TALIHINA, Okla. -- We're cinched firm against the leather seat of Buick's 2013 Verano Turbo compact luxury sedan with hands locked on the heated steering wheel, feet dancing across sport pedals on the floor but eyes fixed squarely on the next bend of Oklahoma 1, squiggly blacktop draped over the pine-studded Ouachita Mountains.
Actually, we're romping along this ridgeback road, which follows contours of the slopes on undulating asphalt with whoop-de-do dips and rises and incessant sharp esses and broad sweepers.
And the newest Buick, projecting a coupe-like silhouette with glitzy waterfall grille crowning the prow, reveals stunning performance from a decidedly sporty vehicle that maneuvers around curlicue mountain traces with the dexterity of a mechanical athlete.
Cast on a rigid unibody structure with pliable independent suspension components pinned above each wheel, the test car carries a goosy turbocharged engine which translates all of its considerable torque through a malleable but definitely un-Buick-like six-speed manual shifter and sends it to the two front wheels which also steer in a predictable and controllable front-engine/front-wheel-drive arrangement.
Thanks to the world-wide scope of General Motors, development of Verano amounted to a global effort. Its platform was designed in Europe and underpins other products of GM's corporate family such as the Opel Astra in Europe and a Buick Excelle GT manufactured and marketed in China.
Styling for Verano's chrome-crusted body and the luxurious five-seat passenger compartment was a joint effort between designers at GM's Technical Center in Warren, Mich., and those in China at GM's Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC).
But Verano comes together in the United States at a GM assembly plant in Michigan.
Verano's platform features a wheelbase that's 105.7-inches long and a wheel track width of 60.3 inches in front and 60.7 inches in back.
The suspension has front MacPherson struts with aluminum control arms and a 25-mm hollow stabilizer bar. In the rear the car has an uncommon Z-link that's lightweight and compact for responsive rear suspension control.
The rack-mounted steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of Verano's powertrains.
Brakes, with a big disc at every wheel, counterbalance all of this car's go-power with fast-acting arrests enhanced by vacuum-boost power and electronic linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and GM's StabiliTrak electronic vehicle skid control device.
These mechanical systems work together in the worldly new Verano Turbo to produce exacting road manners and the spirited performance of a precise German touring sedan.
GM builds two high-tech Ecotec engines for 2013 Verano models featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), spark ignition direct injection (SIDI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
Standard plant for Verano, Verano Convenience and Verano Leather trim editions is a 2.4-liter cast aluminum four-in-line engine which develops 180 hp at 6700 rpm and 171 lb-ft of torque at 4900 rpm.
Transaxle is a fuel-saving six-speed electronically controlled automatic with driver shift control (DSC), the Hydra-Matic 6T45 from GM.
The federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this Verano powertrain at 21 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
Engine for Verano Premium edition -- a.k.a. Verano Turbo -- is a cast aluminum 2.0-liter Ecotec four-pack fitted with a turbocharger (TC) and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) apparatus. It runs up to 250 hp at 5300 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at only 2000 rpm.
The turbo engine links to a standard six-speed DSC electronically controlled automatic transaxle (HM6T50) or optional six-speed manual gearbox (Aisin F40).
With the automatic transaxle, Verano Turbo achieves EPA fuel economy scores of 21/30 mpg city/highway. With the six-speed manual, Verano Turbo hits 20/31 mpg city/highway.
All external noise, vibration and harshness seems locked outside of Verano's leather-trimmed passenger compartment because the cabin is wrapped liberally with sound-absorbing material including sound blankets (in the roof, below the hood and both front and back of the firewall), nylon baffles and sound-absorbing foam wadded in hollows of the car structure, door seals in triplicate plus thick layers of acoustic laminate in the windshield and side windows. Buick dubs these NVH controls as Quiet Tuning.
Standard equipment for Verano ranges from a remote ignition and push-button starter to cruise control, dual automatic climate system, power windows and power door locks, cloth fabric seat upholstery with leatherette trim, split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilting-telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, Bluetooth and OnStar connectivity plus a 6-speaker audio package with satellite radio and CD/USB/iPod/MP3/AUX.
Verano Turbo adds deluxe leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, the heated leather-bound steering wheel, sport pedals, a spoiler on the tail and twin exhaust pipes.
Buick's MSRP list for Verano 2013 in base trim dips to $23,080. Verano Turbo begins at $29,105.