Buick sets sights on compact luxury segment with 2012 Verano

  • 21-Jan-2011 04:40 EST

The 2012 Buick Verano, the automaker’s first entry into the compact luxury segment, features a black chrome waterfall grille, blue translucent projector beams, portholes, and chrome accents. Matthew Monaghan

In speaking with Jim Federico, Executive Director and Chief Engineer for the 2012 Verano, he is quick to point out that Buick’s new compact luxury sedan should in no way be looked at as simply a rebadged Chevrolet Cruze.

"We use the goodness of the Cruze, there’s no doubt about it—the structure, the safety cage, and so on—but no different than we’ve done with other architectural platforms like the Regal. Underneath, it is not just a Chevrolet, but it’s also a very dynamic Opel Astra in Europe,” Federico said after the vehicle’s introduction at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. “We took the good underpinnings that were purely developed from day one to be from a Chevrolet to a Buick and an Opel and built it, designed it, had the modularity to make a huge difference.

“Everything is up a level, from your completely soft interiors, your material selections, the NVH is huge. By the way, the Cruze is pretty quiet, so you can imagine where this car is.”

Federico expects the Verano to be the quietest compact sedan on the market when it goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2011. Buick engineers have developed more than 50 quiet enablers and maintain a simple philosophy for quiet tuning.

“We first work to eliminate or block all unwanted noise and vibration. If we can’t block it, we work very hard to then absorb it. If we can’t absorb it, we work very hard to then reduce it, minimize any negative vibrations or noise to the customer,” Federico said.

Among the many noise-reducing and noise-canceling technologies employed on the Verano, Federico points to the expanded usage of unique sound damping material applied strategically throughout the body structure and the use of thick acoustic laminate glass—5.4-mm (0.21-in) windshield and 4.85-mm (0.191-in) side glass.

“We have continued to optimize our body panel damping by a clever usage of our robotically installed LASD (Liquid-Applied Sound Deadener),” Federico said. “We’re continuing to add more usage, the floor, the panels, and some of the rear.”

The LASD sprays on wet, expands, and melts into place when the body passes through the paint oven, allowing the patches to follow the contours of the sheet metal. LASD also offers advantages when it comes to weight reduction.

“In the old days, when you added a lot of fluff and stuff to it, it was very heavy. Using the efficient usages of the LASD, it gives you a higher density but a lower mass,” Federico said.

Mass savings were also realized through the extensive use of high-strength steel (HSS). Verano’s unitized body structure incorporates 60% HSS in key areas to enhance strength and crash protection.

“We used as much as our assembly plant and our body shops could handle,” Federico said. “We didn’t just use it on the body rails that hold the engine compartment, we also have the A-pillar all the way up the fender. By doing that, it actually made some improvements to the engine cradle. We’re able to reduce mass by moving a lot of the structure to a three-path vs. our traditional two-path, and by doing that, we are able to efficiently get much more torsional stiffness.”

That stiffness has translated into a “responsive, nimble-handling Verano with a Buick smooth, quiet, and isolated ride,” according to Federico.

An Ecotec 2.4-L, four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic powertrain is standard and delivers an estimated 177 hp (132 kW) and 170 lb·ft (N·m) of torque and estimated 31 mpg on the highway. A 2.0-L direct-injection turbo engine will be offered in the future with an optional six-speed manual transmission option. The 2.4-L engine is the same standard engine offered in the Regal and LaCrosse. At 3300 lb (1497 kg), the Verano is 300 lb (136 kg) lighter than the Regal and 529 lb (240 kg) lighter than the LaCrosse.

“The 2.4-L is an outstanding powertrain,” said Chuck Russell, Vehicle Line Director, Compact Cars, General Motors Corp. “So you take a very robust powertrain and you put it into a compact sedan that’s a smaller package, and your power-to-weight ratio is just that much better. You can get some outstanding fuel-economy numbers.”

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