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2015 Detroit Auto Show - Dream, the 2016 Buick Cascada and Other Convertible Cars for Summer Pleasure

1956 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible

SEE ALSO: Complete Press Pass Coverage 2015 Detroit Auto Show
SEE ALSO: See Specs, Prices, Comparisons, for all convertibles sold in North America

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Those fellow TACH'ers here in the northern climes are in the throws of winter. It’s probably 20 degrees or colder where you are. You might be working on dropping some holiday-pounds. And it’s also the beginning of ice cream launch season.

Ice cream season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. However retailers start stocking their freezers in the start of the year so they can be full and consumers will be familiar with the new flavors by the time weather warms up.

Not unlike ice cream, the ubiquitous warm weather car, the convertible, gets the attention of car companies so that Spring shoppers will know (and hopefully lust-after) what is available to choose from when the snow melts and the tulips begin to pop.

2016 Buick Cascada

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At the first big auto show of the new year, the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Buick rolled out an all-new convertible entry for the U.S. market. The 2016 Buick Cascada is a well-designed 2+2 drop-top based on the Opel model of the same name that has been sold in Europe for a number of years.

The Cascada will be the first Buick convertible offered in North America in 25 years and the latest globally developed vehicle to join the brand’s growing portfolio. It goes on sale in early 2016.

The Cascada’s 2+2 configuration offers comfortable room for four adults. It features a rigid body structure, Buick’s sophisticated HiPer Strut front suspension and responsive Watts Z-link suspension in the rear, along with a 1.6-liter 200-horsepower turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

And when it comes to dropping the top on a whim, it lowers in only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. When it’s up, superior thermal and acoustic insulation contribute to driving comfort.


There are a number of other convertibles on the market today that suit different budgets as well as transportation needs.

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New for 2016, after 25 years, is an all-new Mazda MX-5 Miata. The iconic two-seater is great personal transportation for you and another. We’ll see the new Miata on the market this summer. Pricing should be around $24,000 to $25,000. The design of the all-new MX-5 reveals another layer to Mazda’s KODO design language. The exquisite proportions make the driver and passenger stand out, and both the interior and exterior evoke the exhilaration of open-top driving. It is the most compact of any generation MX-5 so far and is more than 100 kilograms lighter than the model it replaces, promising a dramatic leap in Jinba-ittai driving fun.

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Other icons of the convertible world include the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Mustang and the Corvette Stingray.

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VW Beetle convertible pricing starts at $25,345 and the four-seater can also be had with a Turbo Diesel if you’re on the frugal side.

Ford’s Mustang is also a four-seater and can be had with a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost Turbo, a potent V6 or a powerful V8. Pricing is in the $30,000 range and up.

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The Corvette Stingray, America’s sports car, is a two-seater and offered with a number of very powerful V8 engines with pricing starting around $59,000. If you need seating for four, the Corvette’s sister-car the Chevrolet Camaro is a consideration.

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New to the market is the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. A very-fun, two-seater that probably will be priced well above the $54,000 coupe model at around $68,000.

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A couple higher-end German entries can be had from Porsche with their Boxster priced in the low-$50,000 range or the 911 at around $96,000 and up.

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See Specs, Prices, Comparisons, for all convertibles sold in North America
Mercedes Benz has two-seaters and four-seaters in their E-class, SL-class and SLK-class with pricing from the mid-$40,000 on up to well over $100,000.

On the very compact and frugal side, the smart fortwo convertible can be bought for around $18,000. Or on the other extreme, the Bentley Continental GT convertible is a mere $206,000-plus.

There are other convertibles on the market from Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Fiat, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, MINI, and Nissan. Not to be overlooked for the off-roaders is the iconic Jeep Wrangler.

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Convertibles were once known for being more noisy than the equivalent fixed roof model, as well as colder in winter and prone to break-ins via a slashed top. I had a slashed top experience in one of the three convertibles that made its way into my life. Technology and material science has helped change that.
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Convertible topping material supplied to the auto makers is far advanced today. Tops are typically acoustically enhanced three-ply composite made of acrylic twill weave outer fabric, a rubber inner layer and polyester lining fabric.

Convertible toppings are engineered to dispel the misconceptions of soft top convertibles. By combining the latest in textile and plastics technology, the materials offer benefits on par with both coupes and retractable hard tops including all-season driving and superior acoustical and noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) performance, as well as optimized trunk space when the top is down.

Also note that as I mentioned above with the Buick Cascada, tops can be lowered and raised without being at a complete stop. The top mechanisms are designed for use at speeds up to approximately 30 mph in case you get the urge to drop the top as you exit a busy city, or if a passing shower threatens.

By the way, we are half-way through meteorological winter. It’s not to soon to start your Spring car shopping as well as have a few ice cream taste tests, and don't forget your sunscreen.

© Larry Nutson