- Quiet and comfortable ride on the highway and over bumpy roads
- Lots of features for a reasonable price
- It's heavy and not very powerful, and that results in underwhelming acceleration and fuel economy
- Dashboard controls all look alike, which can be distracting on the road
- Tech interface is dated compared to rivals
- Mediocre interior quality
Though there's no shortage of convertibles on the market, there's been one niche in which the pickings have been slim recently: the reasonably priced, four-passenger midsize convertible. Fortunately for fans of leisurely top-down motoring, the 2017 Buick Cascada fills that vacancy nicely.
The best way to wrap your head around the Cascada is to think of it as a comfortable cruiser. With that role in mind, GM engineers have tuned the suspension to favor a smooth ride over sporty handling. Furthering its mellow vibe is the relatively small 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's tasked with hauling around the car's rather hefty weight, an arrangement that results in adequate but lackluster acceleration.
Inside, the Cascada's abundance of hard plastic materials gives it a somewhat downmarket feel. The plethora of dashboard switches and controls can also be confusing, and the infotainment system is dated in both its appearance and operation. Some of the desirable features we'd expect to find in a luxury model — amenities such as keyless start and a blind-spot monitoring system — aren't even offered.
On the plus side, the rear seat has room for two smaller passengers, with access made easier by a single latch that scoots the entire seat forward. A relatively large trunk is made more practical by split-folding rear seatbacks that expand the cargo hold when it comes time to transport longer items. Still, we suggest comparing the Cascada to more luxurious (albeit more expensive) models such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet or the BMW 2 Series convertible. The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible and the Mini Cooper Convertible are also worthwhile competitors; both are more fun to drive, though they lack the Cascada's interior room.
Ultimately, the Cascada's serious shortcomings stop us from recommending it, but the Cascada could be worth a look if all you want is a comfortable and reasonably priced vehicle to soak up the sun in.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
For the 2017 Buick Cascada, a new Sport Touring model joins the lineup.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Buick Cascada convertible is offered in three trim levels: Base, Premium and the new Sport Touring.
Standard equipment for the base model includes 20-inch alloy wheels, a power-operated convertible soft top, adaptive xenon headlights, heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, remote engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power and heated front seats, 50/50-split folding rear seats, a heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 7-inch touchscreen display (with Buick's Intellilink interface), voice controls, smartphone integration, a rearview camera, OnStar (with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hot spot) and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB media interface.
The Cascada Premium adds foglights, automatic wipers, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, air deflectors for the front and rear seats, and a touchscreen navigation system.
Step up to the new Sport Touring trim and you get a unique paint color and distinctive alloy wheels, special black interior trim and a unique flat-bottom steering wheel.
There are no factory-installed options available.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Inside the 2017 Buick Cascada, you'll find an interior that doesn't quite live up to the car's upscale aspirations. The quality of the materials, for example, is not up to the same standards as those of true luxury competitors. The centerpiece of the dash, the 7-inch touchscreen, is a somewhat outdated design that lacks the crisp graphics and uncomplicated menu structure of more modern units. Then there's the sea of buttons scattered about the dash that can be hard to distinguish and use while you're underway.
Front seats offer passable comfort in the short term, but the combination of stiff leather upholstery and limited padding means they're bound to cause some squirming on long drives. Rear seats are suitable for youngsters or smaller-stature adults but, like many convertibles, they can feel a tad cramped with the top up.
Speaking of which, that top can be lowered in a mere 17 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph simply by pushing the button between the front seats. Visibility out the back is passable enough with the top raised, despite the small rear window and high rear deck.
Out back, the trunk offers a healthy 13.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the top raised and a not-bad 9.8 cubic feet with it lowered. The small trunk opening can make loading bulky items a challenge, but the split-folding rear seatbacks with remote releases offer additional cargo space and a pass-through for longer items such as skis and snowboards.
The list of standard safety features for the 2017 Buick Cascada includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and front knee airbags. Like other GM vehicles, the Cascada comes with the subscription-based OnStar system, which can provide roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle location.
In the event of a rollover, two stout metal posts, spring-loaded and pyrotechnically actuated, pop up from behind the rear seats to provide added occupant protection.
All Cascadas also come with a rearview camera, and Premium and Sport Touring models include forward collision and lane departure warning systems. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert isn't offered, however. In Edmunds emergency brake testing, the Cascada came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet. That's an average distance for the segment.
In government crash tests, the Cascada has received an overall rating of five stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for front-impact safety and five stars for side-impact safety.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Powering the 2017 Buick Cascada is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. These are strong numbers for such a small engine, but the powertrain has to move nearly 2 tons of car down the road. During Edmunds testing, a Cascada accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is slow for this class of car.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Cascada is a lackluster 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway). To put those numbers in perspective, the Audi A3 convertible boasts 28 mpg combined.
From behind the steering wheel, it seems as if the 2017 Buick Cascada's turbocharged four-cylinder engine has its work cut out for it, given that it's hauling around nearly 2 tons. Not surprisingly, acceleration is OK for everyday driving, but situations that require a burst of speed, such as passing a slower car on a two-lane highway, require full throttle and a good stretch of open road.
In its element — a leisurely top-down cruise — the Cascada performs well enough, with secure handling for its size and a smooth, unruffled ride quality despite its big 20-inch alloy wheels. With the roof up, the triple-layer fabric top does a good job keeping unwanted sounds at bay, but there's still a bit too much road noise inside for a car with such luxury pretensions.
Buick is back in the drop-top business with the 2017 Cascada. It's comfortable, as you would expect a Buick to be, and competitively priced. But some significant downsides could make some other convertibles more appealing overall.