- Handsome shape
- In-a-pinch four-seater
- Quiet driving, top raised or down
- Understated styling isn't a head-turner
- Dropping the top cuts cargo space
- Ride can be bumpy, jittery
- Cluttered button layout
- Lacks latest safety tech
The 2016 Buick Cascada is built for days when the best driving is done with the top down.
You’ve probably forgotten the Reatta, right? It's true—it's been 25 years since Buick last had a convertible in its lineup.
This year, GM's premium brand wants us all to drop the top again, with the first four-seat convertible it's ever imported from Poland: the 2016 Buick Cascada (pronounced cass-KAY-dah).
It's no halo car, not a Wildcat, not a GNX. The Cascada is simply a very well-engineered convertible with an extra dose of nice applied before its trip across the Atlantic. No brittle ride, no hideous price tag, no complex folding-hardtop mechanism.
The Cascada's arrival is well timed, given the disappearance of the VW Eos and Chrysler 200 from the convertible scene—not to mention the high sticker prices on the German rivals (Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class).
Buick Cascada styling and performance
The Cascada doesn’t break any new ground in terms of styling. It's not a flamboyant look at all, just an attractive droptop with some subtle European themes showing through its Buick badges. It has a pleasant, rakish profile, and some pronounced side-body sculpting, with a crease that starts behind the wheel wells and arcs back into the taillights. Wing-shaped LED running lamps frame a petite waterfall grille, while chrome bars ring the passenger cell and trim the trunk lid tastefully.
The cockpit is disrupted by a clutter of buttons on the dash, a legacy of GM's halting migration to touchscreen-driven controls. The cabin's very well appointed in muted tones and soft-touch surfaces, but the center stack has all kinds of switches, knobs, even a joystick to run the audio, phone, and navigation systems factored into its electronic offerings. Newer Buicks do it better, with fewer toggles.
Performance is reasonable for the Cascada's top-down driving mission. Under the front-wheel drive convertible's hood sits a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque—on par with some benchmark engines like VW's turbo 2.0-liter inline-4. Shifting is tackled by a 6-speed automatic transmission, with no manual option, and no paddle shift controls.
At about 4,000 pounds, the Cascada is rather plump and it shows in its leisurely acceleration. That makes it about 500 pounds heavier than a Chevy Cruze diesel—or a V-6 LaCrosse sedan. Where's that heft come from? Extra reinforcement to cope with the open roof. The Cascada doesn't waggle much, so the added-on weight is a success--— one dimension, at least.
The extra weight helps damp out the Cascada's ride on perfectly smooth pavement, but its 20-inch wheels and particular suspension tuning leave it less satisfying in city driving. It's smooth and composed until it's not--and that's often, since big bumps can upset its ride damping, and deliver some harsh impacts through the front-strut and rear Watts-link suspension right to the cabin.
Buick Cascada comfort, safety, and features
The Cascada's real forte is driving with its top down. The thickly lined cloth roof drops in fewer than 17 seconds at up to 31 mph, making it perfect for stoplight maneuvers.
That will come as great news for the front passengers that get to enjoy what the Casacada is really about, including its nicely bolstered front seats. They sit a bit higher than in some compact cars and offer stellar long-distance support thanks to good bolstering, power operation, and standard heating. The rear seat is, predictably, far less friendly to adults. It is narrow and its bench sits low to the floor, but at least there are sensors to prevent the front seats from motoring too far back and into the second row's knees.
The Cascada's trunk offers 13.4 cubic feet of volume with the top raised, but a mere 9.8 cubic feet with it down. The top slides in place under a built-in cover ahead of the decklid, and a blocker panel permits luggage loading under the area where the top stacks. The rear seatbacks fold forward for more cargo capacity.
As for its safety, the Cascada has not been subjected to crash tests yet, but there’s an active rollover safety system that deploys to protect passengers involved in a rollover accident. All Cascadas get a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; an extra-cost option package includes forward-collision warnings as well as parking sensors up front, but high tech features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are not offered.
Standard features on the Cascada include power windows, mirrors, and door locks; eight-way power front seats; a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; remote start; a steering wheel that is heated; and leather seating surface. The Cascada's in-dash infotainment system features a smaller, lower-resolution touchscreen than many other Buicks—it's a half-step behind the times, though the Cascada does also offer an OnStar 4G LTE data connection with built-in wi-fi hotspot, as well as text-message alerts, a navigation system, and Apple's Siri Eyes Free compatibility.
Pricing starts at $33,990 for the standard Cascada, and rises to just under $37,000 for a convertible equipped with the optional safety equipment. At those reasonable sticker prices, the Cascada shows that there's plenty of room on the roads for a vacation-ready convertible that isn't a Mustang or a Camaro or a Miata—and doesn't dream of being one of that holy ragtop trinity.