It’s so easy to take the normal path. Just buy that European or Japanese luxury car your mother and father always hand in mind for you.
But, what if your 30-something self comes to Easter Dinner driving a Buick? Just wait for the preaching to start! You’ll be accused of growing blue hairs, eating at cafeterias, and heading to church.
Be not dismayed because rewards are great for those driving the Buick less traveled. It’s the alternative luxury car.
I have to out myself — big fan of Buicks. They’re artistically-styled, well-made, comfortable, and authentic. Sure, they now come with German-engineered chassis, but they never mask their true selves. My partner and I have a Mini, Smart, and Mercedes, but quickly warmed to the smaller Buick Verano.
More than reverse-status fashion, Verano appeals equally to Gen-Y and Gen-80. Like other Buicks, it greets with a chrome-tooth grin, swept-back headlamps, and bodyside sculpting. I like the stylin’ taillamps with chrome eyebrows, but a couple more minutes waxing the upturned rear windowline would have given the car a fresher appearance.
Authenticity comes in the details like cross-stitching on the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, thick heated leather seats, and French stitching on the dash. Ice blue-lit gauges and controls convey contemporary Buick style, as do woodgrain and aluminum finishes on the dash and doors. The available “Choccachino” theme, with contrasting cocoa brown leather, lighter beige trim, and aqua stitching in the seats are delicious. Everything gives the sense it was carefully considered.
A further sign of the times is a standard 2.4-liter direct injected four-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine’s 180 hp won’t rival Euro sport sedans, but easily accelerates the sedan onto freeways and keeps it humming past slower-moving traffic. Fuel economy is rated 21/32 mpg city/hwy.
Technology entices all age groups. Bose audio sounds crisp and clear. Bluetooth connects phones and music, windows are controlled with one-touch up/down switches, and push-button starting eliminates the need for a key. Dual-zone automatic climate control and a tilt/telescoping steering column add convenience. Buick’s IntelliLink system enables voice recognition for calling and access to Pandora Internet Radio, Stitcher SmartRadio, SiriusXM, and MP3 players through the USB port.
Handling is more Regal than Park Avenue. An independent front, “Z-link” rear suspension system absorbs rough pavement without drama and grips on-ramps like Newt Gingrich believes he can effect $2.50 gasoline: it just doesn’t give up. Like Newt, it will eventually give up, but electric power steering provides just the right feedback.
So, what ruins this party? At a certain price point, luxury cars are expected to have an independent rear suspension. Then, there’s the outdated Buick image. The Chinese believe Buicks are cool. Maybe a little love from our team can shower a gay halo over the thing and help its fashion cred.
In the same way mid-century modern finds favor across generations because of its honesty and quality, Buick appeals to those looking for a brand that knows what it is and doesn’t mind taking the alternative road — even if it is one well-traveled.
2012 Buick Verano
Five-passenger, FWD Sedan
Powertrain: 180-HP 2.4-litre I4, six-speed automatic trans.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Z-link
Wheels: 18”/18” f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: Style, comfort
Manufacturing: Lake Orion, MI
Fuel economy (city/hwy.): 30/38 mpg
As tested price: $27,345