The Truth About Cars » Buick The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Buick General Motors Issues Six Recalls For 720,000 Vehicles Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 2014 Chevrolet SS in Red

Wednesday, General Motors issued six recalls for a total of around 720,000 vehicles, all assembled within the last five years.

Autoblog reports the following have been recalled:

  • 2010 – 12 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain/Cadillac SRX; 2011 – 12 Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal, Buick LaCrosse: Bolt used to secure height adjustor actuator in vehicles with powered seats may loosen on its own, if not fall out, allowing the seat to move freely; 414,333 recalled.
  • 2013 – 14 Cadillac ATS, Buick Encore; 2014 Chevrolet Caprice/SS, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac ELR; 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra: Incomplete weld of seat hook bracket assembly, may require track replacement; 124,008 recalled.
  • 2011 – 13 Buick Regal; 2013 Chevrolet Malibu: Single-bulb burnout of turn signal failing to notify driver of issue, reprogramming needed; 120,426 recalled.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Bad electric ground on power steering module of belt-driven electric steering models — caused by misplaced paint — may lead to sudden loss or reduction of steering power; 57,242 recalled
  • 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Spark: Improperly fastened lower control arm of Korean-built models could lead to separation from the steering knuckle; 1,919 recalled.
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon Denali: Incorrect retaining nut in interior roof rail could puncture or tear roof-mounted airbags upon deployment; 22 recalled.
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General Motors Recalls 8.4 Million Vehicles Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:05:04 +0000 GM RenCen Storm Clouds

General Motors has issued a total of six recalls affecting some 8.4 million vehicles in North America, the majority of which have ignition-related issues.

Autoblog reports the following group totals 7,610,862 — 6,805,679 in the United States — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation:

  • 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu
  • 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero
  • 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

The second group totals 616,179 — 554,328 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation due to bumping of key fob:

  • 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX
  • 2013-2014 Cadillac CTS

The third group totals 20,134 — 2,990 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for potential damage to the engine block heater power cord’s insulation under extreme cold conditions:

  • 2011-2014 Chevrolet Cruze
  • 2012-2014 Chevrolet Sonic
  • 2013-2014 Chevrolet Trax
  • 2013-2014 Buick Encore
  • 2013-2014 Buick Verano

The fourth group totals 117 — 104 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the Superjoint fastner not being torqued to spec prior to leaving the assembly line:

  • 2014 Chevrolet Camaro
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2014 Buick Regal
  • 2014 Cadillac XTS

The fifth group totals 12,002 — 9,731 in the U.S. — and are being recalled due to the underhood fuseable link potentially melting through electrical overloading, leading to smoke and fire damage to other electric wiring components:

  • 2007-2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD (with auxiliary battery)
  • 2007-2011 GMC Sierra HD (with auxiliary battery)

The sixth and final group totals 188,705 — 181,984 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the potential for an electrical short to the driver’s door module disabling the power lock and window switches, as well as overheating the module itself:

  • 2005-2007 Buick Rainier
  • 2005-2007 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
  • 2005-2007 GMC Envoy
  • 2005-2007 Isuzu Ascender
  • 2005-2007 Saab 9-7X
  • 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT
  • 2006 GMC Envoy XL

In the press release issued by the automaker, CEO Mary Barra said her company undertook what she believed “is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of [GM] because nothing is more important than the safety of [GM's] customers.” She added later on that if any other issues come to the automaker’s attention, GM would “act appropriately and without hesitation” to recall and repair those vehicles. The automaker has recalled a total of 28 million vehicles since January of this year.

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General Motors Digest: June 30, 2014 Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:00:14 +0000 GM Renaissance Center

In today’s General Motors digest: GM recalls over 700,000 units globally; Siemens VDO Automotive urged the automaker to look into airbag data in 2004; product chief Doug Parks was aware of the ignition problems in 2005; Feinberg compensation plan will have no payment cap; and Delphi is under the gun from both Congress and the IRS.

Autoblog and The Detroit News report the following vehicles are under recall:

  • 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Cruze: Takata airbag inflator defect; 29,019 (U.S.), 4,066 (Canada)
  • 2014 – 2015 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra; 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Surburban/GMC Yukon, Yukon XL: Transfer case electronically switching to neutral without driver input; 392,459 (U.S.), 53,607 (Canada), 20,874 (Other Markets)
  • 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Caprice, SS: Potential for windshield wiper motor gear teeth to become stripped; 4,794 (U.S.)
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette: Insufficient welding in rear shocks of FE1, FE3 suspension-equipped vehicles; 1,939 (U.S.), 33 (Canada), 82 (Other Markets)
  • 2009 – 2012 Buick Excelle GT: Potential for high-beams to remain on under extreme circumstances; 194,107 (China)

Automotive News says in 2004, Siemens VDO Automotive engineer Douglas McConnell wrote a report urging GM to look into a possible link between airbag sensors and the loss of power via the ignition cycle. The GM-commissioned report was penned a month before the first Chevrolet Cobalts left the assembly line, and shown to five engineers working for the automaker at the time, including Matthew Craig, who currently works for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as its chief of human injury research. Declining to elaborate on the report, representative Greg Martin stated “there were several missed opportunities for GM to properly identify the problem,” citing the Valukas report to back his statement.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Doug Parks, appointed to the post of vice president of global product programs by CEO Mary Barra, was a vehicle chief engineer for the Chevrolet Cobalt program in 2005. In that role, he was a part of the cost debate over whether or not to redesign the ignition switch that would be put into the compact, stating in a May 2005 email that changing the design “appears to be the only real, quick solution.” Parks had been invited to attend two meetings in the first half of 2005 over the issue, though nothing could be determined as far as attendance was concerned.

In the present, Kenneth Feinberg’s compensation program for those injured or killed as a result of the ignition switch will pay claims to all drivers, passengers and bystanders involved in an accident with an affected GM vehicle. Further, claimants will have few hurdles to go through in being paid, including alcohol use and lack of physical evidence. Finally, the program will have no cap on the amount of money paid in total, though no word has been given by Feinberg and his time about how much will be paid per victim and their families. Claims will be accepted beginning August 1.

Finally, Automotive News reports Delphi, already under investigation by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee over its part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, is now under the gun from the Internal Revenue Service over whether or not the supplier can be taxed as a domestic corporation. Upon emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, Delphi set up its tax base in the United Kingdom, though it retained its headquarters and executive team in Troy, Mich. Should the supplier lose its appeal with the IRS, its tax rate could rise to 22 percent effective rate, up from the 17 percent Delphi pays currently. In 2013, it paid $256 million in taxes; under the new rate, an additional $75 million would need to be paid, bringing the total to approximately $331.3 million.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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GM Recalls 3.36M Vehicles Over Ignition Problem Tue, 17 Jun 2014 10:00:55 +0000 GM-building-US-Flag

In today’s digest: General Motors issues another ignition-related recall; has fixed a handful of those affected by the original ignition recall; and unveils plans for three new compacts to be sold in emerging markets.

Autoblog reports GM has issued six total recalls of some 3.41 million North American vehicles built between the start of the new century and the present:

  • 2000 – 2005 Cadillac Deville; 2004 – 2005 Buick Regal LS, GS; 2004 – 2011 Cadillac DTS; 2005 – 2009 Buick Lacrosse; 2006 – 2008 Chevrolet Monte Carlo; 2006 – 2011 Buick Lucerne; 2006 – 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Ignition switch; 3.36 million recalled
  • 2013 – 2014 Cadillac ATS; 2014 Cadillac CTS: Shift cable/bracket separation in automatic transmissions; 68,887 recalled
  • 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD; 2015 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 HD: Potential poor connection of power steering hose clamp connection to power steering pump; 57,192 recalled
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS AWD: Premature rollover airbag deployment linked to gasket leak between constant velocity joint and rear propeller shaft; 16,932 recalled
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette: Premature passenger seat side airbag deployment linked to unbelted child and door trim in models with the Competition Sport Seat option; 712 recalled
  • 2014 – 2015 Chevrolet Silverado; 2014 – 2015 GMC Sierra: Movement of driver-side all-weather floor mats due to missing attachments in vinyl-floor models; 184 recalled

The automaker expects to take a $700 million charge in addition to the $400 million already forecast for Q2 2014.

Regarding the original ignition-related recall of 2.6 million vehicles back in February of 2014, Bloomberg reports 154,731 of the affected models have been fixed thus far. GM has also shipped 396,253 repair kits around the world to help dealer service bays repair the problem. Production of the parts has been non-stop for its supplier Delphi, where the line has been going strong through multiple shifts seven days a week.

Finally, Just-Auto says the automaker plans to unveil three new compact vehicles under the Amber project. The new compact sedan, SUV and hatchback will be designed in Europe and assembled in Brazil, with the finished products heading for emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico et al. Potential global production is expected to reach between 1 million and 1.2 million units annually beginning around 2018 at the earliest.

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Reader Review: Buick Verano Turbo 6-Speed Manual, Part 2 Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:18:10 +0000 IMG_4567

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.

IMG_4569 no plate

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.

IMG_4593 edited

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. IMG_4565 IMG_4567 IMG_4568 IMG_4569 no plate IMG_4575 IMG_4580 IMG_4585 IMG_4587 IMG_4589 IMG_4590 IMG_4592 IMG_4593 edited

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Reader Review: Buick Verano Turbo 6-Speed Manual, Part 1 Fri, 23 May 2014 13:00:07 +0000 veranoturbo

Reader Davefromcalgary discusses what it’s like to buy the car that everybody asks for, but nobody ever seems to actually purchase: the manual variant of a mainstream sedan.

As the calendar turned from 2013 to 2014, my trusty 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with 296,000 kms (or roughly 184,000 miles) on the clock, took what would turn out to be its last cross country trip. Returning to Calgary on a day where the average air temperature across 1350 kms (840 miles) averaged about -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit), the hydraulic clutch system gradually ceased to function. I managed to get it home, but the third gear synchro soon failed, and the first gear synchro progressively became louder until I finally delivered my trusty Olds to the local Pick n’ Pull.

In the summer of 2012, I had to have that very same hydraulic system serviced at a local shop in Calgary. It is my understanding that prolonged exposure to extreme cold was a known problem for that system, and that previous to this service, which required replacement of the slave cylinder, it had been cold proofed. This same procedure was unfortunately not carried out this time around.

At this point, my Alero was pretty much worth scrap value, having a bad transmission, typical Alero rust, and a rebuilt title. So I made the decision to buy something reasonably new. Up to that point, only one out of the six vehicles I had owned had come into my possession with less than 150,000 kms, or just under 100,000 miles. I generally wrench on my own, up to complex engine or transmission repairs, so I decided to treat myself with a vehicle that hopefully would require only regular maintenance for a while.

As I have mentioned to the likes of CoreyDL, bball40dtw and 28-cars-later, I had a pretty strict set of non-negotiables that my new car had to adhere to; the rest would sort itself out.

My “must have” list is short, but boy does it narrow the field in a hurry.

• Dual Exhaust – Pretty much everyone whom I spoke to about my pending decision told me this is a stupid non-negotiable. However, every vehicle I have ever owned has left my care with dual exhaust, whether it had it prior or not. I simply cannot bear the lopsided look of a lonely single exhaust poking out one side of the car. Furthermore, if I ended up buying or leasing new or on warranty, I know this kind of aftermarket modification wouldn’t fly. Finally, it is really hard to get an aftermarket system that looks like it belongs there, doesn’t ruin the look, and doesn’t introduce annoying tones or resonance.

• V6 or Turbo 4 power – the majority of my past vehicles have been the base engine. While it can be fun to zing a car to redline and enjoy every bit of the tach, I also think it is nice to have effortless power to merge and cruise when you want it. This is the main reason why the Mazda6 never entered consideration. I know the SkyActiv 2.5 is a good engine for what it is, but I was really looking for 240+ hp.

• 6 speed manual – Self-explanatory. However, I also wanted something with a nice ratio spread. It always boggles my mind when the top gear in a decently powerful manual transmission car screams along at highway speeds. I guess the passing power is there, but I can downshift, thanks.

• Convenient audio integration – I pretty much spend all day streaming radio from all over North America on my iPhone using the Tune-In Radio app. At the very least an aux-in jack was required, for cars around the 2008 range.

• Sunroof.

• HVAC must have the floor/defrost split. My mom’s Audi A4 and my dad’s LSS and LeSabre don’t have this setting, and in winter I consider it absolutely non-negotiable.

Some other important questions, such as driven wheels and body style came down as follows:
• Driven wheels was a consideration, but not a decision maker. Sadly, the majority of cars for sale are FWD, and I really wasn’t interested in slip and grip transverse AWD.

• Body style was pretty much destined to be a sedan or coupe. Hatchbacks and CUVs were not really in the running, due to a quirk of mine that really dislikes not having a separate, lockable trunk area. Stuff in the rear of a hatch is accessible via the main doors and I really can’t stand that. (Sorry, Forester XT, GTI, and Legacy GT Wagon.) For Pch101, sadly no small to midsize trucks were on my list. The Tacoma and Frontier simply do not interest me now, and never have, as my primary vehicle anyways. I would definitely consider a Tacoma X-Runner as a secondary vehicle.

So, at this point my two front runners were an 05-09 Legacy GT Sedan, or a 2008+ Accord Coupe V6. I always loved what I call the “hawk-eye” Legacy, as the 2.5 Turbo is a treat, and the Subaru AWD would have been a great companion for my many winter highway trips.  However, the only way to have 6 forward gears and Subaru’s best standard audio was the rare as hen’s teeth Spec-B, which basically proved impossible to find for a reasonable price, and anywhere near to my location. As well, 05lgt and others cast some doubt upon the robustness of the rear suspension and diff of five to ten year old Legacy GTs.

My parents visited in mid-January for an event, and it was suddenly and clearly illuminated that coupes suck for bringing friends along. Combining this with how sick I was of having to do gymnastics just to get out of a tight parking spot, this pretty much eliminated the Accord, despite how sweet the pull of that 3.5L V6 is. I will state categorically that had the Accord sedan been available with the V6/6MT combination, I would have bought it.

A 2009 Lexus IS250 briefly entered the competition, and I even took it for a test drive. My reading of owner’s reviews assured me that with a good set of winter rubber, the Lexus’s excellent RWD driving dynamics would prove quite a treat when the white stuff flew. Sadly, the 2.5 V6 could hardly be described as effortless, though I cast no aspersions on the vehicles smoothness or comfort.

So, at this point, within my maximum of CAD 35,000 or so, the Verano Turbo and Jetta GLI were the only two vehicles left on the list. I test drove both, and found the VW 2.0T/6MT combination subjectively superior to the GM combo. It seemed more responsive across the rev range, in fact feeling as strong at it’s peak as the GM, despite advertising 45 less horsepower. However, the Verano T had better feature content at the price, and the Jetta has single exhaust. Dual tips on one side doesn’t count. I was willing to settle for the slightly smaller Verano. As well, a combination of my general GM bias, and my family’s experience with VW products really swayed me over to the old man brand. All that was left was to book a test drive and see if I actually liked driving the damn thing.

This proved harder than you might suspect. My chosen dealer didn’t have one (not surprising, being that they are western Canada’s volume leader in pickups) and the closest one they had access to was in Edmonton, 3 hours away. However, they did show a 2013 Verano T 6MT locally, but it wasn’t available to them. So, I took matters into my own hands and tracked the vehicle down myself and went to the dealer to whom it belonged. I booked an appointment for a Tuesday evening.

When I showed up, it was a black on black Verano T, fully loaded including nav and the 10 split spoke premium rims. The young salesman, who had given me a pretty thorough walk through in the well-lit service drive through, tossed me the keys, and told me to be back by close. I immediately paired up my iPhone, (remarkably easy) and pulled out on to AB- Hwy 2, heading south towards the outskirts of town so I could evaluate the car’s highway ride, and headlights. I was immediately able to ascertain that the car was indeed effortless to accelerate to highway speeds, enhanced by the fact that the Verano is a very quiet car! Buick advertises their quiet tuning, and, while my reference is a clapped out Alero, it became pretty obvious that this was a very solid feeling automobile.

Any and all reviews I had read of the Verano T praised its power and smooth quiet ride, but universally panned its 6MT as clunky, vague, and a blight on an otherwise well put together car. Now, maybe I have never driven a good MT, or perhaps my standards are a lot lower, but I found the car easy to drive. I had no trouble finding gears, and the clutch action felt fine, though the friction point is pretty high in the pedal travel. I will say that one of the things that sold me on the car was just how familiar it felt to drive. The gear ratios, to me, are well matched to the engines output and I had no trouble operating the mechanism. I was also extremely pleased to find that at 110 kph, the little turbo mill has yet to breach 2000 rpm in 6th gear. This led me to believe that the car would be an effortless highway cruiser.

I used the voice command to dial my dad. We had a quick chat, and his opinion was that the sound quality was slightly better than the Bluetooth headset I usually use, which satisfied that curiosity. I found the infotainment system easy to use. I was able to stream music with little trouble, and the system was even able to display song information in Ukrainian.

The Bose sound system was actually better than the Bose system in my 04 Mazda 6, but was typically underwhelming. I don’t know why, but Bose in cars just doesn’t work. I preferred the “Monsoon” systems in my previous GM vehicles, for sound. Bear in mind though, I am not what you would consider an audiophile; I just know what I like a stereo to sound like. That being said, the connectivity was straightforward, and while it does feature a touch screen, the majority of features can be controlled by the large array of buttons and the large, central push-to-select rotary dial. The HVAC system, though being an auto climate control system, features rotary knobs and toggle switches, and is extremely user friendly. All in all, I would give the Verano top marks for its control interfaces.

I found it reasonably easy to find a driving position that suited me. A colleague of mine who is 6’4” rented a Verano and said he couldn’t get comfortable behind the wheel, but at a stocky 5’6” I was able to get comfortable. The 6’2” salesman sat behind me, and he fit, so I figured I would generally be able to haul my friends around. Though the Verano is sort of short in length, and awkwardly tall, the beltline stays low enough that shoulder check visibility isn’t hampered. This was a serious concern, but taking the car onto Calgary’s expressways assured me that it was easy enough to navigate through traffic. I would like to give special props to the blind spot monitoring system in the side view mirrors, and the cross traffic alert in the backup camera, but also decry the auto dimming rearview mirror with no option to disable the function.

At the end of my 90 minute test drive, I was comfortable that this was the car for me. I still have a list as long as my arm of things that irk me about the car. Basically, the Verano was the car that annoyed me the least while fulfilling my must haves. At this point, I had two dealerships vying for my business. The dealership that had the car, and my chosen dealership. I paid $40 to, a website which spit out the vehicle’s dealer invoice price. At this point, I dealt over email, and was promised in writing a 2014 Verano T, factory ordered, at invoice +4% profit and my choice of lease incentives, either the current ones or the ones available on delivery. I took that email to my preferred dealership, and we ran the credit check and I gave them a deposit to secure the order. This was at the end of January, and I took delivery of the car on April 5 2014.

As of this writing, I have owned the car for 1.5 months. Part 2 will discuss how the car functions in day-to-day situations.


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Volkswagen’s Cervone Returns To GM As Global Communications VP Tue, 20 May 2014 10:00:01 +0000 GM Next

Autoblog reports Volkswagen Group of America executive vice president of group communications Tony Cervone is returning to the GM fold as the automaker’s senior vice president of global communications. According to CEO Mary Barra, Cervone “brings an ideal mix of outside perspective and experience that compliments a deep background in GM and today’s global auto industry.” Prior to his return, he also served as the vice president of communications for United Airlines and Chrysler Group, where he spent 14 years before his decade-long previous service to GM. Cervone succeeds Selim Bingol — who resigned from the company in April “to pursue other interests,” and will report directly to Barra.

Speaking of “outside perspectives,” Automotive News chronicles the story of how a trio of Southern gentlemen helped to bring the spotlight upon the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the February 2014 GM recall. Leading the charge, attorney Lance Cooper had sought answers into the death of Brooke Melton at the wheel of her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. Cooper retained a number of experts in his case, including auto shop owner Charlie Miller and materials engineer Mark Hood, both of whom discovered the switches in Melton’s Cobalt and related vehicles performed differently than those found in 2007 and later models. The evidence gathered would help cement the settlement for his client’s family, as well as pave the way for the recall.

Moving toward the present, victim compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg may end up sorting through a mountain of data as he works out the details for a compensation package between GM and the 35 families affected by the switch. Between the time the first vehicles left for showrooms in late 2002 through 2012, 1,752 individuals died in accidents involving the vehicles under the February 2014 recall. Though the link may be tenuous in most of the cases, each one may open an opportunity for affected groups to lay some of the blame at the door of GM’s comptroller.

Looking toward the future, GM and AT&T will offer a number of 4G LTE connected-car packages beginning next month to consumers, ranging from $5 for a few hours of streaming music to $50 for several showings of “Frozen” for the little ones in the back. However, demand for the service may not be what the automaker expects, as consumers who don’t have company on the road often may wonder why they need a connected car with 4G. The concern isn’t helped by the delay of an app suite — featuring offerings from NPR and The Weather Channel — which would allow owners access without using their smartphones; the delay is over quality concerns, according to GM.

In brand news, GMC is doing very well for itself as of late, being the healthiest among GM’s four brands left standing after the 2009 bankruptcy. The “professional-grade” line of trucks, SUVs and crossovers are leaving their bow-tied brethren behind for the premium market, bumping into Cadillac more often than may be comfortable for some within GM’s hallowed halls. That said, GMC’s demographic prefers to remain low-key in opposition to the flash that brings the celebs to Escalade’s yard, even if the Yukon XL Denali is within spitting distance of the Caddy’s $72,690 base price.

Leading the charge is Buick-GMC boss Duncan Aldred, who is looking forward to where GMC will go while shaking off the shadow of Buick’s “senior citizen” image within the United States. The former Vauxhall managing director sees similarities between Buick and Vauxhall/Opel, and aims to rehabilitate its image through a marketing strategy that may use “shocking and polarizing” messaging to prove his point. As for GMC, Aldred says he sees its future “as really exciting in an Audi-esque kind of way,” with plans to push the Denali line further up the mountain toward the summit.

Finally, CarNewsChina has the first official photos of the facelifted Chinese-market Chevrolet Aveo, which takes its looks from the upcoming Cruze. The Aveo will be priced between 81,800 yuan and 114,800 yuan ($13,113 to $22,732 USD), with power from 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines under the bonnet. Made by the GM Shanghai joint-venture between GM and SAIC Motor, the newly styled compact will arrive in showrooms in June for the sedan, July for the hatchback.

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GM Issues ECM Recall, Bids Farewell To Federico Tue, 06 May 2014 10:00:49 +0000 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Autoblog reports another recall has been issued by General Motors, this time concerning 51,640 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers screwed together between March 26 and August 15 of last year. The affected vehicles possess an engine control module whose software may provide an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, forcing the driver to pull to the side of the road should the tank prove empty instead of a quarter to empty. Owners have been asked to bring their affected crossover for a reflashing of the ECM to correct the issue.

As for the original recall, Automotive News reports GM engineering executive Jim Federico has retired from the company. Federico led a team of engineers in a 2012 investigation of the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the recall, specifically on whether an increase in the switch’s torque would prevent it from slipping out of the “on” position, as well as why the switch prevented sensors in affected vehicles from deploying during a crash. The engineer, who reported directly to current CEO Mary Barra in 2011 when she was global product development chief, had a hand in the development of a handful of vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Adam and Buick Regal. A GM spokesman said Federico’s immediate retirement is not related to the ongoing recall crisis.

Meanwhile, the publication put forth a timeline involving engineer Ray DeGiorgio’s original decision to make no changes to the switch, and his subsequent about-face months later that ultimately led to the introduction of the redesigned switch in late April 2006. In short, the atmosphere tied to the company’s “cost culture,” when paired with the financial downward spiral that led to both GM and supplier Delphi seeking emergency funding from the federal government in 2008, gave rise to DeGiorgio — responsible for the switch’s design since 1999 — originally seeing the upgrade as impossible due to the design’s fragility possibly leading to more problems in a redesign. Other proposed solutions were deemed as an unacceptable business case by Chevrolet Cobalt engineering manager Gary Altman, who discovered the problem by accidentally bumping his knee against the switch in testing. Later on, DeGiorgio sought more data into the problem despite his original verdict, working with Delphi to create the upgraded part.

The Detroit News reports the law firms of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles P.C. in Montgomery, Ala. and the Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga. are joining forces to handle 200 product liability lawsuits against GM in addition to the lawsuits already filed by the firms separately. Founding shareholder of Beasley Allen et al, Jere Beasley, proclaimed the unification necessary in order to “help GM’s victims take on the powerful automaker.” Cooper’s namesake Lance Cooper added that not only will the joint venture benefit their clients, but it will also “allow us to continue in our efforts to get at the truth of what GM knew and when they knew it, so that the American public gets answers to their questions.”

Over in Korea, Automotive News reports GM Korea is devising strategies in the wake of Chevrolet’s 2016 European and Holden’s 2017 manufacturing exits. Aside from its newly expanded design studio, the subsidiary has reduced total daily work hours from 20 to 16, which would cut annual production by 100,000 units while offsetting 150,000 lost annual sales from Europe. Other cuts include early retirement for salaried employees — 200 of 6,000 eligible having accepted thus far — and 60,000 units at GM Korea’s Gunsan plant, where the Cruze and Orlando are assembled. In return, more vehicles could be sent to Australia and other markets from Korea in place of those once manufactured in Australia come 2017 and beyond.

Finally, GM has opted to simplify its customer satisfaction survey in order to gain knowledge from its base faster. The new survey, currently in the pilot phase, is comprised of less than 10 questions, and will ask consumers to rate their dealership experience on a scale of one to five stars, as well as write an online review. If successful, the original 22-question survey would be replaced by the shorter version, both of which are used to award quarterly payouts for dealers under the GM Standards for Excellence program.

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Cadillac Flagship, Redesigned LaCrosse To Be Made In Detroit By 2016 Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:30:16 +0000 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

In light of General Motors’ recent announcement of a $384 million investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, two vehicles from Cadillac and Buick could wind up being produced alongside the next-generation Volt.

Edmunds reports IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley expects Cadillac’s all-new flagship to be produced in late 2015, with the Buick LaCrosse — currently assembled in Fairfax, Kan. — joining the flagship in 2016 for the latter’s next redesign.

Though GM hasn’t said much about the flagship, industry insiders claim the vehicle will be aimed at the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class, and may be priced as much as $100,000.

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GM Seeks Aid From NASA, Issues New Ignition-Related Recall Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:00:47 +0000 gm-headquarters-logo-opt

Autoblog reports 2.19 million of the same vehicles under the current General Motors ignition recall are under a new ignition-related recall, as well. The new recall warns of a problem where the key can be removed without the switch moved to the “off” position. According to GM, the automaker is aware of “several hundred” complaints and at least one roll-away accident resulting in injury, and is instructing affected consumers to place their vehicles in park or, in manuals, engage the emergency brake before removing the key from the ignition until repairs are made.

Regarding the original recall, The Detroit News reports has called upon NASA’s Engineering & Safety Center to review whether or not the 2.6 million affected Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Saturns are safe to drive with just the ignition key in position. The agency, which has performed similar reviews in the past, will look over the work performed by the automaker in the latter’s effort to make the affected vehicles safe to drive, as well as review its overall approach to safety concerns.

On the financial front, Automotive News says GM will take a $1.3 billion charge in Q1 2014 for the original recall, 40 percent greater than the $750 million charge originally estimated at the end of last month. The charge — which includes repair costs and loaners for affected owners — comes on the heels of a $400 million charge tied to currency challenges in Venezuela, the total sum of which threatens to knock out most if not all of the automaker’s Q1 2014 earnings set to be announced toward of end of this month.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reports Michael Carpenter, the CEO of former GM financial arm Ally Financial, says his company will complete its exit from government ownership by Election Day of this year:

The U.S. Treasury is quite happy today. My own view is they will definitely be out before the election and we are close to having Treasury and U.S. government ownership in the rearview mirror.

By the end of trading Thursday, Ally’s IPO netted taxpayers $17.7 billion with a profit of $500 million on the $17.2 billion bailout of the consumer finance company, while the Treasury currently holds 17 percent of its remaining shares after selling 95 million for $25 per share at the opening bell; share price fell 4.4 percent to $23.50 at the closing bell.

In lawsuit news, Automotive News reports GM settled with the families of two Saturn Ion drivers who lost their lives in 2004 when their respective cars’ airbags failed to deploy. The two fatalities were identified by the publication as the earliest of 13 linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch at the root of the current recall crisis. In addition, while one case was settled out-of-court in September of 2007, the second case drew its settlement terms after the automaker filed for bankruptcy in June of 2009, placing the plaintiffs and their lawyer with other unsecured creditors.

The Detroit News reports Cadillac and Buick are at the top of their respective lists for dealer service satisfaction as determined by the J.D. Power & Associates U.S. Customer Service Index Study. Cadillac’s dominance over the luxury brand category comes as former No. 1 Lexus — who held the top spot for five consecutive years — falls to third behind Audi, while Buick leads Volkswagen, GMC, Mini and Chevrolet in the mass-market brand category.

Finally, Autoblog reports the last of eight Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole that formed inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. back in February has been recovered. The 2001 Corvette Mallett Hammer Z06 will need extensive work performed to bring it back to its original state, but not before it joins its brethren in a new exhibit entitled “Great 8″ beginning next week. The exhibit will last until the museum’s 20th anniversary in late August, at which point GM will begin restoration work on the eight Corvettes.

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GM Invests $449M Into Next-Gen Volt Production Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:10:01 +0000 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001

General Motors announced Tuesday that it would invest $449 million into the two plants responsible for assembling the Chevrolet Volt in preparation for the next generation of the plug-in hybrid’s arrival in 2016.

The Detroit News reports $384 million will immediately go into the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for body shop tooling, equipment and other plant upgrades, while the remaining $65 million heads for the Brownstown Township battery assembly plant for expanded production of GM’s advanced lithium-ion batteries, as well as any future technologies that come down the road. The investments are expected to last for the next two years, and would add 1,400 new jobs to both facilities.

As for what fruit the investment will bear, GM vice president of North American manufacturing Gerald Johnson announced the next generation of the Volt will roll into showrooms in 2016 as a 2016 model, with production slated to begin in the autumn of 2015. Though he didn’t go further into what the new Volt would bring to the table, a number of analysts said the PHEV would likely gain an improvement in range over the 38 miles currently provided in electric-only travel.

Further, two new vehicles will accompany the new Volt within the next couple of years, including the Buick LaCrosse — expected in mid-2016 — and an all-new large Cadillac sedan set to be the brand’s flagship that would begin production around the same time as the next-gen PHEV.

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GM Rallies Rentals, Braces For Further Investigation Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:35:40 +0000 Saturn-Ion-RedLine

General Motors has issued a new recall for 355 vehicles, while also facing a possible lawsuit by an investor over “immorality”. GM may also face a new probe involving the automaker’s bankruptcy and its relation to the original recall that thrust GM into the headlines, just as the agency responsible for investigating the problem at GM faces an audit from the Department of Transportation.

The New York Times reports the Justice Department has added an additional probe into their ongoing investigation of the 2014 recall of 1.76 million vehicles over a defective ignition switch linked to 31 crashes and 12 deaths.

The probe questions whether GM knew everything about the problem going into the 2009 bankruptcy — the automaker said they were alerted as early as 2001 — and failed to disclose the defect in full to both the federal government and the public during bankruptcy proceedings. This separate probe is being handled by the same group of FBI agents and federal prosecutors in New York who also brought forth the fraud case against Toyota that ended in a $1.2 billion settlement last week.

Meanwhile, Automotive News reports Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has asked the Department of Transportation’s inspector general Calvin Scovel to conduct an audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as to whether or not the agency properly looked into the issues leading up to the February 2014 recall, in light of the aformentioned crashes and deaths. The audit, according to Foxx, is to ensure “that DOT and NHTSA have a full understanding of the facts regarding the GM recall and can take corrective actions to enhance NHTSA’s safety function to the extent necessary and appropriate.”

On the investor front, Bloomberg reports a GM investor has filed a lawsuit against both the automaker and current CEO Mary Barra over every recall issued since late February this year.

In filing his complaint with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, George Pio called the automaker’s lack of immediate action “illegal and immoral,” and that news of the recalls, investigations et al surrounding GM as of late “triggered a sharp decline in the company’s share price, wiping out billions in shareholder value.”

The suit is filed on behalf of any individual who purchased stock between November 17, 2010 and March 10, 2014; no money damages have been specified.

Adding fuel to the fire are two stories from Edmunds, with the first related to the original recall regarding free loaner vehicles to those affected while their own vehicles are serviced beginning next month.

GM has called upon Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and other rental companies to help the automaker assemble a fleet for affected owners to use until the ignition switch is replaced. Though the original policy states GM owners are placed into GM vehicles, the scope of the original recall means if no related loaners are available, owners will be placed into vehicles from Ford, Honda, Chrysler et al. Underinsured owners will see a temporary boost in coverage from the automaker, as well. One source in the rental world tells us that this has been a massive undertaking for GM – with so many owners of the affected cars being under 25 (the minimum rental age at many companies) arranging coverage for these owners has been an extraordinary task.

As for the second report, Edmunds says 355 vehicles will be recalled within the week due to a transmission shift cable adjuster defect that could lead to a handful of 2014 models rolling away from where they were parked. Affected models include the Buick Regal, LaCrosse, Verano and Enclave; Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu and Traverse; and the GMC Acadia. All affected have the issue in their automatic transmissions.

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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000


Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!


Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.


I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.


 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, and serves as editor-in-chief at After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Barclays: GM Suffering From Worst Large Pickup Launch In 15 Years Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:29:25 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior

Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Automotive News reports the truck twins “faced a full-court press” from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, though winter weather also played a role in lower sales across the board. General Motors executives have come to the defense of their products, proclaiming average transaction prices of $4,000 to $5,000 more than the previous generation pickups and a combined market share hovering around 33 percent over the past few months, though the latter point held between 35 and 40 percent of the market in years past.

With dealers begging for stronger promotion and better incentives for the pickups, Chevrolet will host its Chevy Truck Month promotion. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing (dealer invoice plus destination charges and a $150 fee) on light- and heavy-duty Silverados, and will be heavily pushed during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with television advertising beginning March 18.

In addition, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC will all hold Open House events throughout the month of March. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing on nearly every 2014 vehicle sold under each brand, with the exception of the SS and Corvette Stingray for Chevrolet.

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Opel Adam Entering Chinese Market As A Buick Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:15 +0000 2013-Opel-ADAM-Models

When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.

CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. Buick will import the Adam at first, though local production could come to fruition further down the road.

Under the hood, two engines will be available to future Adam owners, including a 1.2-liter engine driving 69 horses through the front wheels, and a larger 1.4-liter with 100 horsepower. Both engines are gasoline-powered.

The customer base for the Adam are those seeking a trendsetting lifestyle machine that has little to do with their parents’ Regal or other sedans.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD Mon, 03 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 2014 buick regal

Time: 2332, Eastern. Outside temperature: six degrees. Speed: 83 mph, climbing.

 One needs to remind himself of following distance when letting the dogs run.

Thoughts appear as bullet points in the frontal cortex.

  • Led Zep II makes me hammer down
  • The left lane is clear, but there are some right lane travellers that could become obstacles.

One thousand one…

One thousand two…

“I should have quit you, baby, long time ago…”

One thousand three…

“down on this killing floor, break it down for me now…”

One thousand four…

  • Prius just oozed into the left lane to pace, not pass, the fuel tanker putting up considerable spray.
  • Headlights are dirty. Need to slow down anyway.
  • Too bad.

Wait a second, I’m lamenting having to back off while driving a Buick!

“People worry I can’t keep you satisfied…”

This 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a parts-bin car. A re-badge, and yet, it’s one hell of a highway flyer. The Regal is also surprisingly adroit in kinkier situations. It’s kind of a damn shame that this car is an automotive Palestinian. It’s sold as a Buick, but it started off as an Opel with a side of Saab, and was supposed to be a Saturn. For many, the Regal does nothing to recommend itself. That changes when you drive it, but if you think about it too much, it’ll piss you off.

The Regal Turbo AWD makes me angry with General Motors. Where the hell were cars like this in the ’80s and ’90s? GM passed those decades playing Program Objective Bingo. Does the under-engineered, over-budget, late-to-market shitbox du jour tick all the boxes for the Vehicle Line Director? If yes, proceed directly to market. Lather, rinse, bankrupt.

Regals then were GM-10 (later W) platform garbage. Nostalgia has already kicked in. The myth goes that a vicious public bought in to so much “hype” over the Camry and Accord and didn’t give the all-around-solid GM front-drivers a fair chance. Fiction. In reality, now is the only time in a generation that General Motors has built a modern midsize sedan that isn’t lashed together from pig iron and offal.

2014 buick regal

General Motors is making complete-package cars that compete. Why did it take so long? Did it really require kicking the blue-collar backbone in the jewels and a quick-rinse bankruptcy for GM to get it? It didn’t have to. It shouldn’t have had to, and that’s why I’m upset by the Regal.

The last time a Regal wasn’t a total shitbox was…gosh, was it ever not a shitbox? Maybe the first Colonnade Regal, or the last-gasp G-body? It’s been at least thirty years since the Regal was anything but woefully assembled with dull orange-peel paint covering slap-dash bodywork with chintz horror chamber interiors.

Now we have this 2014 Regal, which wasn’t even supposed to be a Buick. Inside left me more impressed than a Lexus ES. On the road, you can feel the benefit of the Russelsheim engineering. Punch it and will fly. The structure feels brick-outhouse solid. This is the kind of car we used to wish GM could make. What the hell took so long?

2014 buick regal

There’s a whole bunch of cousins built off the Epsilon II architecture the Regal is based upon. Among the Malibus, LaCrosses and XTSes, the Regal Turbo with AWD is the most compelling.  Yup, it’s not that roomy, but neither is the Audi A4, the revered BMW 3 Series or even the Infiniti G37. The reality is that the back seat space, while snug, is actually better than those other cars, and the Regal has a 14.2 cubic foot trunk, also actually pretty good.

The Regal draws an inevitable comparison to the Cadillac ATS. It’s only natural, the cars are priced closely together, and they appear a close match size-wise. You can’t knock the Regal on space and then turn around and say “king me” to an ATS. It’s got a teensy 10.2 cubic foot trunk, and there is no interior dimension that is larger than the Regal. It’s no surprise, then, that the ATS interior is just 90.9 cubic feet, noticeably tighter than the Regal’s 96.8 cubic feet.


Ah, but the Regal is also too expensive to play in this sandbox, even if the ATS and its weaker value are on your automotive fantasy team. The Regal definitely isn’t as special as the ATS, the 3 Series, or heck, even a milquetoast-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But if the Regal with turbo engine, AWD, leather, Driver Confidence Package #2, Premium II Package, and Power Moonroof is too pricey at $40,000, then what does that make the ATS equipped roughly the same way at about $47,000? Remember, there’s less space all around and the maddening burden of CUE, so clearly the differentiator is the driving experience. The ATS is indeed better to drive, but is it $7,000 better?

That’s a question best answered on your own, but most would say no. If you’re the practical sort, wait a year or two and take advantage of the Buick’s more prodigious depreciation for a great pre-owned deal. The Regal is great to drive. It’s precise, responsive and powerful. The ride is on the stiff side of compliant. The exhaust is on the drone-y side of throaty. Switch the traction control off, though, and you will be shocked to find that you can rotate this thing with the throttle. It may be FWD-based, but that tail will wag. The HiPer Strut front end, with its tuned-up geometry does its thing like a grown up. All the smooth wheel control would be better served by more feedback at the steering wheel rim, though.

The Regal gets a cleaned-up dashboard for 2014. There’s fewer buttons on the center stack, and the layout is logical. Ergonomics for the hard controls are good, though a knob for fan speed control would be more elegant than the up/down buttons. The touch panels for temperature and seat heater control look great, but are dismal to use. They’re unresponsive and distracting. The latest version of Intellilink drives the larger in-dash LCD, but it suffers from organization problems and too many sub-menus. The system also has a speed issue, sometimes hanging up for a few seconds while tuning through radio stations or calling up functions. I’d be especially upset to be making monthly payments for that kind of underachievement.


The Driver Confidence Package, by the way, is something you can completely live without. Skip it and drop the price of this weaponized midsizer back into the $30,000s. The dynamic cruise control is pretty well-tuned, but everything else is just unnecessary for an attentive driver. Of course, the flip side of that is that it may be more than necessary to offer the blinking lights, beeping warnings and last-ditch interventions. Those features give Buick some safety talking points, and when buyers opt for it, the profit margin puffs up.

The Regal Turbo AWD is a good car in a tough spot. From behind the wheel, it’s surprisingly good. But it’s between a rock and a hard place. Even within the GM family, it’s not as good as the ATS, but it’s a lot better than the ho-hum Malibu. The Regal does have the chops to keep a reasonable enthusiast entertained, but it falls short in the cars-by-the-pound measures of space and stuff for the lowest price.

The 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a charmer of sorts, but its like trying to get someone’s attention in a room full of Kennedys. There’s pressure on all sides, and even though the Regal has done yeoman’s work to drop the average age of Buick buyers and driven a bunch of conquest sales for Buick, it will probably finish its life as it started: a carpet-bagger Opel that’s mostly irrelevant, nice enough, and surprisingly frisky.

Regal_Ext_11 Regal_Ext_5 Regal_Ext_6 Regal_Ext_4 Regal_Ext_3 Regal_Ext_10 Regal_Ext_9 Regal_Ext_8 Regal_Ext_7 Regal_Ext_2 Regal_Int_12 Regal_Int_11 Regal_Int_10 Regal_Int_9 Regal_Ext_1 Regal_Int_8 Regal_Int_7 Regal_Int_6 Regal_Int_5 Regal_Int_4 Regal_Int_3 Regal_Int_2 Regal_Int_1 ]]> 143
Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.

Click here to view the embedded video.


When you say “Regal GS” my mind immediately leaps to the fourth-generation Regal (2nd generation W-body) with the supercharged 3.8L V6. When I was car shopping in 2000 I dearly wanted a Regal GS but there were two problems: Buick’s grandmotherly image and the price tag. As a result I bought an entirely different old person car: a Chrysler LHS. But I digress. This GS is an entirely different beast. Buick’s latest middle child is none other than Opel’s largest sedan, the Insignia. Refreshed for the 2014 model year, the differences between the Insignia and the Regal are most pronounced on the exterior where a Buick waterfall grille and logo have been inserted into the same opening as the Opel and ventiports have been added to the hood. And… that’s about it.

Two things are obvious when looking at the Buick Regal: it was designed in Europe and it was designed to to be both a Buick and an Opel from the start. Rather than looking out of place (like the Chrysler 300 to Lancia Thema transition) the Regal looks “meant to be.” Although the Regal is related to the Chevy Malibu, there’s essentially no exterior resemblance. The Regal GS I spent a week in gets the tweaked front and rear bumpers from Opel’s Insigia OPC model which ditches the foglamps for extra ventilation and integrates the exhaust tips into the rear bumper cover. Circling back around to those ventiports: I still think they look silly, but thankfully the Regal has the right number (four) and they are smaller and less conspicuously placed than on other Buick models I could mention.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003


2014 brings a new interior to the Regal based around a standard 8-inch touchscreen and new center console. Although you will still find a few hard plastics in the cabin, overall materials quality has improved and is firmly competitive with the Volkswagen CC, Audi A4 and Acura TL. Most cabin touch points feel more premium than the more expensive Lexus ES but the Volvo S60/S80 still lead the segment. Non-GS shoppers can opt for a handsome two-tone interior that combines a brown steering wheel and upper dash with a light grey/tan seats and carpet which would be my preference. GS models however are stuck with a very Germanic black-on-black theme. Part of the GS package is an 8-inch LCD instrument cluster and a chunkier steering wheel with sport grips, soft leather and a flat bottom. The disco dash is not as configurable as Chrysler’s 7-inch unit but the graphics are more modern and the system allows you full access to your media device, something uConnect still lacks.

For reasons unknown Buick chose not to borrow the Recaro seats found in the Insignia OPC, opting instead for more aggressively bolstered versions of the standard seat design. This may be because Buick owners are less likely to need the 5-point harness design, but it is most likely because we Americans are fatter so fewer of us would fit in the narrow seats. My 6-foot and slightly overweight frame fit snugly and comfortably in the front seats but the ceiling in the rear of the Regal proved too low for me to sit without cocking my head to the side. The lack of rear seat headroom was disappointing because the Regal offers several inches more rear leg room than the RWD Cadillac ATS and CTS and three inches more than the Volvo S60 and S80.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link


Like the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Opel Insignia now uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. For reasons I don’t understand however, Buick doesn’t get Opel’s interesting touchpad with “finger writing” recognition that Opel has been advertising across the pond. I’m guessing this is so that Buick doesn’t step on Cadillac’s toes. Compared to CUE there are a few other changes for Buick-duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing and we have physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, IntelliLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001


Nestled sideways under the hood is the same 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that the Cadillac ATS and CTS use. Good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, this is the same engine that you find in the “regular Regal.” That’s right, no longer does “GS” stand for “more power.” This means the GS looses 11 ponies vs 2013 but the turbo Regal gains 39 vs 2013. To differentiate things, GM does alter the torque curve to deliver all 295 twists at 2,500 RPM instead of 3,000 in the non-GS model. GM hasn’t completely ruled out the 325 horse 2.8L twin-turbo V6 the Insignia OPC uses for the American market, but I’d call it a long shot.

GS shoppers can choose either a 6-speed manual transaxle or a 6 speed automatic, but if you want the optional Haldex AWD system you’re forced to select the auto.  Although the GS uses the same AWD system as the regular Regal AWD, the engineers tossed in an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. GS trims also bump the suspension up a notch by combining GM’s HiPer Strut technology with active dampers on all four corners. The suspension offers three modes: normal, sport and GS. The feel ranges from European family sedan to firm.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001


GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axis more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.

The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feedback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Despite a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths, where it starts to lose composure. Trouble is, without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

Driving a FWD Regal back to back with our AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out, there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition. Rather than being the softest entry in the segment, the GS is among the firmer.

Put your foot to the floor and the GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference is, the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car, part carnival ride. The 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s S60 T5 AWD; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL. Despite similar power figures, the Volvo ran to 60 nearly 7/10ths faster which caused me to question my numbers. However, a loaner provided by a local dealer confirmed my findings. The reason seems rooted both in the GS’ gear ratios and the more advantageous torque curve from Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

At $37,830 starting, $40,195 with AWD and $44,975 full-loaded, the Regal undercuts the Volvo S60 T5 AWD and Acura TL by a couple thousand across the board (comparably equipped) and is more than $5,000 cheaper than the Lexus ES depending on your configuration. The Acura TL is in its final year of production and is, as you would assume, outclassed by the Regal in most ways. The recently refreshed Volvo delivers better road feel and a slightly more premium interior at the expense of more cash and less grip. The Lexus ES suffers from soft springs, an uncompetitive interior and steep price tag.

Over 611 miles I managed a reasonable 22.1 MPG in the GS which bests the real-world numbers from the V6 competition but comes short of the turbo Caddy and Swede. Why do I keep coming back to Cadillac? Because as hard as GM has tried to keep Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac from stepping on each other’s toes, the Regal GS is about the same price as the 2014 Cadillac ATS. It’s hard enough to go up against what is probably the second best vehicle GM has ever produced, but it is made doubly hard when there are so many combined Buick/Cadillac dealers. This means you’ll frequently find the Regal GS next to a sharp handling Caddy is on the same lot. Trickier still is the base Cadillac CTS which is slightly cheaper than a loaded GS, and, you guessed it: is often parked right next to the Buick.  Buick seems to have finally gotten the hang of being the middle child and in the process they have given not only Chevy owners but Volkswagen owners something to aspire to. That said, I’d be hard pressed to choose the Regal over an ATS 2.0T.


GM provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68.5 dB @ 50 MPH

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-006 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-008 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-009 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-011 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-012 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-013 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk-001 ]]> 114
Review: 2014 Buick Enclave (With Video) Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:18 +0000 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like Rainier, the Enclave is closely related to a GMC and Chevy version. Unlike the Rainier, the Enclave has only two doppelgängers instead of the 6-11 stablemates the Rainier contended with (depending on how you count your GMT360 and related SUVs.) The Chevy Traverse tackles the bottom of the market, the GMC Acadia handles the middle, and Buick occupies the top rung. That means the $38,740 to $52,925 Buick is targeted at the same shoppers as the Acura MDX, Infinti JX35/QX60, Lincoln MKT, the aging Volvo XC90 and if you believe GM, the Audi Q7.


Although there is a strong family resemblance, GM managed to style the closely priced Acadia and Enclave differently enough that the Buick looks more expensive when parked next to the GMC. The Traverse, on the other hand, shares very similar styling cues and the family resemblance is more pronounced. This could be a problem for potential shoppers as the only other entry in this segment that shares heavily with a mass-market variant is the Infiniti. (The Nissan Pathfinder’s twin.)

Despite the parts sharing, the Buick cuts an elegant form that my eye hasn’t tired of. The mid-cycle refresh brings new front and rear end styling to bring the Enclave up to date with the rest of the Buick lineup. Although I like the look of the Enclave, I don’t find it as appealing as the new MDX or Q7. In terms of style, I’d call it a tie between the Buick, Infniti and Volvo. Even though Buick’s questionable “ventiports” are continuing to grow and migrate to the top of the hood, the engineers made sure you can’t see them from inside the car.

The other thing the engineers managed to hide is the sheer size of the Enclave. Buick’s curvaceous design language managed to fool a friend of mine who said he was looking at an Enclave because he thought his Escalade was too big and too hard to park. Let’s look at the numbers. The Enclave is exactly 6/10ths of an inch shorter than the big Caddy and rides on a wheelbase nearly three inches longer. The Buick is 5 inches shorter than the Cadillac making it easier to get in a short garage, but it’s just as wide at 79 inches. Don’t assume it’s easier to park wither since it cuts a turning circle one and a half feet bigger. This is the kind of Buick I remember: ginormous.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I consider myself something of a dashboard connoisseur. I like my dashboards elegant, tasteful, squishy and preferably made from cow. I was therefore surprised to find the Enclave has best injection molded dashboard available. GM starts out with a single piece molded dashboard designed to look like leather with different textures pieced together. The molded product is then stitched with a sewing machine to insert thread along the injection molded faux-seams.

The result is impressive. Unfortunately the rest of the Enclave’s interior didn’t receive this level of attention. This means the old Enclave’s thin steering wheel is still shared with the defunct Buick Lucerne and the only real wood you’ll find is on that optional half-wood tiller. Odder still is the fact that no attempt is made to have the real wood look like the face wood in the car with the fake wood having a grey hue and the steering wheel veneer being nutty brown. I know I’m going to get complaints from this statement, but here I go. In a market where everyone but Acura is doing real wood, the aces of forest-substitute stick out like a sore thumb. (Note: the Canadian MDX can have real tree as an option.)

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Enclave counters these interior mis-steps with large and comfortable front seats and the only 8-seat configuration in this class. That 8th seat is important because it allows the Enclave to compete not only with the competition we have mentioned so far, but also with large body-on-frame SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX56/QX80. In this context the Buick has a significant price advantage over the larger competition starting $25,000 lower than the Cadillac. Because those large competitors are aging and often draw heavily from their mass-market donor trucks, the Buick represents a decent value without looking like a cheap alternative.

As with all three-row SUVs, seats get less comfortable as you move towards the back. The middle captain’s chairs in the 7-seat Enclave are the most comfortable among the 3-row crossover segment while the optional three-seat middle bench drops  to class average. Due to the Buick’s age, you won’t find power flip/fold seats like the Acura or kid-friendly second row seats that can move forward with a child seat strapped in place. The Enclave regains its class leading comfort status in the third row with the most head room and cushiest thrones.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Being a refresh and not a redesign, 2014 doesn’t being an infotainment revolution to the Enclave. As it turns out this is a good thing. GM created a new integrated navigation and entertainment system that could be fitted to all their older vehicles to make them competitive with the systems coming out of Ford, Chrysler and BMW. This “stop-gap system” (my words, not GM’s) is one of my favorites on the market regardless of class. Although it is sold under the same Intellilink brand name as the Cadillac CUE derived system in the new LaCrosse, this system is totally different and in my eyes, superior.

Shared with the Encore, Verano and a few other GM products, the software is responsive, intuitive, and makes use of a bank of physical buttons that make navigating the system easy. As with other systems that I lean towards, Buick’s allows you to use either a control knob, the touchscreen or an extensive voice command library to interact with the system. Although a 7-inch screen is smaller than many of the competitors, I’d rather interact with Buick’s interface on a daily basis than Audi’s MMI. For a complete dive into the touchscreen interface, check out the video at the top of the review.

2013 GM 3.6L V-6 VVT DI (LLT) for Buick Enclave


GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L direct-injection V6 is the only engine on offer in the Enclave cranking out the same 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque as in the other Lambda crossovers. (The Traverse also uses a 281 horsepower variant on base models.) Those power numbers put the Encore in the middle of the pack with the 240 HP Volvo being the least powerful and the Lincoln MKT being the most powerful at 303 ponies from its 3.7L V6. Having the HP crown wasn’t enough for Ford, so they also make their 365 HP twin-turbo V6  available.

Sending power to the front wheels is a 6-speed transaxle that has been reprogrammed for more civilized shifts and less lag when downshifting. Like last year, you can add AWD for $2,000 more. I should point out now that although the Audi Q7 is still a front heavy crossover, it is the only rear-wheel biased crossover in this segment and as such uses ZF’s silky-smooth 8-speed automatic.

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The Verano may be an Opel in American clothing, but the Enclave is traditional Buick out on the road. The enormous and high-profile tires (255/65R18), soft suspension and quiet cabin soak up the road around you allowing you to comfortably rack up the highway miles. When the road starts winding, the same tires and springs that allow for a compliant ride conspire with the nearly 5,000lb curb weight to take a toll on handling. That heavy curb weight also has an effect on performance, with the Enclave talking 7.3 seconds to hit 60, nearly a full second behind the Acura. Why? It’s all about the weight with the Acura being 700lbs lighter and even the cast-iron Volvo is 400lbs slimmer. Although I can’t say that 7.3 seconds to get to 60mph is excruciating, even the Infiniti JX35 with a tall first gear and the least torque in the group manages the task before the Buick. Only the ancient Volvo XC90 and the diesel Q7 slot in after the Enclave.

If you’re the kind of shopper that wants to hit the back country roads after dropping the kids off at preschool, the MDX is the clear winner in the segment. Surprisingly, the Enclave didn’t end up at the bottom of the segment when it comes to road manners. That’s where you’ll find the soft, CVT equipped Infiniti and the Volvo. Middle of the road manners and segment average pricing means the Enclave manages a “decidedly Toyota” middle of the pack finish. Unless you select that eight-seat option.

Now I must come back to that full-size SUV digression. If you’re looking for a three row vehicle that seats eight, you don’t have many options. If you want something that seats 8 and had some luxury pretense you have even less choice. It also means you’re going to end up with either a GM Lambda platform crossover, or a luxury body-on-frame product that dates back to the 1990s when “tarted up Tahoes” were all the rage. When pitted against this competition, the Enclave’s handling, steering feel and fuel economy go from class middling to class leading. While the Enclave isn’t as fast as the Escalade or the QX56/QX80, it beats the Lexus to freeway speeds. The Buick is also easier to park, easier on the eyes and easier on the wallet.

After six years on the market, the Buick that started the brand’s resurrection is starting to show its age. The Enclave is crossover in the truest sense of the world straddling the middle ground between the minivan like entries like the Infiniti and the large and thirsty truck-based options like the Cadillac Escalade. My final word is that if you’re looking for a 7-seat three row utility vehicle, there are plenty of better options out there, but if you’re looking for an 8-seat utility vehicle then the Enclave should be on the top of your list. In the end, that 8th seat is probably the best thing the Enclave has going for it.

Buick provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 7.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 17.5 MPG over 559 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68 db

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-008 2014 Buick Enclave Interior 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-007 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-010 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-011 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-013 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-014 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-015 ]]> 66
Chevrolet In Duel With Volkswagen For The Heart of China Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:53:54 +0000 #8 Chevrolet Cruze. Picture courtesy

When one thinks of General Motors’ relationship with China, Buick flashes into the mind like a brake light in the Beijing smog. Sometimes, Cadillac comes up, as well. However, with Volkswagen preparing to slingshot past them in a manner akin to Danica Patrick being flung toward the front of the pack with help from Tony Stewart, CEO Dan Akerson is planning to aggressively push Chevrolet through the choking air, and into as many Chinese garages as he can find.

As Automotive News reports, the push will be directed by GM China’s chairman Tim Lee, who will also add SUV sales goals to the maturing market:

We got still a lot of mother brand-building to do for Chevrolet and we will resource that appropriately and get that job done… It’s a brand that has a total history in the country of about seven or eight years, so based on that relatively short time in the marketplace, our brand awareness is good, our product consideration is good. But can it be better? I guess.

The first volley fired in the upcoming battle for Chinese automotive supremacy will be the introduction of the second-generation Cruze to spur demand in the country’s burgeoning western sector, as well as smaller — and, one hopes, fully occupied — cities. GM aims to add 1,000 dealerships to this area by 2017, backed by an $11 billion investment through 2016 that promises to establish four new assembly plants manufacturing locally around 5 million units per year. GM also plans to bulk up Cadillac’s presence in China with a locally built version of the ATS come 2014.

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Review: 2013 Buick Encore (Video) Mon, 01 Apr 2013 15:00:37 +0000

Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible.

Click here to view the embedded video.


The Encore isn’t new, but neither is it an American rehash of a tired Euro model. Instead, it is “badge engineering” 21st century style. When I was a kid you knew a new Buick was coming when Chevy or Oldsmobile announced a new product. You also knew what to expect: the same sheetmetal with a Buick logo on the grille and some padded velour thrones. 30 years later Buick is up to the same old game with an important twist: Buick takes Opel models from Europe. Consequently you won’t find a brother-from-another-mother running around with a Chevy logo.

Like its sister-ship, the Opel Mokka, the Encore is a small crossover/hatchback closely related to GM’s other small car offerings. Euro origins are obvious when you park the Encore in an American parking spot, this Buick is tiny. The Encore’s tall profile further accentuates the Encore’s 168-inch overall length, which is surprisingly 6-inches longer than a MINI Countryman. My usual panel of passengers were mixed in their opinion of the styling, I found it slightly cartoonish, in a bubbly and cute sort of way. I kept resisting the impulse to smile every time I walked out to the car, but then again I’ve been told my style sense is not to be trusted. (Seriously Sajeev, what’s wrong with a sports coat over a Hawaiian shirt?) My only complaint on the outside, and this is a big one for me, are the trademark “Ventiports” which seem to be growing like a disease. In addition to getting larger, they have migrated from the fenders (where you only had to see them on the outside) to the hood where they are now visible behind the wheel as well.


Buick’s reinvention has focused on value pricing and interior quality. The latter is something new for Buick, and something that has impressed me the most about Buick’s latest vehicles. The Encore isn’t a terribly expensive crossover starting at $24,950 and ending at $31,110 for a full-loaded AWD model. Despite the low starting price, the cabin makes extensive use of soft touch plastics lending a more premium feel to the cabin than vehicles like the MINI Countryman, Acura TSX or Lexus CT. Speaking of MINI, the Countryman, (like the rest of the MINI lineup) is a mixture of trickle-down BMW technology, great switchgear, high-style, cheesy plastics and chintzy headliners. Of course MINI’s biggest asset is brand perception while Buick’s brand is more of a liability in some demographics. That’s really a shame because the Encore has not only a quality feel but a very uniform feel as well. While MINI’s cabins are full of highs and lows, everything in the Encore is consistently a notch above the rabble. Equipping the Contryman and Encore as closely as possible reveals the Encore is about $1,500 cheaper once you add to the MINI the features standard on the Encore. Comparing the top-trim of the Encore to the MINI the difference grows to $3,800 in the Encore’s favor. Want AWD? The difference grows by about three-grand.

It seems journalists have a genetic condition that causes us to love brown interiors. The trouble with most manufacturer’s attempts at “thinking outside the black” however is they go half-way. They give you brown seats and some brown trim on the dash, but they leave out the carpets, button banks, etc. Not so with the Encore. GM took the extra step to color-match the Encore’s interior which makes the transformation look well-executed instead of half-assed. I should point out that our Facebook readers didn’t feel the same sort of brown-love as I did, but they are of course wrong. (Sorry guys.)

The Encore may be small, but the interior is spacious thanks to the tall profile, stubby nose and upright seats. Taller folks will have no problems getting into or out of the front or rear seats thanks to large door openings and a low step-in height. I grabbed a few willing tall people for lunch and successfully (and comfortably) took two 6’5″ passengers, one 6’2 gentleman and myself (6′) on a 50 minute trek to the prefect burger joint without a single complaint.

Because the Encore shares seat frames with GM sedans, there are a few compromises. The lack of a power recline mechanism seems odd, especially considering the 2-positon memory seat found in our tester. Using the sale seat frames and rails as a sedan or coupé meant creating some unusual “platforms” in the floor stamping so the seats could be mounted high to get an SUV-like seating position. Consequently the rear footwells might be a problem for big-footed passengers on long trips. A manual front passenger seat is standard, but most models on dealer lots have the optional power seat

Four adults can travel in comfort in the Encore, along with four large carry-on roller bags in the back thanks to a cargo cubby that holds 18.8 cubes with the seats in place. Just don’t push your luck with a 5th passenger unless the trio in the rear are skinny folk, the Encore is a narrow vehicle. If you’re a skier or love box furniture from IKEA, the Encore’s front passenger seat folds flat allowing you to put long, wide items all the way from the dashboard to the rear hatch.

Infotainment and Gadgets

The Encore uses the same standard 7-inch “IntelliLink” infotainment system I praised in the Buick Verano. There’s just one problem, it isn’t exactly the same. Instead of positioning the LCD within arm’s reach, Buick located it in a “pod” on the dash. While the location keeps your eyes closer to the road, it makes the screen look smaller and it means it’s too far away to touch. Logically because of this Buick removed the touchscreen feature and that’s what I find vexing. The same software I found so intuitive and easy to use with a touchscreen made me tear my hair out when entering an address via an on-screen keyboard and the control knob in the dash.

Thankfully I didn’t need to use the keyboard often and the rest of the system is still one of the best infotainment units on the market at any price. The graphics are pleasing to the eye, its responsive and the menus are logical and intuitive. The system also sports one of the best iPhone/USB/Media voice command interfaces available. Compared to the Ford/Lincoln systems, the voice is natural sounding. Compared to the Toyota/Lexus systems, IntelliLink handles large media libraries with ease rather than turning off certain voice commands if you exceed a certain library size. I’d like to compare it to Cadillac’s CUE but I’m trying to forget that experience.

As if Buick’s hushed cabin wasn’t enough, even the base $24,950 Encore models use active noise cancelling technology by Bose. All Encores also get XM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming/speakerphone and a backup camera. Stepping up to the $25,760 “convenience package” adds dual-zone climate control, remote start and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Leather will set you back $27,460 and brings with it heated seats, a power passenger seat, heated steering wheel and 2 memory positions for the driver’s throne. The $28,940 Encore “Premium” brings rain sense wipers, park assist, collision warning and lane departure warning. The $800 sunroof, $795 navigation system and $595 Bose premium audio system are standalone options on all trims. The collision and lane departure systems are worth skipping in my book since they are warning-only systems and not combination warning and prevention as found in other vehicles. Unless you want the rain sensing wipers and parking assist, spend the money on AWD, navigation or the excellent Bose speakers.

The Encore uses the same 1.4L four-cylinder engine as the Chevy Sonic and Cruze. Producing 138 HP at 4,900 RPM this mill isn’t targeted at speed addicts. On the bright side, thanks to a turbocharger and some direct-injection magic, the engine manages 148 lb-ft of twist from 1,850-4,900RPM.

GM wisely mated the 1.4L engine to their “small” car 6-speed transaxle which features a low 16.17:1 effective first gear (including the 3.53:1 final drive) which helps make the Encore feel more sprightly in the stop-light races. A tall 2.65:1 effective top gear ratio is what allows the Encore to deliver fuel economy numbers of 25/33/28 (City/Highway/Combined) and 23/30/26 when equipped with the $1,500 optional AWD system. During our week with the Encore we averaged an impressive 32.1 MPG over 862 miles of mixed driving, 0-60 tests, photo shoot idling and my mountain commute.

The day the Encore arrived I needed to take a road trip to Sacramento (100 miles away) so I piled a few day’s worth of supplies in the Encore and hit the road. The Encore devoured highway miles, but not in the way I had expected. The small crossover’s cabin is eerily quiet, the driver’s seat is comfortable and upright but the suspension isn’t marshmallowy soft like my father’s Buick. This meant I changed course and decided to take the long way (you can’t get very excited about Sacramento anyway) through some of my favorite California coastal roads.

My opinion of the diminutive engine changed constantly during my week with the Encore. In the city the low-end torque provided by the turbo and the low first gear make easy work of 0-40 MPH traffic and the Encore effortlessly zipped into narrow gaps on busy expressways. Thanks to the way the throttle is mapped the engine doesn’t feel out of breath cruising on the highway, until you need to pass someone as getting from 60 to 80 MPH takes a Prius-like 8 seconds. Load the Encore up with two people and some luggage and forward progress is noticeably stunted in all situations. However, every time I wished for more power I glanced down at my fuel economy and was reminded that more power consumes more gasoline.

On the coastal switchbacks in California’s mountainous redwood forests, the Encore is back in its element thanks to a low 1st gear, moderately low 2nd gear and a well-tuned suspension. Let’s go over that statement again. A Buick that is “in its element on tight mountain roads.” Never thought you’d hear that did you? Neither did I. The Encore’s relatively low center of gravity, 215/55R18 rubber and tight turning radius make [relative] mince meat of tight curves. Let me be clear, the Encore is still down on power, but I have always said I prefer the slower, better handling vehicle to the vehicle that’s only fast in a straight line. The Encore’s suspension handled broken pavement with such composure I was surprised to find it still uses ye olde torsion-beam suspension in the rear. Could the Encore have what it takes to become Buick’s first hot hatch? I hope GM decides to put the Verano’s 2.0L turbo under the hood so we can find out.

It’s right about now that I realized I had the love that dare not speak its name. Could I have fallen for the charms of a Buick? Had I suddenly aged 30 years without knowing it? That is the only real problem I found with the Encore: brand perception. In many minds, people need a new car and their first thought is “I’ll pop over to the Buick dealer” are the same people in the market for a new mobility scooter. If Buick keeps producing products like the Encore however that may change.

Back in the Encore’s native habitat (the Taco Bell drive-thru or the parking garage at the mall), engine power complaints once again disappear. With a ground clearance of 6.2 inches, the Encore is about average for the modern crop of crossovers meaning you won’t catch your bumper cover on parking lot “headstones” and only tall curbs will cause you worry. The well-appointed interior will make you feel special and the value pricing will keep your accountant happy.


Hit it

  • High quality interior for a vehicle in this price range.
  • Buick continues to “think outside the black.”
  • The second Buick in 2 months I would actually buy. Seriously.

Quit it

  • Top level Encore trims still have a manual front seat recline mechanism.
  • Collision warning this late in the game without auto braking seems silly.
  • Buick’s reputation for elderly clientele.


Buick provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.27 Seconds

0-60: 9.6 Seconds (9.1 with overboost)

1/4 Mile: 17 Seconds at 80 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 32.1MPG over 862 miles.

2013 Buick Encore 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-004 2013 Buick Encore-005 2013 Buick Encore-006 2013 Buick Encore-007 2013 Buick Encore-008 2013 Buick Encore, Infotainmane, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-010 2013 Buick Encore-011 2013 Buick Encore-012 2013 Buick Encore-013 2013 Buick Encore-014 2013 Buick Encore-015 2013 Buick Encore-016 2013 Buick Encore-017 2013 Buick Encore-018 2013 Buick Encore, Engine, 1.4L Direct-Injection Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-020 2013 Buick Encore, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-023 2013 Buick Encore-024 2013 Buick Encore-025 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-027 2013 Buick Encore-028 2013 Buick Encore-029 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-031 2013 Buick Encore-032 2013 Buick Encore-033 2013 Buick Encore-034 2013 Buick Encore-035 2013 Buick Encore-036 2013 Buick Encore-037 2013 Buick Encore-038 2013 Buick Encore-039 2013 Buick Encore Rear Seats Folded, Front Passenger Seat Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 93
Review: 2013 Buick Verano Turbo (Video) Tue, 19 Feb 2013 14:00:38 +0000

The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Buick has never been about visual excitement. Even the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was more exciting than the Buick Century. (Admittedly that’s like saying lidocaine is a more exciting party drug than novocaine.) The Verano doesn’t depart from Buick’s past in the style department wearing the least exciting sheetmetal among its direct competitors. Speaking of competition let’s get that out of the way.Now that Volvo has killed the S40 and there is no sign of the V40 on our shores, the Acura TSX, Acura ILX, Audi A3 and Verano are really the only compact front-driving near-luxury options in America. If you want to expand the pool slightly, you can include the hybrid-only Lexus CT 200h, and maybe (and this is a big maybe) the new Mercedes CLA (which isn’t shipping yet anyway).

Why such limited competition? At 184 inches long, and sharing the FWD setup with the Cruze, the Verano is almost a foot shorter than the Lexus ES, one inch shorter than the Acura TSX and about the same length as the new Mercedes CLA. Although the Verano is essentially the same size as a Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series, let’s be honest, you won’t find these fish in the same pond.

Although the Verano shares platforms with the Chevy Cruze, it isn’t a “Buick Cruze.”Instead it’s the American market twin to the Chinese Buick Excelle GT and the strangely named Opel Astra Limousine. This means the Verano shares little with the Cruze (or any other American market GM product) save for an identical wheelbase and common transmissions. Helping take the Verano up a notch our refrigerator-white tester had perfect panel gaps and a paint job worthy of Lexus. Seriously. My question for you is: is there enough visual flair to differentiate it from GM’s more plebeian offerings? Let us know in the comment section.


My impression of the interior differed from Michael Karesh’s review of the base Verano last year. Is the Verano Turbo a nicer place to spend your time? No, it all boiled down to color. The Verano Turbo I was send wore Buick’s “Choccachino” interior which replaces the black dash, doors and steering wheel with a dark brown version of the same. (The “Cashmere” interior gets a similar swap). The simple (and no cost) color option changes the interior feel dramatically without changing the quality of the materials. There are still some hard plastics within reach of the driver (like the lower dash and portions of the doors) but I must give kudos to GM for thinking “outside the black.”

Regardless of your color choice, the Verano’s ample button banks feel exceptional for a vehicle with a price range of $23,975-$32,000. While the fake wood isn’t going to fool anyone, it is used tastefully and [thankfully] sparingly in the cabin. On the other hand, the satin “aluminum” trim around the infotainment cluster had me fooled until I looked at the Verano’s spec sheet. While a power driver’s seat is standard on most Verano models, I had hoped the Turbo trim would add a power recline feature and adjustable lumbar to the throne but that still can’t be had for any price. An unexpected nicety is a passenger seat with the same range of motion as the driver’s seat albeit with manual levers. As you would expect from a vehicle in the near-luxury category dual-zone climate control is standard and the heated steering wheel on all leather-clad models is a welcome touch not found on most competitors.

Rear accommodations are rarely a selling point with compact sedans of any description. That being said, the Verano’s rear thrones provide as much head and legroom as the TSX or current Audi A3. Compared with its Chevy platform mate, the Verano’s rear cabin is slightly smaller thanks to thicker front seats and a touch more padding in the rear. Although the seats are no closer to the floor than those in the TSX or A3, the shape of the rear door openings made it easy to hit your head when getting in and out of the back, something to keep in mind if you shuttle adults regularly. Despite being longer than the Cruze, the Verano’s trunk is 10% smaller, although its 14 cubes are identical to the TSX’s trunk and in the same ballpark as most of the small luxury sedans from Europe.


Whichever engineer was in charge of the Verano’s center stack channeled their inner Acura, between the infotainment and HVAC controls there are no less than 41 buttons, 4 knobs and one joystick. Despite the button overload, Buick’s standard 7-inch touchscreen “IntelliLink” system is one of the best on the market combining Buick’s previous interface with improved voice recognition, app integration and snappier response times. (If you want so see the system in action, check out the video at the top of the review.) Much like Infiniti’s infotainment systems, you can either use the knob/joystick control in the dash or you can touch the options on the screen. This arrangement works well giving you the option to minimize fingerprints if you so desire.

Buick’s new software package is the close relative of Chevy’s MyLink system and uses the same intuitive voice recognition system for phone, navigation and complete USB/iDevice control. Compared to the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch elephant in the room, Buick’s voice responses are more natural and polished, entering an address requires fewer commands and the system is much, much more responsive. Base Verano models get an unbranded 6-speaker system while all other models can option up to the 9-speaker, 7-channel Bose system which adds a subwoofer, center speaker and some extra adjustment options. The up-level system was well-balanced as you would expect, but compared to other systems in the near-luxury segment the Bose system doesn’t play as loud without noticeable distortion.


Instead of the Cruze’s 1.8L naturally aspirated and 1.4L turbo lineup, we get a new 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder engine and an optional 2.0L direct-injection turbo. The 2.4L “LEA” mill is a new engine for GM, based on their “LE9″ engine with an increased compression ratio and some direct-injection sauce to boost power to 180HP and 171lb-ft. That’s not the engine you want, and it’s not why we borrowed the 2013 Verano. This time it’s all about the turbo.

Strangely this is not the same 2.0L turbo found in the ATS and Malibu, this is an older engine found in the Saturn Sky, Fisker Karma and of course, the Regal GS. This upgraded engine is only found in the top-of-the-line “Verano Premium” which starts at $30,000. When jammed under the hood of the Verano, output drops slightly to 250HP and 260lb-ft of torque. Don’t fret about a few lost ponies, the torque still comes to a boil at 2,000RPM and stays strong all the way up the tach.

On the competition front, the TSX V6 may churn out 280HP and 254lb-ft, but in typical Acura fashion it all arrives at high RPMs. We’re told to expect 208HP and 258 lb-ft from the CLA when it lands and the current A3′s 2.0T engine covers the rear at 200HP and 207lb-ft. Sending power to the front wheels is GM’s ubiquitous 6-speed automatic transaxle, or the an all-new (to America) 6-speed manual transmission making the Buick and the Audi the only cars in this small segment that offer a DIY gear changer.


If the Regal made you think Buick’s path to sales success was Euro driving manners, you’d be wrong. The Verano is a modern Buick, but a Buick none the less with fairly soft springs and one of the quietest cabins available at any price. Think of it as the FWD compact luxury sedan Lexus never built. Even our “sporty” turbo tester with the manual transmission is on the softer side of most sedans. The downside to the quiet cabin is that you can’t hear the turbo mill revving which is a pity since Buick tuned it to be one of GM’s more pleasing exhaust notes.

With 250 ponies and 260 dollops of twist I had prepared myself in advance for massive torque steer and was pleasantly surprised to find strangely little. A quick inspection of Buick’s PR literature clearly shows that the Verano does not get GM’s lauded HiPer Strut tech favoring a less expensive traditional MacPherson arrangement.

The power bump from the base engine is noticeable in every driving situation causing a serious 2.5 second drop in the 0-60 time and improving driveability across the board. With most of the engine’s torque available just over idle there’s far less downshifting to be done on hilly terrain both with the manual and the up-shift-happy automatic. In our testing we clocked a 0-60 run in 6.5 seconds with me at the shifter and the traction control enabled, this more than a half second faster than my time in the FWD A3 2.0T but slightly behind the TSX V6′s 6.2 second time.

The Verano tips the scales at 3,300lbs, a bit heavier than the Audi A3′s 3,219lbs but substantially lighter than the 3,680lb TSX. The relatively light weight, fairly grippy 235/45R18 all-season rubber and well sorted chassis proved engaging and one might even say nimble on the winding roads of Northern California. The same cannot be said of the steering however which, even in this age of electric power steering, has to be one of the numbest vehicles I have piloted in a long time.

Despite the numb steering the Verano was an eager companion on my mountainous commute on California highways 92, 35, 9 and 17 thanks to the slick shifting manual. Buick’s row-it-yourself transaxle is not the same notchy unit found in the Regal, instead this has been lifted from GM’s European lineup and the change is welcome with shift quality equaling the Audi A3 and Acura TSX. (Bold statement I know.) Third pedal effort is fairly similar to the TSX although I actually preferred the predictable and linear engagement of the Buick.

Compact [near] luxury is about fuel economy as much as discount pricing. The Buick scores 20MPG around town and 31 on the highway with the manual, 21/30 with the automatic and 24 combined with either transmission. This slots the Verano at the top of our small segment essentially matching the FWD A3′s numbers and a few MPGs higher than the TSX V6. Thanks to a tall 6th gear in the manual transmission, the engine barely hits 2,000RPM at 70MPH and contributed to our weekly average of 25.6MPG.

Back in 2008 I argued that Buick should be killed for the sake of the company. I figured any Chinese repercussions could be written off in the bankruptcy proceedings and nobody would miss the tripple-shield. Five years later Buick has created a car that I not only rank above the Acura TSX and Audi A3 for overall performance and value, but also because it was also truly fun to drive and live with for a week. The only problem is that Buick image, which for anyone born in the 1970s and 1980s is full of Centurys and Skylarks.


Buick provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15 Seconds at 98 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.6MPG over 712 miles


2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front 1/2, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, 2.0L Direct-Injection Ecotec Turbo Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Engine, 2.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Front and Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Review: Buick Verano Take Two Sun, 15 Apr 2012 18:25:57 +0000

What is a Buick? Having saved the brand, GM must now figure out what to do with it. Traditionally Buick occupied the middle ground between Chevrolet and Cadillac, originally closer to the latter but from the 1970s onwards dangerously close to the former, which had expanded upwards in lockstep with archrival Ford. Aesthetically, Buicks have been the yin to Cadillac’s yang, curvier, less aggressive, and potentially more appealing to women. (Or metrosexuals? Did women ever drive a significant number of Rivs and Park Avenues?) Logically, there ought to be a position within this position for a compact car. Some people want a softly styled, upscale car, but don’t need a large car. But successfully fielding a car in this position has been tricky. The Lexus HS finds only a couple hundred takers each month. Jaguar abandoned the segment a few years ago, and Volvo quit it more recently. So does the Buick Verano stand a chance?


A car needn’t be beautiful to sell—but it doesn’t hurt. Based on spy shots of prototypes I expected the Verano to be downright ugly, with an overly raked windshield and its requisite windowlettes throwing off the proportions. But in production form, with appropriately styled 18-inch alloy wheels (GM has for once made the right size wheel the only size), the Verano is a handsome car. No Jaguar, but certainly more attractive than the HS and more upscale than the Chevrolet Cruze (with which it shares a platform). But it’s not the strikingly attractive car it could have been. Will many people notice the compact Buick on the street? Will any of them have a “gotta have it” reaction? One thing is certain: the Verano won’t step on the Cadillac ATS’s toes.


The Verano’s interior isn’t as nice as that of the Lexus, but is a half-step up from that of the Chevrolet Cruze. You’ll find no cheap bits, yet the sense lingers that this isn’t quite a premium car. While intelligent design stylishly inserts a soft-touch face into the hard plastic instrument panel, the overly hard, overly thin door pulls seem pedestrian. The seats, though comfortable and supportive, lack power recline. Even compact Mazdas and Suzukis—hardly makes known for luxury—offer this feature. Can a car be “premium” without it? Rear seat legroom is marginal for adults, though ample space for feet beneath the front seats helps. A non sequitur: the steering wheel is too thick, which could turn off many potential female buyers.


Luxury car buyers don’t typically make runs for the redline. But this is entirely the point: they don’t want to feel the need to go anywhere near the redline. Instead, they want a car’s acceleration to feel effortless and for its engine to be felt but not heard. The Verano’s 180-horsepower 2.4-liter engine is stronger than the Cruze’s 138-horsepower 1.4 turbo, but it’s also naturally aspirated with a high (4,900 rpm) torque peak. To move 3,300 pounds of compact Buick, the four has to rev. It’s willing and able to do this, and with a modicum of refinement, but like the styling the engine isn’t going to inspire people to reach for their checkbooks. GM plans to also offer the Verano with a 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo, and this engine should be a better fit for the car’s mission.


So far we have nothing making Buick’s new compact sedan a “must have,” but also nothing that’s likely fatal. But then, as Ed Niedermeyer pointed out in his thorough evaluation of the Verano, there’s fuel economy. EPA ratings of 22 city and 31 highway don’t even compare well to four-cylinder midsize cars, much less other compacts. In suburban driving, the trip computer usually reported between 20 and 25, with high 20s happening only with favorable traffic signals and a feather-light right foot. Even the two-ton, 240-horsepower, all-wheel-drive 528i does a bit better (in my real-world testing as well as on the window sticker). Of course, the Lexus HS has sold poorly despite 35/34 ratings, so fuel economy isn’t everything.

Ride and Handling

The biggest surprise here is how the Verano rides and handles. It’s more tightly damped than a Chevrolet Cruze, with nary a hint of the float that once typified Buicks. Yet the car’s ride is still comfortable, with admirable composure over rough pavement. You’ll feel and hear the bumps and divots, but not overly much (this is a VERY quiet car), and they’re quickly dispatched. Hard cornering flushes out moderate amounts of body roll and front tire scrub, but overall the car is well controlled. The largest killjoys are visibility-impeding A-pillars and numb steering. Fix the last, and they’d about have the chassis where it needs to be—if people can get their heads around the idea of an athletic Buick. (Lexus can’t seem to overcome a similar perceptual challenge.)


Some good stuff so far, but nothing outstanding. Sow how is the compact Buick outselling the compact Lexus by nearly an order of magnitude (2,497 in March)? Pricing. A leather-upholstered Verano like the one tested lists for $26,850. For a sunroof add $900, for nav $795. Not cheap, surely. After adjusting for feature differences (with TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool) the compact Buick checks in about $2,000 above a Cruze or Focus. But this leaves it about $5,000 below an Acura TSX and nearly $12,000 below a Lexus HS 250h (details). Even if we allow a generous $4,000 for the HS’s hybrid bits, the reason for the car’s slow sales becomes clear.

The midsize Buick Regal is about $3,000 more. Notably, its sales in March were down about 1,000 from a year ago. The suffering will increase once the Verano is available with a more powerful engine (assuming reasonable pricing). The new car’s sales suddenly seem less impressive.


The Buick Verano, like the larger Regal, is positioned a quarter-step above the related Chevrolet. A little more style, slightly upgraded materials, a smattering of additional features, moderately firmer suspension tuning, a two-grand bump on the window sticker. A pleasant car, even surprisingly so in some areas (quietness, suspension tuning), but not an outstanding one. Not enough of an upgrade to directly compete with Acura, Lexus, and the Europeans, but not priced to directly compete with them, either. The upside: no direct competitors. The downside: no direct competitors—potential buyers might have trouble categorizing the cars. In appearance, content, and pricing the Verano (like other Buicks) is much closer to the related Chevrolet than to its alleged competitors. While this minimized the effort required to create it, GM should do what it takes to split the difference more evenly.

Buick provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Verano front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Verano engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh ]]> 110
Review: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:17:27 +0000  

GM’s track record has been less than stellar. First we had the Saturn Vue Green Line, a very “mild” hybrid that paled next to competitors like the Ford Escape. Next came the extraordinarily expensive 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs, which cost far too much and delivered far too little. Finally, we have the Volt – ’nuff said. No wonder GM’s latest hybrid endeavor has come to market with little fanfare, no “hybrid” logos on the vehicle and no hybrid branding from GM. Can we honestly call the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a hybrid?

While the LaCrosse’s styling is dominated by slab sides and FWD proportions, the overall look is handsome, even elegant. Compared to the ES350, the Buick looks a touch more sedate while looking less like its kissing cousin the Chevy Malibu. The fairly high belt-line and increasingly popular four-door-coupe roof-line give the 16.5 foot long Buick an almost modern flair (without being so modern as to drive away traditional Buick shoppers.) Despite the modern styling, Buick has stuck to their dubious “ventiports” which make even less sense now than before with our 4-cylinder LaCrosse sporting six portholes. Maybe port 5 represents the motor and 6 is the battery?

While the new LaCrosse’s interior is not class leading in any way, it is uniquely styled. Personally I’m not a fan of the steeply sloped doors but the 40-inches of rear leg room may compensate for that. The dashboard in our tester sported Buick’s new “stitched” dash which is an injection molded plastic dash that has “cuts”  molded in and is then stitched with thread to give the look of a stitched dash without the cost. Overall, the effect works, but the acres of fake wood are less convincing. I understand the need to differentiate between Cadillac and Buick, but the lack of real tree in the LaCrosse is a problem when Buick’s self-proclaimed Lexus competition having plenty of burl-forest standard.

While many hybrid vehicles ditch the folding rear seats due to the battery pack’s location, the LaCrosse continues to offer a pass-through – although it is about 50% smaller than the V6 model’s hole-in-the-trunk. Also on the list of complaints is a trunk that has shrunk to 10.7 cubic feet and is still hampered by trunk hinges that restrict the cargo area. The lost space is given to the hybrid battery pack and associated cooling ducts. Instead of a spare tire in the trunk you’ll find an empty cavity with a tire inflation kit. Why not toss the battery into the unused spare tire space?

The first generation Belt-Alternator-Starter or BAS system GM used in the Saturn Vue and Chevy Malibu “hybrids” was unloved by the press, ignored by shoppers and euthanized after a short time on the market. Instead of trying to resurrect the fantastically expensive “two-mode”  system, GM went back to basics and fixed what was wrong with the BAS hybrid in the first place. GM threw out the ancient 4-speed automatic and replaced it with a new 6-speed unit. The two extra gears allowed Buick to change the final drive ratio for better “hybrid” performance while still having a fairly broad range of lower gears for passing and take-off. Next, they ditched the low-capacity 36V NiMH battery replacing it with a modern 115V lithium-ion pack. The transformation was finished off by a liquid-cooled motor/generator packing three times the punch of the previous generation (15HP and 79lb-ft of torque). In addition to being more powerful, the motor and electronics are designed for nearly continuous use allowing the hybrid system to operate over a broader range of speeds and conditions. The result is a 0.2 second improvement in the LaCrosse’s 0-60 time and a 25% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing un-eAssisted LaCrosse. Despite the improvements, GM decided to take a cautious approach and is not calling the new system a hybrid, nor are they including the motor’s assistance in the 182 horsepower or 172 lb-ft torque numbers. The ES350, on the other hand, is inexplicably unavailable as a hybrid.

The addition of a battery and motor alone didn’t achieve the 25 MPG city and 36 MPG highway numbers – the Lacrosse eAssist relies on  active grille shutters, altered gear ratios, low rolling resistance tires, a new trunk spoiler, and aero improvements under the car to help get these numbers. The combination of eAssist and the other improvements are what increase the all-important combined economy score from 23 mpg to a 29 mpg. The highway figure of 36 mpg is possible due to the new final drive ratio, which allows the 2.4L engine to spin at a leisurely 2,000 RPM at 70MPH. Without eAssist, this would be a problem upon encountering a slight rise in the terrain as GM’s 6-speed auto is notoriously reluctant to down shift. Fortunately, the 79lb-ft of torque provided by the BAS motor enables the LaCrosse to deal with freeway overpasses and gentle rolling hills without downshifting or slowing. In comparison, the Acura TL delivers 20/29 MPG, the ES350 is less efficient at 19/28 and the Lincoln MKS rounds out the bottom of this pack at 17/25. The Buick is by far the least powerful in this group and some might rightly compare it to Lincoln’s premium hybrid, the MKZ, which returns 41/36 MPG, but the MKZ is a smaller vehicle.

Our LaCrosse averaged 29.9MPG during our 674 mile week with the car. While the start/stop system helped keep the LaCrosse from sipping fuel at stoplights, the system has to idle the engine to run the air conditioning so your mileage in hotter climates is likely to vary considerably. If you value MPGs over cool air, there’s an “ECO” button which tells the car to sacrifice cabin cooling in the name of efficiency. The transmission is fairly smooth, but to aid energy-regeneration, the 6-speed unit is programmed to be as eager to downshift when slowing as it is to upshift when accelerating. No matter what the engine and transmission are doing, the cabin remains eerily quiet due to some extensive work on the sound insulation. This car isn’t just quiet for a near-luxury car, it’s quiet for any car, period. Serenity does have a downside, as my better half was quite put off by the engine start/stops and downshifts when stopping, which were made somewhat more prominent by the silence. Personally, they didn’t bother me at all so be sure to get in a good road test before you live with the car.

On the tech front, our LaCrosse was equipped with the standard 8-inch touchscreen radio and optional navigation system. I found the user interface considerably easier to use than the system in the Cadillac CTS, and was amused by graphics and colors reminiscent of Star Trek The Next Generation. Buyers not willing to spend $1,345 on the optional nav system, can still get turn-by-turn directions via OnStar, although only the first 6 months of the service are free. iPhone and iPod integration are easy to use, and the user interface is very responsive. Unfortunately the maze of physical buttons are not as intuitive as the on-screen menus. Even after a week, I was unable to stab a button in the dark without taking my eyes off the road. Buick offers blind-spot monitoring on the LaCrosse in a $1,440 “confidence package” which also includes steering xenon headlamps and GM’s vacuum-fluorescent heads up display. You can see some images of the HUD in the gallery below. The monochrome display shows basic navigation instructions, speed and a digital tach but falls well short of the polish BMW’s HUD possesses. Absent at any price is adaptive cruise control or collision warning, features available in a majority of the competition including the ES350.

Out on the road the LaCrosse handles just like you’d expect from 3,835lbs of Buick; it squats, dives and serves up plenty of body roll in the corners, but then again so do the Lexus, Hyundai Azera and Lincoln MKS. If you want sporty and can handle the looks, roll into an Acura dealership for a TL. Buick has set pricing for the LaCrosse eAssist at $29,045 for the base model. Should you step up to the “LaCrosse with Convenience Group” at $29,600, you can choose between the 303 HP V6 or the eAssist drivetrain for the same price. AWD LaCrosse models are available only with the 3.6L engine. While Buick is quick to call the engines choice a “no-cost option”, the eAssist base model is $2,830 more than last year’s base four-cylinder model. At essentially 30-large, the base eAssist LaCrosse compares favorably with the $36,725 base price of the ES350.

As our week with the LaCrosse ended I was more confused about eAssist than I was when it started. This confusion has nothing to do with the actual system itself which worked flawlessly and had a decent impact on fuel economy, it had everything to do with GM’s naming conventions. Somehow I’m not be surprised that the first hybrid viable hybrid from GM, mild or otherwise, would receive little fanfare. While the LaCrosse will never set your heart alight with excitement, it combines an excellent ride, cabin noise levels that Rolls Royce engineers are probably trying to replicate and decent fuel economy with a $35,195 as tested MSRP. While I’d probably still buy the more expensive ES350 ($41,240 similarly equipped), the Buick is a solid product with decent mileage at a compelling price.

Buick provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30 MPH: 2.8 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.22 Seconds at 85.7 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 29.9 MPG over 674 miles

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, ventiports, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, battery cooling, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, spare tire well, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, ventiports, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, fuel economy, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, tach, auto stop, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, tach, auto stop, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, passenger's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, passenger's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, dash controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, headlamp and HUD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, radio and HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, window switches, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat HVAC, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist system, Picture courtesy of General Motors buick-lacrosse-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 78
Capsule Review: 2012 Buick Regal GS Take Two Mon, 13 Feb 2012 22:36:48 +0000

The official reasoning behind GM failing to bring the Opel Insignia OPC, according to Buick PR staff, is that the all-wheel drive, twin-turbo V6 powered sedan with 321 horsepower “didn’t fit with the brand image”. Right. The real reason is likely that a Buick Regal GS outfitted like this would cost far more than the already expensive $35,310 that GM wants for a car. And if the market for a $35,000 manual transmission Buick is limited, well – imagine who would buy a $45,000-$50,000 AWD Regal.

The 270 horsepower Regal GS is, say it with me front-wheel drive. If  that means “wrong wheel drive” in your books, close the browser window immediately and go back to The Car Lounge. GM has something called a HiPer strut front suspension, a modified MacPherson strut design that reduces torque steer and increases steering feel by playing with the suspension geometry and separating the steering and suspension components. When paired with the adjustable shocks and sticky rubber available on the Regal GS, the system allows the Regal to maintain exceptional composure through the sweeping curves (and crappy pavement) of Northern Michigan.

The sweet chassis is backed up by a 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec making 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. While torque steer is present, it’s manageable and only presents briefly. 60 mph comes up in 6.7 seconds according to GM – the Regal GS feels much faster than that. No hero-launches were attempted during our drive, but the Regal GS is what the British rags would call a “fast point-to-point car”. The Regal GS really shines when covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time. A broad torque band, a composed chassis and a docile nature can allow most people to exploit the considerable performance of a Regal GS. On paper, it may not be as impressive as an Audi S4 but in the real world, on an open road, there’s little to suggest that the Regal couldn’t hang with the 4-ringed car. The Brembo brakes on the Regal GS are also outstanding, with great feel through the pedal and strong, consistent performance even with repeated hard uses.

In typical GM fashion, there are more than a couple of flaws that are tough to overlook. The steering is weighty when the “GS” button on the dash is activated, but offers as much feedback as a bad boss. The 6-speed manual seems so promising but delivers so little. The shifter’s throws are a pastiche of every negative adjective in the auto journalism handbook – rubbery, dead-feeling, long and inaccurate. Furthermore, the pedals are totally unsuited to heel-and-toe shifting, making rev matching out of the question unless your feet are child-sized. Heretical as it may be, opting for the automatic gearbox on the Regal GS might not be a bad thing. (At launch just the manual transmission is being offered). Only the most fanatical DIY-shifting types need apply for this dreadful bit of engineering. The interior of the Regal isn’t bad overall, but has a very particular “General Motors” feel. Many of the buttons, cabin materials and readouts are sourced from the common parts bin, something that is barely acceptable on a vehicle that’s ostensibly positioned as a luxury car. The center console is a mess of buttons that’s confusing to the eye. The front seats do a good job of keeping you in place without being uncomfortable, but the back seats are tight. Don’t expect to use them for anything more than taking friends to dinner.

The subtle additions to the exterior, like larger wheels, tasteful chrome accents and dual exhausts help the Regal GS keep a low profile. Order it in an understated color like black or silver and you’ve got a genuine sleeper on your hands. The big hurdle for the Regal GS will be finding buyers, even true enthusiasts, who may not be able to look past its discreet exterior (some may consider it boring) and the front-drive/turbo 4-cylinder powerplant. The notion of “wrong-wheel drive” is laughable given that the Regal GS is a far superior driving machine to the dreadful base CTS trim levels and Audi has no trouble pushing the A4 2.0T (which is about as engaging as a PBS telethon) onto the status-hungry masses.

Which is exactly the problem. A lot of people need to tell their friends just how good their purchases. Think how ridiculous it sounds to the average person that someone bought a turbocharged, stick shift Buick for $35k. Others have suggested it’s not quite up to snuff compared to the competition – that’s nonsense. The Regal GS has enough power to get you some serious speeding tickets. And unlike a BMW 335i, your fuel pump won’t explode. The big problem with the Regal GS is getting consumers to sign on the dotted line. The Regal GS would probably be a fine product for anyone who ever bought a turbo Saab, but how many of those were sold in the last decade or two?

Derek Kreindler originally drove the Buick Regal GS in August, 2011. Buick provided airfare, lodging and meals for the trip to Traverse City, MI.

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