Tested: Buick Goes Topless with the 2016 Cascada Premium

Buick’s new halo vehicle looks great and rides great, but needs some further enhancements to compete in the luxury convertible category.

Driving the Buick Cascada reminded me of the acid trip driving scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The 1971 Chevrolet Impala Convertible became a star on the big screen in that film, and the carefree convertible made that trip a breeze.

I felt a similar sort of nonchalance from the Cascada. Something about it made me feel as though I were in good hands – almost as though I could let the car drive itself. Smooth with easy, bold styling, the Cascada got me from point A to B without worry.

Buick didn’t have to sugarcoat the origins of the Cascada. It’s already well-known that the Cascada is based on a three-year-old Delta II platform rebranded from an Opel – GM’s German subsidiary – of the same name.

Buick

Buick didn’t need to tout the Cascada as breaking ground, because it’s not...and that’s a good thing. Cascada owners should relish in the fact that it’s a proven convertible with a new and improved engine and a ride that’s both enjoyable and comfortable.

Simply put: it’s top-down driving that’s going to make a lot of people happy and comfortable.

The first Buick convertible in 25 years, the Cascada makes choosing what option packages easy like a Sunday morning. That said, this svelte drop-top comes standard-equipped with almost everything you need in the 1SV trim level.

The Premium package adds creature comforts such as air deflectors, rain-sensing wipers and the Driver Confidence Package, which is a $3,000 upcharge. Right out of the box, however, there are some features missing from the toolbox, some of which are unacceptable at this price bracket. Keyless entry should be standard, and seriously, Buick, no hood struts?

Buick Cascada

The Buick will keep its European competitors on edge by having more standard features than an Audi A3 and a bigger footprint than an A5. However, the Audis have a bit more refinement. I also found that the angle of the infotainment screen, mixed with the positioning of the sun, made for some moments of unreadable glare.

Most of our time was spent with the top down, but an insulated soft-top was noticeably quiet when up and Buick claims the task of opening it can be done in 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. One extremely cool (literally) feature is their heat-reflective leather seating, which can drop temperatures up to 20+ degrees in direct sunlight. Again, this is something that was borrowed from Opel, but embrace it, Buick!

Standard on every Cascada is a revised 1.6-liter turbocharged motor producing 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft of torque (221lb.-ft with overboost). While that may seem like a good amount of power for such small displacement – which it is – with almost 4,000-pounds to push in order to start momentum, you’re going to need a heavy right foot to feel its presence. Luckily, a smooth, 6-speed automatic is able to do some of the heavy lifting. Another 50 horsepower would go a long way and should be feasible with correct tuning.

Buick

Luckily, there are a few things about the Cascada that separate it from the ’71 Impala Convertible. Buick’s HiPer Strut front suspension matched to a Watts Z-link in the rear offers the ability to change directions like a 21st-century car should, while an X-brace support underneath stiffens up the chassis. Overall, it soaks up bumps nicely, is compliant enough to satisfy most road conditions, and makes changing lanes stress-free with little to no body roll.

If you saw the Cascada on the road, you might consider it a car from a non-American brand. It’s statuesque with an aggressive A-pillar swoop; deep, scalloped side panels; and a bold, Chevy SS-inspired hood. The 20-inch wheels add to the overall finesse of the exterior.

The 2016 Buick Cascada will slot nicely in the five states where it sells the highest concentration of its cars: Florida, California, New York, New Jersey and Texas. For buyers looking for a convertible with a lot of value and something that won’t make them overthink their purchase, the Cascada is a simple and convincing choice. If Buick can engineer just a few more things into the Cascada, I’d recommend you take this new, world-class convertible to Barstow and beyond.