2013 Buick Verano is one of GM’s most tech-savvy offerings — TECH TIME REVIEW
I recently spent some time in a 2013 Buick Verano, and I’ll let you know about my experience and what tech features the Verano has to offer.
The main technology hub of most new vehicles is the central control system that drivers can use to maneuver around all the features offered in the car.
For Buick, this system is called Intellilink, and it comes standard on all Buick models.
So what exactly is Intellilink?
Nick Richards, Buick communications manager, describes it as follows.
“Intellilink is our connectivity solution for the vehicle. It combines different technologies into one easy-to-use entertainment system and smartphone connectivity.”
The system includes an amply sized 7-inch color LCD display front and center to display information and your music, navigation and more. You can use voice commands to adjust your radio controls, navigation and more. And in a helpful move, you can configure what shows up on home page of the LCD screen – so the icons for the stuff you use most shows up.
Overall, I found the system pretty easy to use, once you learn the commands. A version of Intellilink is also available on some GMC models, too.
Methods of control
In terms of controlling your music, for example, there are several options in the Verano. You can use physical dials on the center console’s LCD screen or you can use buttons on the steering wheel, and of course there is the voice option.
I preferred to just use the steering wheel or voice options, for safety reasons. The less I had to take my hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road the better.
One thing the Buick lineup does, technology-wise, that not many other vehicles do, is have some legitimate app integration. Like most cars, you can connect your phone via Bluetooth to access music on the phone. But if you’re using Pandora, you’ll get full integration into the vehicle.
You can use voice controls to tune to Pandora and even say the station you want to listen to, and the full track info and album art will show up on the center console, almost exactly like it looks on your phone. This is very cool, and continues to trend of integrating phones more into our vehicles more seamlessly. And it also increases safety, as you’re not trying to fumble with your phone to change Pandora stations while you drive. You can even push the voice button and say “thumbs up” to let Pandora know you like a song, which is a nice touch.
There is also a similar integration with Stitcher, a talk radio app.
“I think if you look around, everybody is walking along looking down at their phone. The way everyone wants to receive their info is through that mobile device. The intent is to give people access to that in a responsible manner,” Richards said, “To us it’s entertainment services like Pandora and Stitcher; Talk radio in morning, Music at night. As technology evolves, what we can give them access to in a responsible manner. You’ll see that continue to evolve as well.”
Navigation is an upgrade that is offered on the Verano, so it’s not standard. But it’s a nice option that was very helpful in my experience and not hard to figure out at all, so I would recommend picking it up. (the fee is $795), If you don’t upgrade, you’ll still have Intellilink and the 7-inch screen, just without navigation capability.
Navigation is GPS based – so you don’t have to go to the dealership to upgrade maps.
In the overall scheme of things, the Verano’s gas mileage is what I would call decent. You get 32 highway and 21 city; for a total of 25 overall. This is not the best you’ll find out there in its segment, but it’s not terrible.
Veering away from the technology for a second, let me just say that the Verano is quite the sharp-looking vehicle, and it’s safe to say this isn’t your father’s Buick. There were some nice accents on it that give it a unique look that will draw in many potential customers.
The only part of the design of this car that was a bit annoying was the odd placement of some of the seat adjustor levers. Some were put in awkward positions and I had to reach too far back to adjust them.
Outside, though, it was a very nice sight to see and looks very classy.
Richards said this is their plan, to create a car that will look good today and look good in several years too.
“Across the Buick portfolio we try to have a consistent look and design to them so you can tell driving down the road that it’s a Buick,” he said. “The waterfall grille, the chrome daylight opening wrapping around doors and door windows . Distinctive look to the headlamps. The Intent is to give it kind of a sculptured look that has a timeless design to it.”
No shortage of tech offerings
The Verano is not the largest car on the market (it falls in the compact segment), but that doesn’t mean the technology is skimped on.
You’ll get a lot of features that you’d expect in bigger vehicles, such as a standard rear camera for safety when backing up, an option for rear cross-traffic alert, plus 10 standard airbags.
The rear crosspath alert option features a radar-based system that will warn you of traffic oncoming from the sides with a beeping sound and a visual on your screen pointing to the direction of traffic.
Music sources, ports
If you like your music, you have the usual plethora of options here in the Verano.
There’s AM/FM radio, Satellite radio (3 months free, then you must pay — I’d recommend keeping it just for lack of commercials and wider variety than terrestrial radio), CD slot, an AUX input on radio unit, a USB port (you can connect an iPod here, or just charge your phone while driving), and a 12-volt port. Via Bluetooth, you can listen to music through your phone too.
One major technology option that GM vehicles can offer that a lot of others can’t is OnStar installed in the vehicle. This is a proven technology that has been making drivers feel more safe for over a decade now, and it’s included free for 6 months on the Verano before you have to start paying for it.
For those who don’t know, Onstar has many features — including automatic crash response and turn-by-turn direction.
If you are in an accident and the airbags deploy in the vehicle, it automatically calls OnStar and they’ll talk to you about what help you need.
It’s not always that dramatic though. you can call the OnStar adviser, tell them where you need to go and they’ll send the directions to your car, and they’ll show up on screen and be told you to by the vehicle as you drive. (this way, you can get directions even if you don’t opt for the navigation system; you just won’t have the full map visuals you’d get with a navigation system, just arrows and mile numbers)
Also with OnStar, you can ask for recommendations for restaurants, etc., and they can call the restaurant for you if you want to make reservations. It’s a very system that’s been proven over time to work very well both in case of emergency and when you need just a little help with something..
The mobile app connected to OnStar is very cool too. You can see vehicle diagnostic info (fuel/ oil life, check tire pressure, see how much battery charge you have, etc.). You can also lock or unlock the car, or remote start it, via your phone, even if you’re not near the vehicle. This is a nice feature either for convenience, or in an emergency like if you locked the keys in the car. Last resort, you can all OnStar and they can unlock your car in a pinch.
Looking ahead, Richards said: “(Onstar is a) long-term pipeline into the vehicle for potential future services.”
So the future could bring even more helpful features.
So how does the Verano run?
You get a pretty hearty ride via its 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine and its 180 horsepower output. Coming soon, there will be a turbocharged 2.0 liter Verano released that offers 250 horsepower, if you want a little more oomph and get-up-and-go in your drive. But the regular version will work just fine for most folks..
That’s the standard – this fall, the Verano turbo will come out with 2.0 liter turbocharge 4-cylinder engine – with 250 horsepower – just coming out.
You get a warranties of up to 70K miles/6 years on the powertrain; and 50k miles/4 years bumper to bumper
My test vehicle had a very healthy sounding 9-speaker premium Bose audio system. This was an upgrade, and won’t be on all trim levels, but if you opt for this feature you’ll get the most of your music for sure.
Almost everything on this vehicle can be controlled by voice: Radio/music source, navigation, making phone calls, OnStar. The only major exception is climate controls, which much be done manually.
There are also steering wheel controls for volume, channel/music source, cruise control, and voice control activation.
All Verano models feature automatic headlight control, 18-inch machine faced alloy wheel, dual-zone heating so each side can be a different temperature, and remote start. They also come with Stabilitrack (electronic stability control), tire pressure monitoring, and an alarm system.
Options include power-adjustable outdoor mirrors, which heated (good for winter climates), a heated steering wheel, and the EZ Key passive entry system (senses key as you approach; doors automatically unlock)
What’s disabled wile driving?
For safety reasons, you can’t enter text into the navigation system while the vehicle is in motion. This is pretty standard, and a smart move, but voice commands can be used while driving if you need to adjust your navigation route.
As far as safety features go, the Verano is one of the top options in its class.
You get the 10 air bags, a standard Rear Vision Camera, which has no doubt prevented more than a few accidents.
The Side Blind Zone alert is offered as an option and flashes a light in your side mirror is you’re about to turn and somebody is currently in your blind spot in the next lane. This was a very helpful feature to me as I drove, especially in busy traffic.
If you get Blind Zone alert, you also get the Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which I discussed earlier.
And last but not least, there is the standard Ultrasonic Rear-Park Assist feature, which warns if you’re going to back into something (you get a visual warning on screen and an audio warning).
What will a Verano cost you?
The model I tested was a 2013 Verano FWD 1SL, which is the top level and $26,755 to start; (with Navigation and destination charge it reached $28,435)
The base version of the Verano starts at $23,080, plus the 885 delivery charge -- so it comes in just under $24,000.
Inbetween, there is the 1SG, aka the convenience package, which adds in heated mirrors/ blind zone and rear cross traffic warning, and starts at 24,334 plus delivery charge.
Other features that can be added are a sunroof and a few premium paint colors with higher gloss.
Richards said that in terms of sales, the Verano is holding its own so far in its first couple years of existence.
“It was introduces at NAIAS in 2011 and started production in November 2011. First vehicles came last December,” he explained. “Every month since then, we’ve seen increased sales. They’ve leveled off about 4K a month; we’re really happen with the numbers. 52 percent of our customers are trading in a non-GM vehicle or they don’t have a trade-in.”
Regarding the likely audience for a vehicle like the Verano, Richards said:
“The primary consumer is going to be your early professional. You’ve got your career, you’re making a good amount each month, but you don’t need a full-sized vehicle or a lot of room to haul kids. Something more sporty, solid, reliable, good technology, fun to drive, but also shows you’re fairly responsible. If you want to take people out on the weekend, you’ve got room, but you’re not in the crossover stage yet.”
“The other end of the spectrum is the empty nester. Kids in high school or off to college,” he added. “You may not need a huge vehicle in the household. Both ends of the spectrum.”
As far as the top tech highlight in the vehicle, Richards pointed out a few things that he believes make the Verano stand out, including a very quiet ride..
“We’ve keyed on the ability to use things like Pandora in the vehicle, to take your music with you,” he said. “The safety systems: It’s an IIHS top safety pick. And there was a lot of time spent on the acoustics of the vehicle. There’s a lot of effort put into reducing, blocking or eliminating unwanted noise in the vehicle. You can better enjoy the driving experience”
My take: Based on my time in the 2013 Buick Verano, GM is doing an impressive job staying relevant in the in-car technology race, which is constantly evolving at a faster and faster pace.Even in smaller cars like the Buick Verano, GM knows it can not skimp on the technology, and that will be beneficial to them in the long run.
I found the Intellilink system on the Verano overall quite easy to use and helpful, and most importantly the vehicle as a whole maintains focus on safety -- between the warning systems and OnStar they’ve got your back pretty solidly.
There is a lot of promise for even better systems in the future, and the Pandora integration is a nice start and a good sign for the future. They’re ahead of the game in this area.
If you’re in the market for a classy looking ride with some pretty solid tech offerings, you’ll definitely want to put the Verano on your list of vehicles to test. The price is a little steeper than some of its competitors, but you get a very nice ride for the money.
Matt Myftiu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”. Check out his blog at realtechtime.blogspot.com.