First Drive: 2012 Buick Verano

New York City, October 27, 2011, 9am. A lineup of heretofore unseen Buicks (still in the final stages of pre-production) flank both sides of the road facing the Hotel Empire, across from the Lincoln Center. Buick’s smallest model in years, the 2012 Verano is a smart-looking little beast, not out of place in front of one of the world’s most famous opera houses. Indeed, when it goes on sale later this fall, there’ll be a lot of bling, style and ride for a reasonable price.

The Verano has a sporty exterior with a Euro flare, featuring the signature details of the Buick brand, from that dipping grill, to the serpentine portholes and insect-eye headlamps. Inside, it’s a smooth, quiet drive with generous thrust and agile maneuverability.

The quiet is aided by acoustic baffling strategically placed throughout the body. For instance, the windscreen and front windows are double plated, sandwiching a layer of acoustic laminate glass. Nudge the window down a few inches in Manhattan traffic and you’ll notice the effectiveness.

You’ll also notice just how much noise comes up at you from the road. An extra layer of thick sound-baffling is cached below the carpeting. It rains incessantly during test-drive day, but you couldn’t hear the concomitant hiss and spit noise flying up from the tires.

The smoothness of the ride is aided by technology that was invented not all that long after New York changed its name from New Amsterdam. The Z-link design in the rear suspension is based on Watt’s link, invented in 1784 by James Watts for steam engines. In the turns, the Z-link helps centre the rear axel, preventing sideways motion. The lesson? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. (When’s the last time you saw a steam engine tip over in mid-turn?) A ride in the back is just as comfortable as up front.

We drive up the Hudson Parkway and 45 miles north of the city, where the roads bend and dip enough to give a taste of the Verano’s handling and features.

This car’s electric power steering is rack-mounted. Meaning: less distance for your turning intentions to reach the wheels. This makes the feedback and responsiveness of the steering immediately noticeable. “Sharp!” my driving partner for the day expostulates, when he nearly hurls us into the oncoming lane.

For the money, there are plenty of inner comforts and gizmos. Similar to a high-end turntable stylus, a tiny laser shoots out the needles in the speedometer and tachometer, highlighting your position on the dial.

A benefit of Buick’s extra steps for creating a quiet environment is the ability to make it noisy as hell. A custom-placed premium audio system designed by Bose accommodates the Verano’s unique acoustics. Bose does this whenever they partner with an auto manufacturer, taking over a thousand measurements of the space. The result is 9 carefully placed speakers, creating your own private concert hall. There are woofers in the rear deck and front doors. Tweeters flank the instrument panel. We crank it up all the way, briefly, to check for distortion. None.

Verano means summer in Spanish. But the weather we face is filthy wet all day, pockmarked by gusting winds of up to 40 mpg. So, the heated seats and steering wheel are welcome features.

The day finishes with some of us dropping the Veranos off at the airport. The Buick team is there to drive them back into town. Not that it would’ve been a problem if we’d just dropped and dashed: the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown feature allows Onstar to remotely bring car thieves to a halt.

2012 Buick Verano
Base price in Canada: $22,595

Image courtesy of John Lloyd.

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