How often doesn't the addition of a turbocharger make a car better? That's something of a rhetorical question, since the list of vehicles made less interesting by a high-pitched boost is small indeed.
Fortunately for Buick, the new-for-2013 Verano Turbo you see here doesn't make the cut. Instead, as we learned on a preview drive over the winding byways of Northern Kentucky's tobacco and horse countries, this boosted Buick is highly compelling.
Buick's engineers have performed a Frankenstein-like surgery by plucking the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed transmissions from the larger Regal Turbo and shoehorning them under the hood of the compact Verano. Assisting the metamorphosis are lightly retuned suspension and steering components. Though the sum of its parts does not result in a genuine sports sedan, it does give the already impressive Verano the powertrain polish and performance it long needed.
In this application, Buick parent General Motors' now-ubiquitous 2.0-liter four-cylinder cranks out 250 horsepower and, perhaps more importantly, 260 lb-ft. of torque available almost from initial throttle tip-in. Similarly new to the Verano in our market is a Turbo-exclusive six-speed manual transmission. Though the stick suffers from the same long clutch and occasionally ropey feel here as it does in the Regal, its mere inclusion should delight enthusiasts.
Most Verano Turbos will inevitably be ordered with the six-speed automatic, a solid unit that proved a bit timid about downshifting but otherwise acceptable in its operation. A manual-style gate on the gear lever is standard, though paddle shifters aren't available.
Regardless of transmission, the Verano Turbo is satisfyingly quick from any speed. Turbo lag was barely discernible in urban driving and mid-range passing power is terrific. Moreover, the four-banger that was gruff in our last Regal Turbo tester proved silky smooth in the Verano, something made even more obvious by the substantial sound deadening this smallest of Buicks includes.
Still more of a comfortable, premium-feeling small car than an outright sports sedan, the Verano's ever-so-slightly modified suspension and steering gave it a nimble feel that belies its slightly portly 3,300 lbs. curb weight. That's around 400 lbs. pudgier than an Acura ILX, the Verano's nearest competitor, but the Buick feels like a considerably more upscale vehicle all over.
We didn't have an opportunity to measure the Verano's fuel economy during our preview drive, but EPA-suggested figures of 20/31 mpg for the manual and 21/30 mpg for the automatic are acceptable given the power on board. Premium fuel is recommended but not required.
At just under $30,000 including destination, the Verano Turbo is something of a bargain. Standards include goodies like leather, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a blind zone monitor, the automaker's touch-screen IntelliLink infotainment and a backup camera. The only options of note, aside from the transmission choices, are a moonroof and map-based navigation.
IntelliLink uses big icons that should be familiar, at least conceptually, to those on with smartphones. Only tiny text for some secondary functions, like map zooming scale and some street names, detracts from what is otherwise a simple and intuitive system.
Stylistically, Verano Turbo doesn't depart much from its siblings, either. All models gain a new grille for 2013, while Turbos add a small lip spoiler on the trunk and dual chrome exhaust tips.
Inside, Verano's dual cowl-style dashboard is convenient if a bit button heavy, and materials selection is generally top-notch. A flocked glovebox interior is also new for 2013, and while that might seem like a minor item, it will keep your gloves and owner's manual from banging around during the aggressive cornering Buick hopes you'll do in the Verano Turbo.
Silent and sporty – if those two accolades can exist together, they do so here.
Leftlane's bottom line
Straddling the line between performance and premium, the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo strikes us as an excellent balance at a reasonable price.
GM's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is a natural fit in this application, while competitive pricing means it will probably make mincemeat of any rivals who step up to the plate.
2013 Buick Verano Turbo base price, $29,990.
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.