By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – A 2012 Buick Verano was delivered to me on a Friday and I was headed down Interstate 75 to Toledo on Saturday. My point is that I got a chance to test drive Buick’s entry level sedan in several traffic environments.
I had a full load. Two 11-year-olds and a four-year-old occupied the back seats and the mother of one my backseat passengers was in the front. Although all of them didn’t weigh a ton, my test car responded well to the full load.
The Buick Verano’s 2.4 liter four cylinder engine never felt sluggish. In fact, the 180 horsepower engine had plenty of pep. The car cruised down the interstate effortlessly. The suspension handled the weight of five people without incident. In other words, there was no sway when I cornered, nor was there any strain on the brakes during stops and starts once I exited.
My test vehicle was mated to a six speed automatic transmission and that helped my front-wheel-drive test car attain an EPA fuel efficiency rating of 21 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
To put that in real world terms, my 150 mile round trip to Toledo was followed by everyday driving here. A couple of times I had to go to the East Side which can take half as long as my 50 minute-drive to Ohio. Still, I didn’t have to gas up until five days later. That’s not bad.
What Buick is billing as quiet tuning speaks for itself. The outside clutter of noise remained outside. And my test vehicle had that air of premium ambience that was conveyed by quality materials, French stitching and excellent layout. Still, the brand is behind the trend curve. The interior was dominated by a center stack when the industry is moving towards horizontal layouts. However, it was very well done.
But before I left for Ohio, I tried to use the car’s voice controls to get turn by turn directions from OnStar. It didn’t work; not because there was anything wrong with the system. It didn’t work because at times I talk like I’ve got marbles in my mouth. Voice controls require clear enunciation. After a few tries, I pushed the button, got an OnStar advisor, told him where I was going and direction were downloaded to my vehicle. The process didn’t take two minutes.For those of us who test drive cars, I think the days of driving; checking out engine response, torque, suspension firmness, handling and such are pretty much over. We still have to do all that but now we’ve got to test various software interfaces.
My test vehicle was equipped with Intellilink. It had voice recognition but after failing to get it to work properly on OnStar as well as with my phone, I gave up. Patience is not a strong suit with me either but I’ve got to start testing this stuff. Obviously the Intellilink system included Bluetooth. It also had Pandora, an internet radio music streaming service, and Stitcher Radio that featured podcast, radio shows and news programs. Both of these services required downloading an app to my Smartphone. I already had Pandora, downloading Stitcher was a snap.
There was also satellite radio as well as USB jacks for an iPod, MP3 player or a thumb drive. All of these features are accessible by voice commands. My test car had heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The side view mirrors were heated as well. My test car was officially named a 2012 Buick Verano FWD 1SL. Of course, FWD stands for front-wheel-drive. I think 1SL means an option package but the press material I had did not say what options comprise the package. Nonetheless, my test vehicle had all sorts of stuff and because of its equipment package none of it, except the white diamond tri-coat paint job, was optional equipment.
A sampling included dual climate controls, tire pressure monitoring, leather seats, express up and down power windows all round, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and a seven-inch touch screen. That was some of the equipment. About the only thing I didn’t like was the semi-power driver’s seat. The seat surface was power while the seat back was manual. For me, it’s either all or nothing, not half and half.
The base price of test vehicle with equipment package was $25,965. Add the cost of the paint job and the freight charge and the total was $27,345. That was a pretty good price I thought for a very good car.