Buick is one brand within the General Motors fold that has taken a resourceful and dynamic direction. As its television commercials suggest, people do not expect the character of the new Buick vehicles from a brand such as Buick. Even when a Buick is parked right in front of them folks do not recognize it as a Buick.
Buick is also one brand that has utilized the General Motors connection on the European continent. The Verano is based on a European Opel platform as is the new Cascada. Benefits for this collaboration is evident in that most of the body structure is tried and true before venturing to our side of the pond, as are many of the mechanical components, though the Cascada (pronounced CASS-cah-dah) carries an all American flare.
From the very beginning of development this platform was to be a convertible. So, according to Buick, there were no compromises as there can be when a coupe platform is reconfigured to accommodate cutting off the top.
This was quite evident during our drive from Miami to Key West, there was absolutely no cowl shake that seems to occur when a convertible platform isn’t as ridged as it should be. The Buick Cascada, Buick’s first convertible in 25 years, proved to have a solid hold on the road surface.
Rigidity is equally important for suspension engineers as they design components to provide the Cascada with good handling and ride quality. The stiffer the platform the more latitude the engineers have with suspension bushings, springs and shocks. We experienced a smooth ride as we headed for Key West. Unfortunately, there were few reasons to turn the steering wheel more than a few ticks as the 125 miles of Highway 1 from south Florida is practically a straight line to the Keys.
Although we had little reason to motor with the soft top up, it is a quick 17 second operation up or down and can be performed at speeds up to 33 miles an hour. Though we did experience the well insulated fabric top’s exceedingly good ability of keeping the outside noise outside for about ten miles. My drive partner (Mark Maynard Automotive editor at the San Diego Union Trib) and I elected to keep the top hidden even though the un-Florida-like weather kept the temperature hovering in the low sixties. After all that is why they put heaters in convertibles.
Keeping with the new Buick ideals of not being recognized as a Buick, the Cascada looks nothing like any other Buick in the stable. The exterior design is sleek with hood and front fenders sharply tapered toward the bumper appearing nearly grille-less. The exterior design isn’t ground breaking, yet it is attractive. We learned from Holt Ware, Buick exterior design director that the exterior design came from hours of working with real clay models not computer generated images. Ware continued to explain that was so that a true sense of the character lines, curves and other design elements all tied together for an eye pleasing vehicle. The Cascada is one convertible that looks as good with the top up as it does when it is hidden away.
We have a slight issue with trunk storage space when the top is stowed. Though both our roll aboard bags fit the airline overhead storage compartment, one slightly larger one would not fit under the movable top barrier. The decision to increase trunk space and keep the top up or throw the bag in the back seat and enjoying top down driving was a no brainier, the back seat it was.
Do not expect the Cascada to compete with sports cars for they are in a more performance orientated category. This is a luxury vehicle that has the feel as though all inputs by the driver are linear and silky-smooth. Like its exterior design there is no abruptness here
Buick also called upon its 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine to assure the smooth application continued in the powertrain. While deemed small, by American standards, this compact engine delivers more than enough power to satisfy even these hard core automotive media types. Sure we are always calling for more power and performance, after all if we didn’t they would take away our Tim the Tool Man Taylor fan club membership. The Cascada is a capable vehicle; however it is more boulevard cruiser than mountain road monster.
Power to the road is transferred to the front wheels through a real honest to goodness automatic transmission. This six-speed helps the Cascada achieve an EPA fuel economy rating of 20 Miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. We did not get a chance to record real world mileage as we jumped from one model to another during our first drive.
The interior design received as much attention as the exterior and the sum of its parts provide an attractive and functional cabin. We did have a bit of a learning curve with the infotainment system as with each generation functions are added, displaced or just redesigned. Happily once we became familiar with commands we easily toggled through the major elements. Though we thoroughly love the 4g LTE web connection for our passengers we hope drivers will not be tempted while in motion.
Buick isn’t expecting the Cascada to break sales records saying this is a halo car capable of attracting shoppers to Buick showrooms. Buick may see stronger sells the expected as the Cascada base price is $33,990. This is not a stripped down vehicle, it is filled with plenty of features such as HID headlamps that track around corners as the car turns, leather seating, a seven-inch color touch screen, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, navigation system, Wi-Fi hotspot, remote start and dual-zone climate control.
There will not be a lot of wasted time over content choices. There are two models: the well equipped entry-level Cascada and the upscale Cascada Premium priced at $36,990. The Premium adds more safety features, such as forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, front/rear park assist and rain-sensing wipers.
Buick has added tiny details that make you realize much thought went into the development. An electronic rear-seat entry system automatically powers the front seats forward by simply pressing the seatback forward. It moves the seats back when the seatback is returned to the upright position. As it returns to its original position it will stop if it senses an occupant’s legs within ½ inch. An electric safety belt presenter telescopes an arm from behind the front seat making easy access to the seat belt.
The Buick Cascada is a joy to drive and experience open air exhilaration. While it is not a thrill you with high power and race car finesse The Cascada is a pleasurable touring convertible.