by Frank A. Aukofer Kaminski

The all-new 2016 Buick Cascada may be a cause for celebration—though maybe not sales—among Polish Americans. It is manufactured in the motherland, but it’s a convertible and most of them live in the snow belt.

The four U.S. cities with the highest Polish-American percentages are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Of those, Milwaukee leads with 9.6% of the population. Warm, convertible-friendly Los Angeles has but 1.5%.

Probably not many people buy a car based on ethnic origin, though anecdotal evidence suggests, for example, that any number of Korean Americans tilt toward Hyundai and Kia.

The Cascada is the latest entry in the resurgence of Buick, the General Motors brand once considered the domain of conservative country doctors and other professionals who could afford premium cars but eschewed Cadillac ostentation.

2016 Buick Cascada Convertible
2016 Buick Cascada Convertible

Now Buick has become the go-to American luxury nameplate in the world’s biggest car market, China, and the company even is building a new crossover SUV there: the Envision, a vehicle planned for world-wide distribution.

But the Cascada, Buick’s first convertible in 25 years, stands out as an unusual automotive intersection: a unique vehicle for the USA derived from an existing European car and built in a General Motors plant in Gliwice, in southern Poland.

Whatever, it is a high quality, four-passenger premium ragtop with no apologies and solid modern credentials. It is in a class by itself because competing convertibles have abandoned the US market. They include the Volkswagen Eos, Volvo C60 and Chrysler 200.

The Cascada is derived from a European car of the same name sold on the Continent as an Opel and in Great Britain as a Vauxhall. The handsome styling stayed mostly the same but Buick’s engineers redesigned the suspension system and other features to conform to American driving preferences.

One imperative was new 20-inch alloy wheels, which are standard equipment and available in two designs. They fill the wheel cutouts and give the Cascada the appearance of a sleek Hot Wheels miniature racer.

Because of its unusual width of more than six feet, marketers could even co-opt the old Pontiac “wide track” slogan.

The Cascada shares little with any other Buick—or, for that matter, any other General Motors car sold in the US. It is powered by a 200-hp, turbocharged1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 207 lb-ft of torque.

Power passes to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with shifts that are nearly imperceptible. Though there are no paddle shifters on the steering wheel, the transmission can be shifted manually with the console-mounted shift lever.

The Cascada’s orientation is toward luxury and serene motoring. With a fabric top that has three layers of acoustic and thermal insulation, the Cascada with the top up is nearly as quiet as a fixed roof coupe, with little intrusion of mechanical, road or wind noise.

There are two Cascada models. The base car, at $33,990 including the destination charge, comes with a long list of standard equipment: Buick IntelliLink communications with a seven-inch touch screen, navigation and a backup camera; dual-zone climate control; GM OnStar 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot; satellite radio, leather upholstery, heated front seats with power lumbar support, and rear parking assist.

2016 Buick Cascada Convertible
2016 Buick Cascada Convertible

Driven for this review was the Premium 1SP version, with a sticker price of $36,990. It adds lane departure warning, forward collision alert, automatic headlights, front and rear parking assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and front and rear air deflectors.

The Cascada betrays its European roots with a couple of misses. Unlike most modern premium cars, it does not have pushbutton starting. It uses a traditional ignition key, which actually is preferred by some people. And the narrow sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides.

Inside, there’s just enough room for four average-sized adults, and easy access to the two back seats. The motorized front seats move back and forth automatically, and cleverly stop and move forward slightly when they bump against a rear passenger’s knees.

Imaginative packaging delivers a trunk of 13 cubic feet with the top up and 10 cubic feet with the top down. Rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo space to double the cargo capacity to 26 cubic feet.

Top down or up, the Cascada delivers a comfortable, pleasant and stress-free driving experience around town or cruising on a freeway. The ride is supple, and handling is accurate and secure. Polish-American country doctors will be pleased, even if they can only put the top down during the Brewers’ season.

2016 Buick Cascada Convertible
2016 Buick Cascada Convertible

Specifications

  • Model: 2016 Buick Cascada 1SP two-door, four-passenger convertible.
  • Engine:6-liter turbo four cylinder, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 82/13 top up; 82/10 top down.
  • Weight: 3,979 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,990.
  • Price as tested: $36,990.

Photos (c) General Motors