Review: Buick Cascada Works As a Convertible, Stumbles In Other Disciplines

What is the point of a beach? For sitting, surfing, holding the ocean in place? Whatever it is, people seem to like it, especially if they come as an escape from a freezing hell. They rent a convertible, lower the roof and forget what they left behind.

The Buick Cascada is pretty good at making you feel like you’re on vacation. Are you the sort of person who wants to live by the ocean year-round? This could be your car.

All convertibles make sacrifices for the sake of looks and the rush of air you get when the roof is lowered, and the the Cascada is absolutely no exception. Even though it doesn’t officially have a hardtop equivalent, lots of its pieces come from the Buick Verano and its European equivalent, the Opel Astra. But on first glance, the result is convincingly different from its relatives and rather striking, too.

Personally, it makes the Audi A3 Convertible look pretty boring, but the Buick badge is still no match for the pull of the four rings. That said, the termite inspector who saw me driving the Cascada one day really fell for it.

Too bad the interior isn’t a special place to be. Details like the stitched dash pad and printed leather upholstery are nice, as is standard navigation, but it doesn’t make up for the interior being very General Motors circa 2009. I never really figured out how to enter a destination without voice commands and the buttons were thrown at the center stack like darts.

Performance is either good or bad, depending on what you’re asking it to do. The Cascada is not a fast car, which is fine because speed just ruins your hair when you’re driving with the top down. Asking it to do quick passing maneuvers, however, requires a stomp on the pedal and makes the engine very audible, although it gets the job done. It’s not the 207 horsepower that’s insufficient, it’s the small displacement turbo four (1.6 liters) that feels overtaxed by the nearly two tons of convertible that has to get carted around.

The 2.0-liter turbo from the Buick Regal and Verano would likely make the Cascada more relaxed when power is demanded, but also probably at the expense of fuel economy, which was already a disappointing 21 in combined driving.

Speed is not the point of the Cascada, though, or any convertible. But if you do feel the need to drive at highway-plus speeds with the roof down, the Buick does a respectable job of keeping the assault from the wind to a minimum – even before you put the folding wind blocker over the rear seats. The relaxation, however, is spoiled by the passenger’s seatbelt that slaps against the door panel if no one’s around to buckle it.

Passengers will have little to complain about in the Cascada. It’s among the more comfortable four-seat convertibles out there, although that rear seat will likely be used for luggage when the top’s down. Top up, the trunk is good for at least two suitcases and a couple of bags.

But driving the Cascada is more frustrating than it should be. The front pillars are so obtrusive and poorly placed that turns were far more precarious than they should be. I’m not sure how backing this thing up would go were it not for the parking sensors and camera, either.

And if you live where the roads are anything other than smooth, the constant kicking from the 20-inch wheels will remind you of being constantly poked by a toddler. The shaking and wiggling from the top and windshield header reminded me of the Saab 9-3 Convertible I learned to drive on. So the Cascada’s comparable to a 20-year-old design in that regard.

As a car, the Cascada is compromised, sometimes irritatingly so. I’m sure at one point you’d take out a mailbox with the blind spots at the front or the rear or while trying to mute the radio. Once on the move, in a straight line and at moderate speeds, though, the Cascada comes into its own as a way to forget about life.

A three-day rental for $100 or $200 is one thing, but the $37,000 asking price for the Cascada Premium (which is really just front parking sensors, the wind deflector and annoying safety tech) is a lot for something that could go wearisome as everyday transportation if you don’t live in a place with “palm” or “springs” in the name. Fortunately for those who also balk at the Cascada’s price point, I’ve seen Southern California dealers advertising $199 lease deals on them already.

Because as a convertible, the Cascada succeeds. I assume nothing ruins the beach like a bad topless experience.

Photos Zac Estrada/

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  • wow
    much discovery
    so informative

    a convertible is a convertible

  • Sukhoi31m3

    I’m thinking Buick is the next GM division to get killed off. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Cadillac get the axe in the near future either…

  • Andy Williams

    I have something called Backblade windscreen affixed to my ride, and it not only keeps the wind noise and buffeting to the minimum, but also keeps me fresh and energetic even after a long al fresco rides.