Those who have traditionally used derogatives like “soft,” and “flabby” to describe Buick products might be in for a surprise if they check out some of the General Motors brand’s latest offerings.
And Buick hopes to continue shifting gears with the launch of a performance-oriented version of its new Verano model later this year. It will get a new 250-horsepower inline-four pumping out 260 pound-feet of torque by just 2,000 RPMs. The turbocharged package will let the front-drive Buick Verano charge from 0 to 60 in just 6.5 seconds, on a par with European competitors like the Audi A3 or BMW 1-Series.
“The way it sounds, the power delivery and the refined character are all fitting of a luxury sedan with a fun side,” said Amy Joss, who oversaw development of the 2.0-liter Ecotec turbo.
The new model will make only minimal sacrifice on the mileage front, meanwhile, Buick promising that the turbocharged version of the small Verano will still deliver at least 30 mpg on the highway once official figures are released by the EPA.
The original, normally aspirated Buick Verano features a 2.4-liter I-4 that makes a still-peppy 180 hp and gets 32 mpg on the highway.
The turbo Verano will get some other subtle changes to enhance its more sporty personality, including new aluminum pedals.
Buick has been struggling to reposition itself in recent years after having survived the GM bankruptcy, in 2009, which saw four sibling brands – Saab, Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer – go away. Ironically, one of the primary reasons for Buick’s survival was the marque’s strong position in China, where it is seen as a serious luxury competitor.
In the States, Buick is being positioned as more of a near-to-mid-luxury brand, with Lexus seen as its key competitors. Both brands have traditionally emphasized smooth comfortable “boulevard” rides and near-silent cabins. Both are now trying to shift to a bit more of a performance personality to try to draw in wary Gen-X and Millennial buyers.
The larger, turbocharged Buick Regal GS has won significant kudos since its debut last year. The maker is hoping to have similar success with the sportier version of the Verano.
Buick hasn’t released pricing but the turbo Verano is expected to carry a several thousand dollar premium over the base model, at $22,585. Buick is likely to play up its pricing, especially when compared to alternatives like the Lexus IS, the Audi A3 and Acura’s new entry-lux model, the $29,200 ILX. That offering delivers just 201 hp out of its naturally aspirated 2.4-liter I-4.
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