2014 Buick Verano FWD 1STPosted on July 24th, 2014
Turbocharged premium compact sedan
By Nina Russin
A couple months back, Buick contacted me about participating in Runs Worth the Drive: a co-promotion the automaker was planning to host with MapMyFitness. The idea was to inspire buyers with active lifestyles to consider the Verano compact sedan by inviting members of the media to drive the car to a destination of choice and log some runs there. Since this sort of program has my name all over it, it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to agree.
This week, husband and I spent four days in the Verano, driving it from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona where we each ran segments of the Urban Trail: a network of dirt and paved byways for pedestrians and cyclists.
We chose Flagstaff for two reasons. First, the drive involves an elevation gain of 5500 feet, which would be a good test for the Verano’s turbocharged two-liter engine. Equally important, Flagstaff is a hot spot for elite runners, who use the benefits of high altitude training to become more competitive at sea level.
The front-wheel drive test car with six-speed automatic transmission is priced from $29,065 excluding the $925 destination charge. Standard safety and convenience features include a rearview camera with cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry and start, heated leather front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, seven-inch color touchscreen in the center stack, premium Bose audio system and redundant steering wheel controls.
The white diamond coat exterior paint is a $995 option, as are navigation ($795) and 18-inch alloy rims ($600), bringing the final MSRP to $32,380.
Bring on the heat
In mid-July, average daily high temperatures in Phoenix are about 110 with lows of about 90. That alone is inspiration to head for the mountains in northern Arizona, where evenings drop into the 50s and daily highs rarely exceed Phoenix’s daily lows. It was no surprise that we were not the only people heading up north for a long weekend. The 17 interstate was jammed with cars, trucks and RVs of every dimension.
The compact Verano was the perfect car for the job. The compact footprint gave us the maneuverability we needed to pass slower vehicles, while the tucbocharged engine’s peak 260 foot-pounds of torque enabled us to climb steep grades with ease. With the Verano’s 6.2-second zero-to-sixty time, larger cars with eight cylinder blocks had nothing on us.
While the Verano might not be the best choice for bicyclists needing a large, tall cargo bay, the car’s interior is more versatile than one might imagine. We had no problems fitting our luggage and gear in the car’s spacious trunk. The advantage of a low profile vehicle is fuel economy. Despite my aggressive driving habits, we made it to our destination using a quarter of a tank of gasoline. EPA highway fuel economy estimates are 30 mpg: 21 mpg around town.
The blind spot monitoring system came in handy during the beginning of a Phoenix Friday afternoon rush hour. The 17 interstate is an old freeway, with narrow lanes and no shoulder in sections near the downtown area. The blind spot system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when drivers in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. It takes the guesswork out of passing slower vehicles and greatly reduces stress.
While I’m not a big fan of electric power steering, the system in the Verano is nicely tuned with good on-center response. I never felt disconnected from the wheels of the car, which is important during aggressive maneuvers. The MacPherson strut front suspension absorbs bumps and jousts in the road without being overly soft.
The optional wheels gave the test car a bigger footprint, for better cornering at speed. Four-wheel disc brakes stopped the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing NVH intrusion to the interior. We were able to enjoy the Bose audio system during out three-hour drive up north. The dual-zone climate control kept the interior pleasantly cool, despite highway temperatures in Phoenix of about 110 degrees.
Once in Flagstaff, the Verano was an equally appealing partner around town: easy to park on the street with no noticeable drops in power or performance due to the altitude. Flagstaff is an old town that dates back to the railroad days. Streets in the downtown area are narrow and parking is scarce. A smaller vehicle is definitely the way to go.
Runs worth the drive
Summer mornings in Flagstaff are as good as life gets: cool and refreshing. On Saturday morning I headed south on the urban trail between the Northern Arizona University campus and Fort Tuthill: a recreation area about three miles away.
The tall Ponderosa pines that line the trail are fragrant and magnificently beautiful. When I reached my turnaround point, I took a few moments to take in the breathtaking magic of my surroundings, watching the sun peak through the pines as it rose above the horizon.
On the way back to the hotel, I realized six miles wouldn’t be enough, so I detoured into a neighborhood on the southern edge of town. It’s wonderful to be in an area where a high percentage of the population is active. Cars and trucks slow down for pedestrians and cyclists and give them wide berth.
When we were not hitting the trails my husband and I enjoyed a few of our favorite local eateries. Biff’s Bagels north of the university is a must-see destination for runners. Bagels are baked fresh daily and the owner raises money for local animal rescue efforts. Pictures on the walls commemorate dogs that have passed on that belonged to the restaurant’s patrons.
We wandered through the NAU campus where my husband did his undergraduate work. Although the campus has changed a lot in the subsequent decades, his dorm is still much the same as he remembers it.
The final morning I hit the trails again, this time keeping within my intended six-mile route. It was hard to leave the beautiful Flagstaff weather to return to Phoenix, but that was what we had to do.
As an endurance athlete, I am acutely aware of safety. My father spent the second half of his life as a quadriplegic due to Polio, so I know what it means to live in a wheelchair.
I appreciate the attention Verano engineers paid to keeping the car’s occupants safe. Standard safety features include front, side, knee and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, OnStar automatic crash response, tire pressure monitoring and lane departure warning.
Buick produces the Verano at its Lake Orion, Michigan assembly plant.
Like: A versatile compact premium sedan nicely styled with a high level of standard convenience and safety features.
Dislike: Standard leather seats are harder to clean than cloth and get hot in the summer. Cloth seats should be a no-cost option.
Model: Verano 1ST
Base price: $29,065
As tested: $32,380
Horsepower: 250 Hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 6.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy*: 21/30 mpg city/highway
Comment: *The manufacturer recommends premium unleaded gasoline for the turbocharged engine.
Program participants who log their runs on Buick’s MapMyFitness portal are entered to win an all expense-paid trip to the Rock N Roll Arizona marathon in Phoenix next January.2014, Luxury 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Buick, performance, pricing, standard safety
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