Things sure are changing. For instance, here we have the new compact, turbocharged 2013 Buick Verano
sedan with an available six-speed manual transmission.
Buick is after a younger crowd with the front-drive Verano Turbo, which also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission at no extra charge. It reached for a younger group with its 1960s muscle cars and 1980s Grand National models. In fact, the 1987 Grand National GNX Coupe could blow off a 1987 Chevy Corvette.
But those cars, including Buick's 1980s-1990s Reatta two-seater, just weren't quite right for the times. Now, anything goes.
And so we have the Verano Turbo's smooth 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 250-horsepower engine. It kicks out 260 pound/feet of torque at only 2,000 r.pm.
The Verano Turbo can do 0-60 mph.h. in 6.2 seconds with the manual gearbox. I tested this car with the manual, which shifts slickly with a long-throw, but light-effort, clutch. Top speed of the approximately 3,300-pound compact is an estimated 130 miles per hour.
I found that third gear is best for quick in-town moves and that third and fourth gears help provide good 65-75 mph passing. Fifth and sixth are cruising gears.
Estimated fuel economy is 20 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways with the manual and 21 and 30 with the automatic, which has Driver-Shift control. Buick recommends premium gasoline, but says regular-grade fuel is acceptable.
The regular Verano has a 2.4-liter non-turbo four-cylinder with 180 horsepower. I hear it's no slouch, but haven't driven one yet. It comes only with the automatic and delivers 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway.
The Verano uses the same sound basic platform as the Chevrolet Cruze. It can be difficult to tell the Verano Turbo from the standard Verano. For instance, my test Verano Turbo was only distinguished by dual exhausts, a small trunk badge, a discreet rear spoiler and fancier 18-inch machine-faced alloy wheels..
Inside the upscale, whisper-quiet interior are a console-mounted manual shifter, sport bucket seats that provide good side support, "sport pedals" and leather seat trim.
Buick didn't add cosmetic performance-style items to the Verano such as side skirts or a larger spoiler because the Verano is its new small luxury model and it didn't want to steal performance thunder from its larger, hot rod 270-horsepower Regal GS.The Verano Turbo provides virtually the same levels of quietness and comfort as the non-turbo Verano.
The Verano Turbo lists at $29,105, and the only option my test car had was a $795 audio system with navigation.
The Verano Turbo is packed with equipment. It has easily read gauges, a mix of large and small climate system controls, automatic air conditioning with dual-zone climate control, keyless start, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering column, power driver's seat, heated front seats, electronic parking brake and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
My test car also had a remote vehicle starter system, 7-inch color touch radio that was easily used, premium audio system, heated steering wheel, power heated outside mirrors and power windows and door locks. The ice blue ambient interior lighting was a soothing touch.
Safety items include a rear-vision camera system, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert that came in handy several times, lots of air bags, a stability control system with traction control, all-disc anti-lock brakes and ultrasonic rear-park assist.
I was surprised to find that rear seat legroom is tight for a 6-footer behind the driver. There's more space behind a front passenger, but not a surplus of it. The backseat's stiff center is best left to the fold-down armrest that contains cupholders.
Front console cupholders are intelligently placed to help avoid spills, and power window and power mirror controls are conveniently located. Front doors have deep storage pockets, and there's a deep, covered console bin. Rear door pockets are too small to be of much use.
To handle its extra power, the Verano Turbo has a slightly firmer suspension than the non-turbo model and fast electric steering that's a bit heavier, but that's about it. The car has wide 45-series tires and handles adroitly. It isn't quite in the sports sedan class, but rides beautifully, even on broken pavement, with nicely controlled body motions in keeping with its luxury image.
The brakes have a pedal with good linear action and are helped during emergency stops by a Panic Brake Assist feature.
The large trunk has a wide but rather high opening. Rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to provide more cargo space. The pass-through opening from the trunk to the backseat area is large so you need not struggle to move objects from the trunk through it when you need more cargo room.
The heavy hood has an interior lining for noise control, but is held open by a prop rod, not smooth hydraulic struts. Some fluid filler areas must be reached from the side of the engine.
The Verano Turbo does a good job of walking the line between luxury and sportiness, without stepping on other Buick models.