The Buick Cascada has charming looks and a lot of standard equipment. It’s also heavy, slow, and stiff. Cascada is the first convertible from Buick since the 1991 Reatta.
We drove the two-door Cascada in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and the Florida Keys, and it didn’t get any lighter, faster or softer. But the convertible top has a nice thick lining, and it went up and down in 17 seconds at 31 miles per hour. And the front seats were nice. We didn’t take any passengers in the rear. They wouldn’t have thought their seats so nice.
The front-wheel-drive Cascada uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine making 200 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. To keep the topless chassis from twisting and shaking, there’s enough steel bracing to raise the scales to the two-ton mark, and that’s just too much mass for an engine that small, even if it is turbocharged.
First introduced in Europe as the Opel Cascada, the Buick Cascada was introduced to the U.S. as a 2016 model.
A new 2017 Buick Cascada Sport Touring model with special trim has joined the lineup. Otherwise, Cascada carries over to the 2017 model year unchanged.
The 2017 Cascada rates an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined.
The 2017 Buick Cascada ($33,065) comes standard with leather upholstery, power windows and locks, eight-way power heated front seats, remote start, heated steering wheel, navigation, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and WiFi hotspot capability.
Cascada Premium ($36,065) adds navigation and other features. Cascada Sport Touring features special interior and exterior trim. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The Cascada is unrelated to the Regal sedan, although there’s still a family resemblance in the attractive, subtle shape with rakish profile. It was designed for Europe so the proportions are global, which is to say tidy. A deep crease starts behind the front wheels and runs back to the rear end. Not quite like the Nike swoosh in the Regal, but maybe a subtle mimic.
Deftly drawn details include angled taillamps, winged LED running lamps, and thin chrome circling the beltline.
The cockpit in the Cascada is clearly in the Buick family, in the way the gauges and controls wrap around the driver, but like the much older sibling, in the way the many buttons and switches clutter the dash. The center stack looks like a first draft of the Porsche Panamera. That’s not to say it’s not tasteful. Soft-touch surfaces, thin brightwork, and soft tones make it better.
The infotainment system uses a smaller and lower-resolution screen than many other Buicks, with an interface that’s half a generation old.
The leather front seats are a bit high for a sporty two-door, but their bolstering is European, great for long hours behind the wheel. We haven’t seen power arms that automatically bring the seatbelts forward for years, but they’re on the Cascada.
The back seat is not friendly to full-sized people, being narrow and low. The trunk holds 13.4 cubic feet with the top up, but only 9.8 cubic feet with it down.
We wish the powertrain weren’t so burdened by the weight of the Cascada. Chop off a thousand pounds, and it would be a hotrod ragtop. Put it in a three-door hatchback, and it would be a pocket rocket.
Gaining momentum is a challenge in the Cascada, especially uphill. At 3979 pounds, it’s heavier than some LaCrosse mid-size sedans, and even 500 pounds more than the old Chevy Cruze diesel.
We found the engine interesting but struggling to be appreciated. The 1.6-liter turbo makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, with an overboost mode that can spike the torque to 221 lb-ft, which is pretty darn good. And the power is smooth and linear, with very little turbo lag.
The 6-speed automatic works okay for the limited acceleration. No paddle shifters, and not missed as much as they might be if the car had more spirit. You can shift the Cascada manually, but you have to do it with the lever on the console. The console-ation is that the transmission program shifts fairly quickly.
If the deal isn’t broken yet, the ride might do it. The Cascada is rough on any road that isn’t flat and smooth, and the 20-inch wheels don’t help. The front struts are beefier than most compacts, and the Watts Z-link rear suspension comes off the Buick Verano that handles so well, but it doesn’t translate into the same kind of compliance.
The Cascada can feel reasonably composed and poised, even with steering that’s less than quick, but that goes away on bumpy city streets. There it feels unsettled, demanding constant steering corrections. The suspension travel gets sucked up by medium-sized bumps, leaving it with nothing for the big ones. The Cascada heaves and leans, hates railroad tracks, and gets jittery over big cracks in the road.
The Buick Cascada can put the wind in your hair but it’s not long in the excitement department.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with staff reports by The Car Connection.