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2019 Buick Envision: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Some potential customers might hesitate because the 2019 Buick Envision is, in fact, a Chinese-made crossover sport utility vehicle with 86% of its parts made in China, not a quintessentially American vehicle.

Nowadays, almost everything you pick up is made in China: shoes, clothing, appliances, you name it. We haven’t minded much, even when the quality may not be great, because the prices are competitive. There’s also a soft spot because China was our ally in WWII, though not in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

2019 Buick Envision

It’s an old story. After World War II, Japanese products started coming into the U.S. They were widely derided — cheap but of poor quality. Later, after the American reconstruction of Japan, the situation reversed, especially with automobiles, when Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda became quality benchmarks.

In recent years, South Korea followed Japan and delivers high quality cars and crossovers from Hyundai and Kia.

Now we’re seeing increasing numbers of vehicles made in China, which has become the world’s biggest market for cars and light trucks. In 2018, sales in China totaled more than 23 million, compared to more than 17 million in the United States. Chinese manufacturers are exploring exporting vehicles here.

2019 Buick Envision

We can visualize the Envision, Buick’s luxury compact crossover, as a bellwether for vehicles to come. Moreover, it is well designed and  has earned good quality and reliability ratings.

Tested for this review was the all-wheel drive Premium II trim level. It had a base price of $44,795 and, with options, a not-inexpensive sticker of $48,435.

It came with full safety equipment, some optional. Included were automatic collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, surround-vision rear camera, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and a head-up display.

2019 Buick Envision

A full suite of connectivity features included OnStar services and Buick Infotainment with an eight-inch center screen, navigation with voice recognition, Bluetooth audio streaming, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and SXM satellite radio.

Though some other modern luxury cars have systems that are irritatingly complex, the Envision keeps things simple. For example, instead of going through a series of annoying steps to pre-set radio and satellite stations, in the Envision you simply find the station and touch the screen to save it.

Comfort and convenience features included tri-zone climate control, power tailgate, perforated leather upholstery with heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard back seats, memory settings for front seats and outside mirrors, panoramic sunroof with opaque sunshade and one-touch operation, and a Bose premium audio system.

2019 Buick Envision

The tested Envision was powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 252 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque A nine-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the pavement. A stop-start system contributes to city/highway/combined fuel economy of 20/25/22 mpg.

Though not as luxurious as some competitors like the Acura RDX and the as-yet untested 2020 Lincoln Corsair, the Envision has a well-designed interior. Front seats and outboard back seats are comfortable but without much bolstering. The floor is flat in back, but the center-rear seat has a hard cushion.

Outside mirrors are mounted on the doors with a small window pane forward so shorter drivers can see curbs and other obstacles. A nice touch: all four outside door handles have lock/unlock buttons.

2019 Buick Envision

Controls are intuitive and white on black backlighted instruments are easy to see and comprehend. One shortcoming: the nine-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually but with a dinky button on the side of the shift lever. There are no steering-wheel paddles or a separate slot on the shift gate.

On the road, the Envision comports itself capably but without any sporting pretensions. The ride is compliant and comfortable, and the steering and handling feel secure under most circumstances, though you would not want to chase somebody in a sports sedan on twisting mountain roads.

2019 Buick Envision

The turbo engine delivers acceleration that will not be embarrassing in the urban stoplight sprints. Punch the pedal to the floor and you could hit 60 mph in the neighborhood of seven seconds. But the Envision is more endearing as a comfortable around-town and freeway cruiser, as befits its luxury orientation.

In the end, with this entry in the compact luxury crossover category, design and features trump country of origin. It may be built in China with Chinese parts but the Envision is a modern Buick through and through.

2019 Buick Envision

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Buick Envision AWD Premium II four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 252 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/27 cubic feet. (57)
  • Weight: 4,083 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/25/22 mpg.
  • Based price, including destination charge: $44,795.
  • Price as tested: $48,435.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Buick Envision

Photos (c) Buick

2018 Buick Regal TourX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are several clues that the 2018 Buick Regal TourX has its roots in foreign soil, not in the United States. The biggest is that it is a station wagon.

Wait. A Buick station wagon, something we’ve not seen since the big Roadmaster of two decades ago? Yup.

American buyers, who embraced big station wagons for 50 years after World War II as essential family haulers, all but abandoned them after the inventions of the minivan, sport utility vehicle and crossover SUV.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

A notable flop in recent years was the Dodge Magnum, a rear-wheel drive wagon with some performance chops that was introduced as a 2005 model but lasted only until 2008.

Still, a few manufacturers — none of them American — persisted in building wagons, mainly because they continued to be popular in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, many buyers regard a station wagon as a step up from a traditional sedan, though they too are starting to succumb to the allure of crossover SUVs.

Note that traditional SUVs are based on pickup trucks, with rear- or all-wheel drive and body-on-frame construction. Crossovers usually have front- or all-wheel drive and the unit-body construction of traditional sedans. For example, the Chevrolet Tahoe is an SUV; the Chevy Equinox is a crossover.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Yet despite the fact that some foreign manufacturers — Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Subaru — tested the U.S. market with wagons, all of them fizzled. Subaru finessed the situation by converting its Legacy wagon into the Outback by jacking it up for better ground clearance and calling it a crossover SUV. Currently, a few lonely automakers still persist here with wagons, including Sweden’s Volvo and Germany’s Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

So, the Buick Regal TourX comes as something of a surprise, especially coming in the tire tracks of the Regal Sportback, a four-door hatchback with fastback styling that resembles the Audi A5 and A7, as well as the new Kia Stinger.

As with many automobiles in an industry that has become globalized, the Regal TourX is an ethnic amalgam. Based on the Opel Insignia, it is built in Germany with a U.S. engine and a Japanese transmission. Only about a quarter of its components come from the U.S. and Canada.

2018-Buick-Regal-TourX-011A couple of minor tipoffs to its origins: as with some other European cars, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side, and the steering wheel telescopes but does not tilt.

Nearly 16.5 feet long with streamlined styling, the Buick TourX displays the modern attributes that could herald a station wagon comeback. It has 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seatbacks, which expands to 74 cubic feet if you fold the seatbacks. With its low profile comes a low lift-over height, which facilitates loading.

It also comes standard with all-wheel drive, which will come in handy in slippery conditions. But don’t think of the TourX as an off-road vehicle. There’s only 5.8 inches of ground clearance, where the Subaru Outback has 8.7 inches.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

The Outback is one of only a couple of competitors. It has comparable interior space to the TourX, though it’s a foot shorter. It also is less expensive. The only other competitor is the Volvo V60, which has a new model that arrives in 2018.

Motivating the new TourX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is becoming an industry standard. In this application, it makes 250 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

In daily driving, the TourX proves itself to be a responsive companion in traffic, though there’s hesitation off the line because of the stop-start technology that shuts off the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption, as rated by the EPA, is 21/29/24 mpg.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Handling is nearly up to midsize sports sedan standards, with a solid steering feel around corners and good straight-line tracking. The brakes are excellent with a strong pedal feel. One minor drawback: the TourX’s length requires searches for generous parking spaces.

The tested TourX Essence was well equipped with a base price of $36,015. With options that included adaptive cruise control, forward pedestrian alert, automatic braking and collision alert; rear cross-traffic alert and park assist; blind-spot warning; premium audio, HD radio, and navigation and infotainment systems, the bottom-line sticker came to $40,950.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Specifications

  • Model:2018 Buick Regal TourX Essence AWD four-door station wagon.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 250 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission:Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:16 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:101/33 cubic feet (74).
  • Weight:3,745 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption:21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge:$36,015.
  • Price as tested:$40,950.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Photos (c) General Motors.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir may become as popular in its own way as its cousin, the GMC Yukon Denali, but it already was famous in typographical circles as a modern sans-serif typeface or font.

However, it may be that the Avenir name was chosen because it is the French word for “future.” Either way, it represents Buick’s effort to push its three-row crossover sport utility even more upscale to mimic the Denali versions in its GMC sibling division at General Motors.

Denali models, named for a mountain and national park in Alaska, have been an unqualified success for GMC, which is primarily a manufacturer of trucks and SUVs. It seems that many of its customers are eager to pay more for luxurious surroundings, so the Denali trim is available on six GMC models, including the Acadia Denali, a striver that is named for not one but two US National Parks, with Acadia located in Maine.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

A luxury ambiance also is the purpose of the new Enclave Avenir, a new, upscale trim level of Buick’s seven-passenger crossover SUV. It delivers stylish, flowing lines and is roughly the same size as the Chevrolet Traverse but a bit larger than the GMC Acadia.

The Avenir doesn’t directly compete with the three-row Yukon Denali, which comes in two lengths and is a fully-realized SUV built like a burly pickup truck with a body-on-frame. But the Avenir, properly equipped like the one tested for this review, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and accommodate six adults in reasonable comfort. A seventh can squeeze into the third-row seat.

Unfortunately, access to that third row is difficult and only available through the right-rear door. Plus, it takes muscle to flip the right-side second-row seat forward for access to the third row. However, the second row consists of two captain’s chairs so more nimble family members can scurry between them and get back in steerage.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-016The immediate impression when first seated in the Enclave Avenir is the plush surroundings — soft and supportive leather seats, heated and ventilated up front with heated second row seats; memory settings for the driver’s seat; pushbutton starting with remote locking; powered third-row seat that folds with the touch of a button; tri-zone automatic climate control; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; dual-pane panoramic sunroof; full infotainment functions including navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, inductive device charging; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-014The tested Avenir also came with 20-inch aluminum wheels and a $2,095 technology package that included adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking that augmented the standard safety equipment of lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, front pedestrian braking, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree surround-vision camera.

However, the inside rear-view uses not a mirror but a camera, which makes for confusion because the driver’s eyes must constantly adjust for depth perception to see what’s going on. Better to stick with a standard mirror.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

On the road, the Enclave Avenir feels like the big vehicle it is. At 17 feet long and weighing 4,565 lbs, it is more of an easy-riding rolling comfort zone than a frisky conveyance with quick moves. In that sense, it’s just the thing for a long family road trip, mostly on freeways. Though it doesn’t have the interior dimensions of a minivan, it comes close. Among its competitors are similar luxury crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX70 and the Volvo XC90.

There’s 24 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third-row seat. Press a button to fold it and the space expands to 58 cubic feet. If you have to move something big like a side table, folding the second row as well opens 98 cubic feet of cargo space.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

The Avenir’s 310-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine with 266 lb-ft of torque is more than adequate to any motoring task, from merging onto freeways or passing on two-lane roads. It runs on regular grade gasoline.

The Avenir is available with standard front-wheel drive or—as on the version tested here — all-wheel drive. Power gets to the wheels through an easy-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It is controlled by a new shift lever that requires some attention before you learn to use it without thinking about it.

Overall, the Enclave Avenir would work for anyone with a minivan aversion and a desire for luxury. The tester started at $56,690 with a bottom-line sticker of $59,435.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD 1SP four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 310 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,565 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/25/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $56,690.
  • Price as tested: $59,435.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Photos (c) Buick.

2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In automobiles and basketball, anticipation and making the right moves assures success and continuity, which is what happened with the 2017 Buick Encore, now a right-sized crossover sport utility vehicle.

When it was introduced four years ago, it was an oddity—a small crossover sport utility vehicle that essentially was a tall four-door hatchback with optional all-wheel drive. About the same size as the Nissan Versa four-door hatchback, it was bigger than most other hatchbacks but smaller than the compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape that were then starting to take over.

2017 Buick EncoreNow the Encore no longer is alone. It is one of a proliferating fleet of small and compact crossovers that are alienating the affections of buyers who previously were wedded to compact and midsize sedans.

It parks in the small-car lot with newcomers like the Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and the all-new 2017 Kia Niro. But like other Buicks, the Encore elicits a luxury-car persona, which delivers a suite of desirable features but makes it more expensive.

For 2017, it has been freshened with new exterior styling that includes headlights with LED accents, a new hood and front fenders, as well as a rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels on some trim levels. The new interior features a redesigned instrument panel and new gauges.

2017 Buick EncoreIt is possible to buy a base front-drive Encore for $23,915 but most customers opt for versions with more power and features. The base car comes with the original 138-horspower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But there’s a new four-banger of the same size that delivers a zesty 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

It’s a $895 option even on the tested top-line Premium model driven for this review. It’s well worth the price for its prompt surge off the line and strong passing power. The zero-to-60 miles an hour acceleration has been timed at less than eight seconds but it feels quicker. EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at a respectable 26/31/28 miles to the gallon on regular gasoline.

The base drive setup is front-wheel but the test car had the optional all-wheel drive, which seamlessly transfers power to the wheels with the best traction. It not only enhances capability on slippery roads but improves handling around curves.

2017 Buick EncoreObviously, the Encore does not perform like a sports sedan but the steering enables secure handling and composed straight-line cruising. The tidy dimensions contribute to a nimble feel.

From the beginning, the Encore has earned luxury chops with a comfortable ride and plenty of sound deadening material for a serene cabin with minimal intrusion of mechanical, road and wind noise. On the Premium version, it also displays high quality interior materials and extensive amenities.

Comfort is first rate with supportive seats and airy head and elbow room up front. The outboard back seats, though not quite as accommodating as those up front, would not be punishing on a long trip. The center-rear seat, however, is cramped and uncomfortable, and should be reserved for large purses or small backpacks.

2017 Buick EncoreThe cargo area out back looks small but can accommodate 19 cubic feet of cargo. Rear seatbacks fold nearly flat for an extra 29 cubic feet but it requires flipping the seat bottoms forward, which truncates fore-and-aft space for the driver and front passenger.

Built in South Korea, the Encore resembles the appearance and feel of the better models from Hyundai and Kia, which are establishing new benchmarks for workmanship and reliability.

Full safety equipment includes forward collision alert, lane departure warning, stability and traction control, rear-vision camera, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

Also, standard on the Premium version: leather upholstery, push-button starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, XM satellite radio, OnStar communications, WiFi hotspot, auto-dimming inside mirror, cruise control, remote starting, front and rear parking assist, and heated front seats and steering wheel. One anomaly: Both front seats have power controls for lumbar support and fore-and-aft adjustment but the seatbacks have only manual adjustments.

2017 Buick Encore
2017 Buick Encore

The tested Encore arrived with options that included the more powerful engine, a motorized glass sunroof, an eight-inch color touch screen, navigation system, Bluetooth streaming, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart-phone connectivity. Options bumped the Premium’s starting price of $32,890 to a total of $35,575.

In 2013, its first year on the market, Encore sales totaled 31,956. It has been climbing each year since, with 78,565 sold in the U.S. in 2016.

2017 Buick Encore
2017 Buick Encore

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:4-liter four-cylinder; 153 hp, 177 lb-ft torque
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,358 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/31/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $32,890.
  • Price as tested: $35,575.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 Buick Encore
2017 Buick Encore

Photos (c) General Motors

2017 Buick La Crosse Premium: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2017 Buick La Crosse fulfills its traditional role at General Motors as a luxury car without the cachet of a Cadillac but a satisfying alternative and less expensive to boot.

While a new Caddy CT6 can run well over 90 grand, the top trim La Crosse Premium tested for this review came with a starting price of $41,990 and, with options, topped out at $48,395. That’s with front-wheel drive; if you want all-wheel drive it costs an additional $2,200.

2017-buick-lacrosse-032

The La Crosse, a comfortable full-size four-door sedan, comes in four trim levels: base, starting at $32,990, Preferred, Essence and Premium. Only the Premium can be ordered with front drive or all-wheel drive; the others have front drive.

Redesigned for 2017, the La Crosse is longer, lower, wider and lighter than its predecessor. It is down about 300 pounds, mainly because of the use of more expensive, high-strength steel and state-of-the-art sound deadening materials.

A new 300-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine, with 282 lb-ft of torque, provides the motivation, sending the power to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission. To complement the lighter structure, fuel economy is enhanced by cylinder deactivation, where the engine switches to four-cylinder operation (Buick calls it active fuel management).

2017-buick-lacrosse-040

Also contributing to the city/highway/combined fuel consumption ratings of 21/31/25 mpg is an engine stop-start feature, which is one of the better systems around. When the engine re-starts after shutting down at a stoplight, for example, it is barely noticeable, though it does cause a brief hiccup in acceleration — as do all stop-start systems. However, the system can be switched off.

On the road, the La Crosse Premium delivers relaxed and serene long-distance cruising in quiet comfort. Power is more than adequate for freeway merging and passing, and the La Crosse tracks steadily with little need for steering corrections. It is capable on twisting roads as long as it is not unduly hurried.

2017-buick-lacrosse-026

In the tested Premium trim, the La Crosse comes with a classy interior highlighted by faux wood grain trim and leather accents. The seats are comfortable, covered in perforated leather, though the front seats lack lateral support in cornering.

A welcome feature for the driver is a lumbar support that massages the lower back. Seats are heated and ventilated, and the steering wheel is heated as well. Spacious comfort in the back outboard seats nearly matches the front seats but the center-rear fifth seat, as in most automobiles these      days, is a hard perch that restricts headroom and is severely compromised by a big floor hump. Either splay your feet on both sides or sit with your knees up near your chin. A power shade for the backlight keeps unwanted sunshine at bay.

2017-buick-lacrosse-029

The La Crosse sends driver information cleanly with a combination of analog and digital instruments, abetted by a comprehensive head-up display reflected on the windshield. A comforting safety message shows up at shutdown in the instruments, reminding the driver to look at the back seat to determine whether a child is in the car. In the center of the dash, a large touch screen for radio, navigation and other functions is intuitive and easy to operate.

An unusual shifter for the automatic transmission requires the driver to press a button, push forward and then to the left to engage reverse gear. It’s awkward at first but easy to use with practice.

Out back, there’s a shallow though roomy trunk. A panel provides access to the battery, which is installed there for improved weight distribution. One indication of a cost-based compromise: the trunk hinges are not covered or otherwise isolated so could damage luggage or other content.

2017-buick-lacrosse-024Equipment on the test car included forward collision alert with automatic braking, front pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, rear vision camera, rear cross traffic warning and a cool feature that vibrates the driver’s seat when the car gets too close to other objects.

All La Crosse models also get GM’s OnStar communications system, as well as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Other comfort and convenience items on the test car included Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, wireless device charging and a premium Bose audio system.

For anyone whose taste favors full-size luxury cars, the La Crosse competes handily with cars like the Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon — and even the more expensive Cadillac CT6.

2017-buick-lacrosse-037

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Buick La Crosse Premium FWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, direct fuel injection, 310 hp, 282 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/truck volume: 102/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,958 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,990.
  • Price as tested: $48,395.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Buick.

2017-buick-lacrosse-001

2016 Buick Cascada: A DriveWays Review…

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

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