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2016 Buick Cascada


Base Price: $33,990

Price as Tested: $36,460

If you are going to cruise from Key West to Miami Beach, what better ride than the all-new 2016 Buick Cascada? Other than its rather odd-ball name that no one seems to pronounce correctly on the first attempt, the Cascada (cas-CAH-dah) is a touring drop-top of the first order.

A route not known for its challenging curves or elevation changes, this drive is mostly about enjoying the sun and scenery. This isDSC02701 particularly true of the 102 miles between Key Largo and Key West. Unless you are darting into one of the gaggle of tee-shirt or sea-shell shops crammed together along this straight-as-an-arrow stretch of US-1, you can almost remove your hands from the steering wheel without endangering yourself or anyone else. But, when encountering a break in the tourist-trap sprawl, the view is often compelling, if not downright spectacular.

Buick chose South Florida to host the unveiling of its new convertible for the motoring press. It was a solid choice. Although Cascada can be fun enough to drive, it’s no sports car. It is a convertible take on the premium sedans comprising the brand’s lineup. It’s comfortable, suitably nimble and well appointed. Oh, and it features a power-operated, insulated soft-top that can open or close in less than 20 seconds at speeds up to 31 miles per hour.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280-1Cascada forfeits some performance to take a more practical approach. It offers rear seating for two with roughly as much legroom as the backseat in a Chevy Spark and more than the Mustang Convertible. That’s not a lot, but anyone shorter than six feet will survive. A unique feature: When returning the power front seat to its original position after moving it forward to gain access to the backseat, sensors will only allow it to close within a half inch of the rear-seat passenger’s knees. With the top lowered, the trunk space is about double that of the Mazda MX-5 Miata. So, obviously Cascada’s passenger count and additional cargo space offers more utility than Miata, as well as other smaller drop-tops.

Assembled in Poland – Poland! – it draws much of its DNA from from the Opel Astra. If you miss some features, such as blind-spot monitoring and keyless ignition, often associated with Buick, it’s because Opel didn’t have them on the parts shelf; but, Buick execs assured us, they will be available on a future-model update.

Shoppers won’t be overwhelmed with a checklist of choices to make when purchasing a Cascada. Pick one of two models, one of two wheel designs and one of six exterior colors, and you are about done.

Buick marketers refer to its styling as sophisticated, and it is. Although it looks best with the top lowered; when raised, it compliments Cascada’s fluid lines. When lowered, the top tucks neatly into the rear deck, presenting an uninterrupted surface.

Providing thrust is a 200-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With Cascada tipping the scales at nearly cq5dam.web.1280.12804,000 pounds, this four-cylinder has its work cut out for it; but it is sufficiently spry for tooling around town or cruising the highway. A six-speed automatic transmission transfers output to the front wheels. As with the acceleration, fuel economy is just so-so. Its combined mileage is a modest 23 mpg, based on a government-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Leaning a bit to the firm side, the ride quality isn’t as pliant as other Buicks; but it rolls smoothly over unbroken surfaces. Steering is responsive.

Loaded with goodies, the base grade comes with full power accessories, heated outboard mirrors, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, rear parking sensors, eight-way power front seats, backup camera, seven-inch touchscreen, systems interface, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system, OnStar, WiFi hotspot, and a seven-speaker audio system with USB port.

My test Cascada was the Premium grade, adding front parking sensors, automatic wipers, lane-departure warning and front collision alert.

Normally cars on these media ride and drives are packed with all the options. No doubt the Cascada would have been, too, if Buick offered any. It doesn’t. Pick the trim; pick the wheels and pick the color; it’s Miller time.

Glade to see Buick back in the drop-top business. Cascada isn’t perfect; but it’s good enough, and it’s reasonably priced. If Buick could only figure out a way to shave a few pounds from its curb weight, mileage and performance would both benefit.