mats. For the record, they provide excellent coverage and don’t slide around, so I give them a thumbs up.
Opening the hood shows an engine bay with a decent amount of room; understandable given the small displacement inline four. Thankfully, the entire bay isn’t covered by plastic shrouds, like the Lexus IS250. I will say though that the plastic engine cover is maddening, and borderline insulting. It is shaped to look like intake runners for a longitudinal engine, and for whatever reason that just makes me mad. Who do they think they are fooling? Also, it really makes me mad that a car stickering $37,000 is equipped with a prop rod.
The up level split 10-spoke alloys are a $525 upgrade. The standard rim is a twin 5-spoke, and normally I am a die hard 5-spoke fan, but something about the 10 spoke rims on this car just look more upscale, especially since they are slightly greyed out. Overall, I am still glad that I picked the Carbon Blue Paint and upgraded alloys. The car has a confident stance.
As I mentioned in Part 1, if you can fit in it, the Verano is a nice place to be. The aspect of its interior design that I most appreciate is the simple, symmetrical and most of all, functional design. Starting between the front seats there is a comfortable yet slightly small padded armrest concealing a storage bin, which contains the USB and 3.5mm jacks. Forward of this sits two cup holders large enough for travel mugs but which are also able to secure regular 355mL pop cans. Forward of the cup holders yet behind the stick lies a deep cell phone sized pocket, and the switch for the electronically actuated parking brake. This switch is a pull up to engage and push down to release item. The stickshift itself is a classy little affair, featuring an elongated shape that fits my hand well, and a trigger for defeating the reverse lockout. First and reverse sit abeam one another and I believe this and the trigger should make it easy to rock in the snow without losing momentum. The shifter boot is black with the same white contrasting stitching as the seats. Ahead of the stick shift is a slightly larger deep pocket below the center stack which also houses a 12V outlet.
The shifter and the center stack are both trimmed with a medium grey glossy trim that I imagine is supposed to emulate metal. Inlaid into this is a dark species of fake wood. All of it has a glossy coating. This trim also accents the door pulls. While it is obvious that the trim is neither genuine metal nor wood, it isn’t in your face fake. This is one of those items that I have decided works in the car, but others might find it cheap or not to their liking. One of the main reasons I am giving it a pass is that it seems reasonably scratch resistant. Other “metal look” plastics in my experience have proved for less robust right off the bat (one example is my former 2004 Mazda 6), and this piece seems like it will hold up. Sadly, my gut instinct is that the rest of the interior will not have this durability. The dash and door panels, where not trimmed with leather are covered in a soft rubber with a fine grained pattern. The switch gear, buttons and other areas of hard plastic are a “matte” black plastic. Both the rubber and the plastics have this quality where if you have sweat or gotten any dirt on your hands at any part of the day, they leave finger prints and smudges and basically look like hell. A gloss plastic and a more vinyl-like substance like in the Alero would be far more durable. Ask me how I know, as the interior of the Alero held up exceedingly well after 12 years and 300k kms. The material selection is definitely the low point of the interior.
Luckily, the instrument and infotainment layout, to my eye, is excellent. The touch screen is clear, with simple graphics, and displays time, exterior temperature, HVAC info when you change settings, and all available media info. I should note that you don’t need to refer to the touch screen to use the HVAC, it is redundant info. The unit is equipped with RDS for terrestrial radio info and displays track info from MP3 CDs as well as full track info when streaming over Bluetooth or plugged into USB. Of course it also displays data for the SiriusXM system. The nav screen is relatively uncomplicated, and also can send directions to the drivers info screen in the instrument cluster. I should note that the 2014 Verano is equipped with HomeLink.
The infotainment system can be controlled almost entirely using the plethora of buttons below the screen, as well as the push to select rotary knob. The only time you are compelled to use the screen is to bring up certain menus when the nav is in full screen. Of course, you can use the touchscreen for the bulk of the radio operation, if that suits you better. However, I like buttons, and I have already gotten to the point where I can perform basic functions without looking. GM has a few other ‘Link branded systems with fewer to no buttons, but I believe the Verano’s setup is superior. The steering wheel controls are also convenient to use. The push button start is located above the media controls under the screen. Many people have had trouble finding it, but a few have commented (and I agree) that once you know it is there it is a good place for it.
Bluetooth integration works well. Pairing a new device is child’s play. Music quality over Bluetooth is good and call quality is excellent. Voice dialing also has yet to misunderstand me. The system is also capable of displaying your incoming texts (when stopped only), or reading your texts out loud when you are in motion, and surprisingly enough I find it works pretty well.
The HVAC is an automatic type, though it is clearly designed to use the same switchgear for lower spec cars. Because of this, the mix control is a knob with satisfying feedback, the fan speed is a rocker switch and the vent setting is handled by individual buttons for each setting, which can be combined. I find that manual mode works best for commuting, and my feeling is that the auto function will work best for prolonged trips where one click of the temperature knob will adjust multiple settings.
The instrument cluster rates highly except for the use of blue backlighting. The gauges are large, clear, and easy to read, and Buick gets points for including the temperature gauge. My ideal car would have a full instrument cluster, but alas. I really like the detailing in the speedometer and tach, as the outside bezel has markings for intermediate numerals, and I feel it is styled to resemble a watch bezel. The numerals are backlit but the cluster is also globally lit from inside the pods. Blue backlighting can often be hard to read, which is why I say it lowers the rating, but the extra background lighting actually seems to help in this regard. The driver info screen has the usual items such as average economy, instant economy, trip odometer, tire pressure, voltage, and the Verano has the extra trick of displaying upcoming turns there as well. It is easily controlled from the turn signal stalk. I would like to point out that I dislike the use of a toggle switch rather than a dial for adjusting instrument lighting rheostat. It is so much easier to just scroll the wheel than repeatedly click a toggle.
Were I a buff book author, I would at this point make note that the seats are comfortable and well-trimmed but lack side bolstering. All of this is true, but I don’t drive aggressively enough that I really miss the extra support. The driver seat is power, and while the passenger seat isn’t it goes one extra step by adding manual height adjustment. The only glaring omission of the seating is lumbar support, manual or otherwise. I think this is the source of people not being able to acclimate to the Verano’s chairs. But the contrast stitching certainly looks good, although I am not well versed enough in material quality to know if the leather itself is of decent quality.
At hand storage is decent, with a reasonably sized glove box, the aforementioned center console, and large pockets in each door capable of holding a thick water bottle and then some. The back seat is specious enough for two adults, with a flip down arm rest and cup holders, and a second 12V outlet for the back seat. I mentioned in Part 1 that a 6’-2” gent could sit behind me. This is due to the scallop in the headliner where the sunroof ends. So, the top of his head is kind of stuck up in that space but it is certainly usable.
Overall, the Verano’s interior presents itself well, to this hard luck old GM driver. I do wish I had more basis for comparison to offer, but all I can say at this point is that I think, despite a few quirks, the Verano is a nice place to spend time.
Approach the Verano, and with the key in your pocket you just push one of the door handle buttons and all four doors unlock. However, I am incredibly annoyed that GM did not see fit to include a similar button on the trunk, necessitating you remove the key from your pocket. This is a first world problem to be sure, but it just screams lazy, unfinished execution. One nice feature I appreciate on newer cars is that the door hinges have three detents, handy for those tight parking lots.
Closing the door in a loud area, and the attention to quiet that Buick paid is readily obvious. Firing up the engine produces little noticeable noise from the inside, but do this with the door open and you notice DI clatter as well as the odd rattle before the revs drop down from the fast idle. That being said, it is no worse than any other DI car I have been around of late, such as my colleague’s CX-5.
One feature I really wanted was auto up and auto down windows. The Verano obliges, as the sunroof and windows are fully automatic with the exception of auto up in the rear, which seems cheap but I don’t use the back windows that much. The sunroof isn’t the largest, but it redeems itself by sliding farther into the roof than any other I have seen. Venting the sunroof and cracking the back rear window creates a pleasant and useful cross breeze. The A/C blows cold, and the heat, heated seats and heated steering wheel worked well the few early April mornings they were necessary.
I won’t harp any more on the Bose sound system, as I covered that in Part 1. The infotainment is functional though, and I think GM should get more credit for its ease of use. I wouldn’t say it is the best in the industry, (Derek mentioned to me that uConnect really is that good), but I would say that this is perfectly acceptable. Certainly head and shoulders above CUE and certain irritating features of MyFordTouch.
Releasing the electronic park brake and pulling onto the road (or, if you forget, the car will release the break when it detects you trying to get going), the Verano pulls strongly, while letting very little noise into the cabin. However, despite the claimed peak 260 ft-lbs at 2000rpm, I find it very easy to catch the car flat footed. Turbo lag is present, and I have taken to leaving the car one gear lower than I would normally feel necessary just in case I need to scoot into a gap. It really does not like being asked to accelerate after it has been loping along below 2000 rpm. However, if you are at or slightly above 2500 rpm and you put your foot into it, the car pulls eagerly. This is where I often find myself thinking “this car isn’t THAT fast”, but it is extremely disconcerting because the sensation of speed is muted.
Now I am not saying that this car is all that, but I have found that to really appreciate the amount of power you do have available, you almost have to keep the corner of your eye on the instruments, to put a frame of reference to the feel of what the car is doing. The car is capable of attaining extralegal speeds effortlessly. Despite having a non-independent Watts Link rear suspension, the car handles well, and is very easy to place. Steering is light but direct. However, the handling is really let down by excessive body roll. I found that the Alero on 15” winter tires actually cornered much flatter. 12” disks upfront and 11” disks out back stop the car with extreme prejudice, and I am hopeful that they will not suffer the same sort of warping issues that has plagued small to midsize GM cars in the past.
One feature that I have used but not yet fully come to appreciate is Hill Start Assist. When stopped on an incline, the computer will engage the parking brake to stop you from rolling back when you set off. It works well but I find it is not consistent about which grades on which it engages. I am hoping the owner’s manual will shed more light on the topic, though I keep forgetting to look it up when I am stationary.
With my observations regarding how it drives, please bear in mind that I drive in a fairly relaxed fashion, and full throttle runs to expressway speed limits represent the majority of my hoonage. The good news here is that, this car shows its Buick roots. The ride is comfortable, the car is quiet, and if you don’t feel like driving like a yob, the extra power makes it very easy to drive the car easy and relaxed. I find the stickshift to be precise and easy to use, and the only issue with the clutch is that it is a bit heavy for how high the friction point is, but I quickly got used to it.
The biggest let down in the drive is the 18” rims. I do not know how much they contribute to the cars direct handling, but being P235/45/18, there is not a lot of meat on them. The car does a good job of isolating me from harsh bumps, but the car seems to crash a bit over railway tracks and pot holes. I cannot help but think that a 17” or even a 16” rim would provide a softer ride over rough roads. I will be purchasing a set of 16” alloys and Nokian Hakkapelitta R2 winter tires in fall, and I suspect they will improve the cars composure over harsh bumps.
I gave my impressions of driving the car on an expressway in Part 1, and they haven’t really changed. Despite the gently rising beltline and small rear window, visibility is good and the blind spot warning actually works really well. The car also has forward collision detection, which I have turned off because it seems rather useless. When a car is in range of the system ahead, it illuminates a car shaped icon in the dash. Am I not supposed to be looking forward?
A lane departure warning system is also included, which I also keep disabled. Driving through construction zones causes the system to flip out and convince the car that we are not long for this world. I find being unable to disable the auto dimming rearview mirror extremely detrimental at night. I typically use the high beam setting on manual rear view mirrors sparingly, so I dislike that this is imposed upon me. When dim, you can really make out very little. I really find I appreciate the lane change flash function, I think every modern car should have this. The wipers are the kind that open from the center to the A-pillars. This isn’t a functional problem (yet) but every time I see an early 00’s GM minivan with the wipers stuck “open” I cringe. However, I would like to think that GM has moved past that kind of issue. I would also like to note that, while I don’t find I need and thus don’t ever look at the backup camera screen, I find the rear cross traffic alert to be exceptionally good at helping me back out when parked between two long, tall SUVs or pickup trucks.
I have done a few short highway stints. The car hums along very quietly, While I haven’t yet crossed the vast divide of the Canadian prairies, I feel I am going to be let down by the headlights. Halogen lamps aren’t automatically inferior any more than projectors are inherently superior, but these just don’t seem to have the throw I want on low beam, though the high beams seem adequate.
Fuel economy to date is a lifetime average of 10.5L/100kms (22.4 mpg US). This includes almost no highway. Normally I use the highways around and through Calgary quite a bit, but I have been something of a home body for the last few months. My commute is 12 kms (7.5 miles) one way, and includes two onramps and about half being expressway travel. My driving style since I took delivery has been consistently booting it onto the expressway, but driving normally the rest of the time. My assumptions are that on a strictly highway trip, I should get about 7L/100 kms (33.6 mpg US) highway, and that my traditional 50/50 highway/town should yield about 9.5 L/100 kms (24.75 mpg US). This guess is based on my first tank, which was about half commuting and half looping Calgary’s expressways in my shiny new car. Essentially, the Verano is returning almost identical economy to the Alero, with 100 more hp and 100 more torques on tap.
I have no problem stating that I am happy with my purchase, and that I think this is a well-executed small wanna-be luxury car, despite its quirks. The car has what I categorize as stupid head scratching oversights, such as the prop rod, fake aero, gaudy blue headlight bling, missing trunk lid button, etc., which irk me but I that I can totally live with, at the end of the day. The more major long term questions to me are whether the interior materials will hold up long term, and whether I will find myself hugely at odds with the headlight performance. I am reasonably confident with the running gear, since the 2.0T and F40-6 transmission have been around since 2007 in various iterations.
I really enjoy driving the car, and the one aspect that sold me initially, as well as make it a joy to drive is that the car feels familiar, and felt that way since I first sat in one. The gearing and manual transmission felt similar to the Alero, which is a good thing because I enjoyed wringing that car out. The engine even makes similar noises at the high end of the tach as the 2.2 ECOTEC. Operating the switch gear and infotainment feels second nature, even though it is a few models removed from my previous ride. My new car feels like an old friend, and I think that is a good measure of overall satisfaction.