My annual trip to Arizona to check out the "wait till next year" Cubs was spiked with a little more adventure with a test drive of a Buick that promised something different.
Now that General Motors no longer makes Pontiac and Oldsmobile, its upscale offerings are limited to Buick and Cadillac. And the new Buick Verano is GM's attempt at a smaller car with better trim and style than its Chevys.
This is a 4-cylinder Buick, a dressed-up sister to the Chevrolet Cruze. Higher mileage than you might expect-21 city, 32 highway-and much to my surprise it doesn't sound like a 4-banger even when pedal is to the metal during a pass en route to far-away spring training venues. It's quiet and the whole car feels solid.
The problem for Buick, like with my beloved Cubs, is the competition. The National League Central Division where the Chicago team plays has the Brewers and Cardinals. Buick, which calls the Verano a luxury sedan, is competing with BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus and the like.
The Verano, at $28,000, is $10,000 cheaper than those competitors and well-equipped, but it's more like driving a Camry than a 328i. The interior is well done, leather all around and stitched nicely. Front seat comfort is good, but rear legroom is tight. It has a cool touch-screen radio and navigation package that can download Internet radio like Pandora too.
But its styling still screams Buick, which means "old" to younger buyers. It's as good an offering as an Altima, or Camry, maybe better, but there is little other than a fancy radio to excite younger buyers. Bottom line: if you are looking to buy American, Buick's new luxury sedan isn't going to beat the Cards and Brewers…but it plays well in a different league.
As for my Cubs, I saw four games…and we lost three. Waiting for next year.