Dallas – Long, long ago in a land (Dallas’ Oak Cliff) not so far away, my about-to-be-bride and I joined economic forces – such as they were – in the purchase of a new Opel Manta Rallye, an almost-quietly executed coupe imported by GM’s Buick division. To do it we ditched her Ford Maverick and my Fiat 128, along with – dammit! – saying ‘auf wiedersehen’ to my BMW R90S. The Opel was at least a partial salve for the bike’s departure, with the Manta’s composed handling and reasonable – from a 1.9 liter four and 4-speed manual – over-the-road performance. It didn’t, to be sure, offer the panache of Buick’s recently introduced (and Opel based) Cascada, but the Manta was priced in the mid-$3Ks and not – notably – in the mid-$30Ks. But that was then, and this (most assuredly) is now…
Along with the balance of GM, Buick showrooms are enjoying a credible resurgence, both in sales and product offerings. At a Southlake intersection shortly before this is written, there was a Buick Enclave on my right, a second Enclave directly in front of me, and myself behind the wheel of Buick’s new convertible. And with a week of driving perspective, it’s easy to imagine a Cascada on one side of the garage while Buick’s 3-row CUV is on the other. What do you do for an encore? Introduce a European-spec convertible as a halo.
Buick’s Cascada was plying the roads of Germany – as an Opel – before making its way to the U.S. With a turbocharged 1.6 liter four driving the front wheels, it’s been pitched as a more mature alternative to Ford’s Mustang convertible or the Camaro droptop. And while it may be cross-shopped with those domestic alternatives, I see this as a valid replacement for VW’s Eos convertible, if – of course – anyone noticed the Eos was missing. It would also be a consideration if wishing to replace your Volvo C70 convertible with something other than Audi’s A3, now that Volvo is no longer building the C70. And if you see a familiar pattern here, know there is a familiar pattern here. Convertibles of any size or brand offer a curious mix of emotional desirability with little real sustainability. Like me, as an 8-year old, wanting to date Della Street.
The Cascada employs most of the right pieces. Its softly attractive front fascia and hood almost sweep into its aggressively raked windshield. Two big doors – which are good for easy ingress, bad for tight parking spots – continue the soft wedge theme, while the cloth convertible top looks appropriate either lowered (natch) or raised. And when lowered, without benefit of either the wind deflector or raised windows, we found the interior almost conversational at 60 miles per hour. Even at 70+, the wind and/or wind noise was never stupidly disruptive.
Inside, perforated leather seating up front is reasonably well-sculpted, while the Cascada’s back bench – divided by a cupholder/console – isn’t the penalty box you might think it would be. Interestingly, Buick’s own press material describes the Cascada as a 2+2, while our average height and build (5’7” – on a tall day – and 165 pounds) found it a reasonably comfortable, true 4-seater, and is certainly more accommodating than those back seats offered by Ford and Chevy.
The dash is reasonably informative, the controls reasonably intuitive. Our Premium 1SP model included a host of upmarket upgrades for the $3,000 bump over and above its base sibling, along with roughly a ½ dozen color choices; the base-grade Cascada offers only two. These upgrades include, but aren’t limited to, an 8-way power driver and passenger(!) seat, heated driver and front passenger seats, dual-zone automatic a/c, an audio system with nav, 7-inch diagonal touch display and a leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel. And of course there’s connectivity: 4G LTE WI-FI hotspot and GM’s Onstar, offering most – if not all – of the latest in state-of-the-art telematics.
Under the hood is the aforementioned 1.6 liter turbocharged four supplying 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. That power is delivered to the ground via a 6-speed automatic, while the front wheels are held in place by GM’s Hi-Per Strut front suspension. That suspension – independent front and torsion beam rear – is sport-tuned, and does a more than adequate job of providing precise control in combination with a composed ride. The only glitch is the occasional road imperfection (think Dallas’ Lemmon Avenue), transmitted dutifully to the cockpit via the Cascada’s standard 20-inch rims; we wish something in an 18-inch diameter – with more tire sidewall – was available. In their absence, consider wheel/tire insurance – or avoiding Lemmon Avenue.
If there exists a blemish in all this goodness it’s the Cascada’s responsiveness. Sure, it has more than enough power to merge or pass safely, but given its two tons of curb weight we think 2.0 liters (Buick’s Regal has one) and something around 220 hp/240 lb-ft of torque would be more appropriate to what GM is attempting to do here, even if it meant another $2500 on top of the existing window sticker.
As it sits, Buick’s new droptop can be had for between $34K and $37K. Against lower spec Mustangs and Camaros that might seem high, but against its more appropriate competition – Audis, small BMWs and entry-level Benzes – the Cascada is almost too cheap. If shopping for a droptop, drop by your Buick/Opel dealer. It’ll fit perfectly opposite the husband’s Enclave.