Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Buick Cascada: a luxury convertible with European style – and room for your golf clubs

Convertibles. If you own one, or have ever owned one, you love ’em; if you haven’t owned one there’s a good chance you have wanted to.

Of course, if you’re a golfer, and you need room for golf bags and maybe a playing partner, a 2+2 convertible with limited trunk space may not be high up on your list the next time you're shopping for a car. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor – open your mind to new possibilities and go look at a Buick Cascada, the first Buick convertible to be sold in the United States in 25 years.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Buick Cascada for a week. I drove it around town, took it to the golf course locally, and then drove it on a road trip to Southern California for a golf outing – and loved every minute of it.

As a convertible the Cascada has limited trunk space, and the 2+2 seating means your rear-seat passengers are not going to be stretching their legs limo-style – but if you’re not in the market for a vehicle to carry your entire foursome to the course for a weekend round or on a buddy trip to Tahoe or Monterey, the Cascada may just be the car you’re looking for.

With just me and my golf bag in the car I laid the bag down on the rear seat – which leaves the available trunk space open for a medium-sized suitcase or two. If you have two bags to carry, as I did on one local trip to the golf course, you can stack two bags in the rear seating area, or fold down the rear seatbacks and slide the bags through into the trunk space. For up to two people and two golf bags, the Cascada offers no limitations in carrying capacity.

Comfort on my long drive came thanks to the 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger sport bucket seats. The power lumbar support system allows you to trim the seat to conform perfectly to your back for maximum comfort – a feature I came to appreciate on the 6-hour drives to and from Southern California in the Cascada.

Top-up the Cascada is as quiet as any hardtop, the double-walled soft top doing an excellent job of keeping out noise – and summer heat. Sunny days with mild temperatures are great times to drive with the top down, but when it really heats up outside you’ll want the top up and the air conditioning on. The Cascada handled triple-digit temperatures with ease as I drove through Paso Robles on the way south and over the Grapevine as I returned to the Bay Area, with none of the “skull heating” you get with an old-school, single-thickness ragtop.

When you do decide to drop, or raise, the top, the Cascada makes it simple – you can even do it while the car is in motion. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph with a simple push or pull on a lever on the center console. The system automatically lowers the windows and positions and secures the top, signaling with an audible “beep” that the top is locked either up or down. It’s a much simpler proposition than dealing with the vinyl and metal-linkage top on my 45-year-old Japanese convertible, that’s for sure…

The new Buick Cascada convertible, built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, is a sporty, luxurious drop-top that will not cramp your style whether you are taking a short drive to your local golf course or going on the road with your clubs.
The Cascada is in all respects a luxury 2+2 automobile, with all of the perks and conveniences drivers have come to expect – fully-featured navigation system, sound system that includes satellite radio, and full iPod/iPhone/MP3 player compatibility with Bluetooth connectivity. Convenient steering-wheel-mounted controls allow hands-free phone use with a few buttons on the right side, with full control of the cruise control under your left thumb.

As a driver’s car I found the Cascada to be a real treat. The turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine develops plenty of power, and works well in concert with the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and 20-inch wheels & low-profile all-season tires delivered a sure-footed and comfortable ride that I found struck just the right balance between ride comfort and handling performance.

A full rundown of the Cascada’s features and specifications can be found at , but here are the highlights:

                                 Starting MSRP    $33,065
                EPA est. mpg – hwy/city       27/20
                                        Seating for     4
           1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder engine     Standard
             4-wheel antilock disc brakes    Standard
        6-speed automatic transmission    Standard
                    Sport-tuned suspension     Standard

Taking full advantage of the cruise control system, and with no wish to rush through my time in the Cascada, I averaged 25.5 mpg for my round-trip to the southern reaches of Orange County. The trip included long stretches of level highway and freeway, some entertaining twisty two-lane driving, a long climb up the southern side of Tejon Pass, aka “The Grapevine”, and of course – some top-down cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.

Designed and built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, the Cascada brings a touch of Continental sophistication to the Buick line that might surprise car buyers who haven’t looked at the marque in a few years. If you have any doubt that the Cascada will turn heads, consider this: With a BMW i8, at least one AMG Mercedes, and a Maserati parked in the forecourt of the resort where I was staying, the Cascada elicited admiring remarks from the valet who parked the car.

The Cascada is a serious contender for the discerning driver who wants performance and luxury in a fun-to-drive car that will get them to the golf course, or anywhere they go, in style.