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2016 Buick Cascada First Test Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/6/2016 Alex Nishimoto, Guy Hermann

There's no doubt Buick has come a long way in the past 10 years. Recent ad campaigns have touted the brand's new products as being "expectation-shattering," and for the most part I would agree. Having spent time in the Regal, LaCrosse, and Enclave, my expectations of Buick have been kicked up significantly since the early 2000s. That's why I was so disappointed when I first stepped foot in the Buick Cascada.

The Cascada is based on the car of the same name sold in Europe by Opel, GM's European arm. That car has been available in Europe since 2012, which helps explain why the Buick version feels a bit dated. The Opel Cascada also isn't positioned as a premium car. Although those traits don't jibe with Buick's revamped image, the brand has successfully adapted Opel models in the past. In this case, though, Buick lists the Audi A3 Cabriolet and now-discontinued Lexus IS convertible as key competitors, and that's just hard for me to see.

2016 Buick Cascada Premium front three quarters 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Buick Cascada Premium front three quarters 02 The first thing I notice when I walk up to our tester is that there's no hands-free keyless entry. "OK, maybe it's a stripped-down base model," I thought. But then I see it's a top-trim Cascada Premium. Hands-free keyless entry and push-button start aren't even available. Those are features you at least need to offer if you're trying to pass as a premium car in 2016. But even if I didn't have to insert a key into the ignition and turn it myself like a plebian, the cheapness of the interior would be a red flag. The plastic trim surrounding the radio looks like it belongs in a Chevy Sonic, and the center console materials feel just as economy car-esque. The interior also feels its age or older with a gauge-cluster-mounted information display that's at least a generation old judging by the non-TFT digital readout with red graphics and a center stack that's cluttered with buttons.

The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch, but I'm not a fan of the crisscross perforation pattern in the front seats. The seat heaters, standard on the Premium trim, work better than most—keeping not just your butt warm but also your lower back. That feature paired with a standard heated steering wheel make driving top-down on a less than balmy night a more comfortable option. Lowering that top is straightforward; it's operated via a chrome-finished plastic switch located on the center console. The soft top comes down and goes up quickly enough to perform the task at most traffic lights, but even if the light turns green before you're fully transformed, you can complete the job while driving (as long as you stay below 31 mph). The interior is relatively quiet for a soft top. You'll still think the motorcycle that's zipping past you is in the car with you, but road noise doesn't leak in as easily as in other convertibles. The ride isn't terrible, either, despite the large—and attractive—20-inch alloy wheels.

2016 Buick Cascada Premium wheels© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Buick Cascada Premium wheels Buick's generous use of sound-deadening material could be one reason why the doors feel so heavy. Opening your door in a tight parking spot takes finesse if you want to keep it from swinging out and dinging the car next to you. The long doors, however, make ingress and egress to and from the rear seats easier, as does an electric rear-seat entry feature that moves the front seats all the way forward at the push of a button and automatically back until it finds the rear passenger's legs. The back seat is cozy, but it wasn't uncomfortable for me sitting behind my own driving position. Even with the top up, headroom was fine for my 5-foot-7-inch stature.

The Cascada is powered by a turbocharged, 1.6-liter I-4 that makes 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, or 221 lb-ft when the temporary overboost feature kicks in. The car isn't quick by any stretch, but the engine feels powerful enough and moves the convertible's near-4,000-pound bulk through city traffic with ease. In our tests, the Cascada took 8.9 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill and 16.8 seconds to complete the quarter mile. We haven't tested an Audi A3 Cabriolet yet, but the German automaker estimates the drop-top A3 equipped with the base 1.8-liter turbo-four can scoot to 60 in 7.4 seconds.

With the departure of the Volkswagen Eos and Chrysler 200 convertible, the Cascada enjoys minimal competition. But even so, the Buick isn't a very compelling option. I find it hard to believe anyone could climb into a Cascada after sitting in an A3 and say, "Yep, this is the one I want." There's simply no comparison when it comes to build quality and driving experience. Granted, you'll have to pay slightly more than $40,000 to get an A3 with the same equipment as our $37,385 Cascada Premium. But the Audi feels like so much more car for the money. Then again, if it were my money and I needed a convertible, I'd skip this class entirely and go straight for the less expensive—but infinitely more fun—Mustang and Camaro convertibles.

Buick thinks of the Cascada as its halo car, and even if that title is only temporary until a production Avista or other worthier vehicle comes along, I think that notion is absolutely ridiculous. A halo car is supposed to represent the best your brand can do. And Buick, you've shown us that you can do so much better than this.

2016 Buick Cascada Premium front three quarter in motion 03© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Buick Cascada Premium front three quarter in motion 03
2016 Buick Cascada (Premium)
BASE PRICE $36,990
PRICE AS TESTED $37,385
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 1.6L/200-hp/207-lb-ft* turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4**
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,947 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 106.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.9 x 72.4 x 56.8 in
0-60 MPH 8.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.8 sec @ 82.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.84 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 20/27/23 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/125 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.86 lb/mile
*221 lb-ft with temporary overboost **SAE Certified

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