BUICK CASCADA OFFERS TOP-FREE DRIVING FUN WITH ROOM ENOUGH FOR FOUR
I have owned only three in my life, and I don’t own one now, but convertibles still remain my favorite kind of car.
You can bet that if I ever win the lotto (hard to do when you don’t buy a ticket) one of my first purchase will be a convertible/cabriolet/droptop as a “second” car. (Probably not coincidentally, only one of the convertibles I have owned was when I was married. Just saying.)
As convertible sales began to decline and some manufacturers began dropping out of the segment, especially when it came to four-seater models classified as “affordable,” I was glad to see Buick step back in after a 25-year absence by bringing the Cascada to the U.S. from Poland, where it had been manufactured in its Opel plant in Gliwice, Poland, since 2013.
The international influence on the Cascada is very promient. Its engine comes from Hungary, its transmission from Korea, and the major source of parts (33 percent) is Poland (where it continues to be manufactured) to only 7 per cent for U.S./Canada.
The 2016 Cascada was Buick’s first convertible since it ended production of the short-lived Reatta with the 1991 model. The Reatta had been offered in convertible form for the last two years of its existence after a four-year run as a coupe.
Its short run isn’t surprising. A two-seater, the Reatta kind of looked like a Corvette somebody had put together in the dark. Not so with the Cascada.
Though critics seem to have been very intent on emphasizing the Cascada’s shortcomings, convertible lovers apparently have welcomed it. According to the Buick PR folks, since its introduction the Cascada has outsold the BMW 2-Series convertible as well as the Audi A3 and A5 combined.
The issue may be how long that trend will continue. Sales for the first quarter of this year (GM has gone to quarterly reports over monthly) show 918 sold following numbers of 1,442 for the first quarter of 2017 and 1,3597 for the same time period in 2016.
If that pace should continue, it would project to 3,672 for the year compared to 5,595 for 2017 and 7,153 for 2016. (Numbers are from gmauthority.com).
Price no doubt has something to do with the Cascada’s early sales success. The Cascada carries an MSRP of under $40,000 and comes with many standard features that cost extra on competing makes, running their costs quickly into the $40,000 class if they didn’t start their already.
The 2018 Cascada is offered as the base (called simply Cascada), Premium, and Sport Touring models with the latter starting at $37,065. For that you get a 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, rearview camera, lane-departure warning, front and rear parking assist, leather seats, premium 7-speaker sound system with navigation, fog lights, dual zone A/C, 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot, 20-inch wheels, and an acoustically and thermally insulated roof that provides a quiet, coupe-like ride when in place.
Despite the “Sport” label, the Cascada Sport Touring model is more suited for cruising around town or coasting along the highway than for sporty performance. Horsepower and torque numbers are solid enough (200 hp, 207 lb.-ft.), but that 4-banger has to move nearly two tons (3,979 pounds to be exact) of bulk.
Gas mileage figures are just OK — 21 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway, and 24 combined — and premium fuel is recommended.
With all that standard equipment, the only extra on the Sport model I had for a week was a “Dark Effects Package” that included red stitching on the seats, doors, and dash and black trim in the same places plus gloss black mirror caps and grille. Cost for that was $125. Throw in the $925 delivery charge and the total came to a very competitive $38,115.
What I liked about the 2018 Buick Cascada: You can operate the top, raising or lowering, at speeds of up to 31 mph. This is especially a welcome feature if a late afternoon shower catches you by surprise. Its compact size (184.9 inches long with a wheelbase of 106.1 inches) makes it comfortable in tight surroundings.
What I didn’t like about the 2018 Buick Cascada: Operating the infotainment functions takes some getting used to, and the navigation screen is on the small side and not all that easy to reach to adjust. Rear vision is very restricted when the top is up. No keyless operation with push-button start is a real downer for me
Would I buy the 2018 Buick Cascada? Frankly, I am conflicted here. It is a convertible, after all, and I applaud Buick’s efforts to get back into the segment so that is very much in its favor with me. I just wish it had paid more attention to small things (like keyless operation). It seems like the intent was to keep MSRP below $40,000 at all costs (pun intended) even if that meant some features had to be eliminated. Considering the sparsity of four-seat convertibles, it’s worth a look if you’re in the market for a droptop suitable for a small family.