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2016 Buick Cascada Convertible Review +VIDEO

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An Opel in the US

Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

An Opel by any other name may be a Buick, in this case the lovely new Cascada convertible.

Well, it’s new here in the U.S. at least. This stylish and sexy, four-place (2+2 they call it across the pond), front-wheel drive Opel convertible has been available in Europe for a couple of years. It has been some time since the classically American Buick brand has offered a convertible – not since the Reatta of the 1990s, if I’m remembering correctly – and it’s high time that was corrected. That’s just what GM had in mind. And, by the way, it has little competition since Toyota Solara and Chrysler LeBaron convertibles have gone away.

Those of you who have owned convertibles, I’ll bet, will agree there are few driving pleasures that compare to special times on the open road in an open car – back roads, night drives, park roads . . . you name it.

We had seen the Cascada at the Detroit and Chicago auto shows and liked it quite a lot. Now, with it poised in my driveway I like its style and design even better. It has a strikingly cab-forward look with steeply raked windshield, short nose and long deck. It has a rather odd profile on first blush. Distinctive sculpting along the sides, complex but attractive front and rear fascia, huge 20-inch wheels shod with low-profile (40-series) tires and just enough bright work to punctuate it all give the Cascada an ambiance of grace and elegance.

The cabin is just as classy with lots of white stitching against the black dash, door panels and perforated leather seats. At least two-dozen small buttons and knobs populating the center stack, and a relatively small touch screen above, make for a busy array of controls. I found the Cascada’s ergonomics in this regard less than ideal but it did not take much effort to manage it all. The sporty front seats offer plenty of lateral support and the rear seats are surprisingly usable for a small convertible. The rear seatbacks fold revealing a fairly narrow pass-through to the shallow trunk.

The bin into which the convertible top retracts takes most of the usable space from the trunk. We have just 10 inches of depth that goes from bumper to the rear seat backs and a few inches of full depth space behind that. Don’t expect to take much luggage if you’re traveling with the Cascada. A couple of soft duffels might be your best bet. GM lists a modest 13.4 cubic-feet trunk capacity so I suppose the top’s nest must move out of the way somehow. We did not figure that one out before the car went away.

Under the hood resides a more-than-adequate 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder with direct injection and all the high-tech engine stuff that comes in most cars today. It makes a decent 200 horsepower with 221 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates you’ll get around 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway with this barely two-ton car. Premium fuel is recommended, not required. We managed just under 26 for the week with much of that being highway mileage.

Handling and ride have a modestly European flavor but tuned more to American tastes. There is no question even we soft Americans have become accustomed to more firm and crisp handling over the years and Cascada, I think, will satisfy the majority of drivers. While we did not take it to its limits this week, we could have in full confidence if we chose. Those German engineers have stiffened the body structure to well accommodate the inherent weaknesses of a convertible. And, they spared no effort in making the inside quiet including providing a thick, layers soft top.

That top retracts and is covered by a hard lid in just 17 seconds and you can do it on the move up to 30 mph, they say. We retracted it when going less than 20 mph without fuss.

Our lovely, silver-blue Cascada Premium 1SP shows a price of $37,385, including this optional paint color and destination charge. Being the high-end trim level it comes well loaded including: full ‘heat-reflective’ leather interior, sport tuned suspension, full slate of driver assistance stuff, keyless remote start, heated seats and steering wheel, full connectivity capability, navigation, and those 20-inch wheels and tires mentioned above.

The Cascada line starts at $33, 990.

Buick’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

Though its practicality may be a bit limited the Cascada would be a fun and pleasurable car to live with. Something magical happens when we suddenly lift the roof and become part of our surroundings. In this case, few pleasures compare to cruising through verdant farm country at dusk after a summer rain smelling the corn as it takes a deep breath before a growth spurt. Things become a bit less mellow when we suddenly pass the corn where we find a fallow field freshly spread with manure.

I’m a country boy. Even that smells nostalgic.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved