The Buick brand holds a particular nostalgic sway in this driver’s memory as a maker of affordable luxury automobiles. As a teenager appropriately on the receiving end of hand me down vehicles, I managed to sidestep the parents’ Astro Van when I was sideswiped at an intersection; subsequently, I was handed the keys to my grandfather’s Buick Regal. The “Brown Beauty” was decked out with luxury inclusions like a digital dashboard, electric up/down windows, seat warmers, and faux wood paneling on the interior; although most of these features were not fully functioning 10 plus year down the road when I inherited the car, the concept of adding luxury items to an affordable automobile had become synonymous for me with the Buick brand. Fast forward twenty years later and this concept is still very much at play at the automaker as noted with their 2019 Buick Cascada.
Lifestyles of the…Average Income Person
Buick did not include a litany of luxury amenities to the interior of the 2019 Buick Cascada. Instead, the automaker swapped the idea of providing luxury additions for a luxury lifestyle by adding a sporty, four-seat convertible to their lineup. With a soft top able to drop in 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, drivers can experience a blend of luxury and carefree beach-time relaxation on the go at a price they can afford not only as a rental. The Buick Cascada, at a base MSRP of $33,070, has created its own niche market for moderately priced sport convertibles, and it is the only mid-size, four-seater available in its’ price range that offers that sporty, carefree edge generally associated with convertibles. The mini-cooper and VW both offer four-seat drop-tops at a similar price range but are hardly comparable on the lifestyle angle. Only BMW and Audi offer similar style convertibles but with significantly higher price tags that start in the $50-60,000 range. Not even with all the upgrades does the 2019 Buick Cascada come close to this price tag. The Sport Touring model of the Cascada convertible, the top of the line, premium trim offered by Buick, is still ten to twenty thousand dollars lower than the base models offered by BMW and Audi.
All the Trimmings
In 2019, Buick is still offering the Cascada convertible at three different trim models allowing for a degree of personalization and savings dependant on the needs/wants of the driver. The base
(1SV), Premium and Sport Touring models are all run on the same powertrain, navigation system, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Although it doesn’t feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, all Cascada models do offer 4G LTE connection and are compatible with Siri Eyes Free; included in the basic package is a 7” color touch-screen that offers the myBuick app for remote engine start, locking and unlocking doors, and checking real-time diagnostics.
The Premium and Sport Touring models get a few technological upgrades but the main difference is in the appearance packages offered at these higher priced trim levels. Both color and interior comfort options increase when upgrading to the top trim levels with only a slight cost difference of three to four thousand. While the base model only offers 3 shades for the exterior, the Premium offers 9 color options while the attention is in details, slight red stitching on seat fabric on the Sport Touring model with 6 exterior color options. That’s a steal to be able to pick out the right shade of malbec red that fits your personality; especially considering most upgrades from automakers will spike the price upwards of ten to twenty thousand putting the vehicle in a completely different bracket. Buick continues to provide luxury for the everyman and offers all three trim models under the reasonable price point of forty thousand dollars.
Under the Hood/How It Handles
The price-tag for this four-seater convertible is obviously one of its most significant selling points providing an otherwise unaffordable experience to a larger income bracket demographic. So now you’re thinking: what’s the catch? At that low of a price, they must have skimped under the hood; fortunately, that’s not the case as the Cascada’s engine, like its’ price tag, is nothing to scoff at either. All three trim models are Powered by a 200-horsepower 1.6 liter turbocharged engine allowing the front wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission to offer enough of a kick to confidently blinker left steering over into the fast lane. However, the Cascada’s 4,000-pound frame weighing down on 20-inch wheels almost insists on a lifestyle more in the ballpark of a cruiser than a muscle car. Most reviews, though, do suggest the responsive steering handles slightly better than expected for its’ size and weight class offering overall a smooth ride from the inside.
If there was one drawback to owning a modestly priced sporty convertible, it would be the drag time on its speed. Edmond’s as well as Car and Driver both complained in their reviews of the slow drag time on the acceleration of the engine that took 8.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. But this vehicle was never designed with speed as an intention; you don’t purchase a flashy convertible to get somewhere fast; you purchase the Buick Cascada to show it off, slow-rolling past rubbernecked pedestrians on a Friday night downtown. It is the quintessential “journey, not the destination car” and with four roomy seats, the frame nearly at 185 inches, and room for luggage in the generous 13.4 cubic foot trunk, you can share that journey with family and friends.
Highway driving will get you an EPA estimated 29 mpg while city mileage is around 21 mpg so probably not the best option for the daily commute. But, this slightly below average gas mileage for a sports car just reiterates the Cascada as a vehicle primed for lazy afternoons driving up the coast or cruising down A1As beachfront avenue with no destination in mind.
Resale; Last of Its Kind
A quick search on carfax for used Buick Cascada convertibles reveals normal depreciation price levels over a three year period (i.e. most listings around the $22-24,000 mark), and overall, the car has sold relatively well in its niche market in comparison to similar vehicles like the Volkswagen Beetle convertible. In its’ first year, the 2016 model year moved over 7,153 units and followed that up with 5,595 in sales in 2017 (i.e. VW Beetle convertible sold between 5 and 6 thousand respectively). The Buick brand itself has consistently ranked at the top of Consumer Reports’ annual listing of most reliable automotive brands; although they took a tumble in 2018, they ranked third as recently as 2017. While Lexus and Toyota finish first and second each year, the only other American brand at an affordable price point to break the top ten has been Chevrolet. Rest assured that Buick’s placing is no fluke; Carving out an otherwise non-existent niche market is an area where Buick has had continued success over the years and the Buick Cascada convertible has definitely attributed to that success and reliability.
All of these points seemingly suggesting that the Cascada convertible is a reliable investment for a sporty convertible, but a recent announcement from Opel, the production plant that builds the European engineered Cascada, that they will discontinue production of the convertible next year hints at an uncertain future for the American version of the automobile. Buick says it cannot comment yet on the future of the Cascada in the United States, but most likely 2019 will be the vehicles final year of production even though the 2019 Buick Cascada convertibles’ initial sales are exceeding that of the Audi A3 and A5 convertibles combined. So what does this mean for the everyday consumer? Not much save for possible savings as dealerships look to offload a discontinued vehicle at the end of the year, and possibly enough of a nudge to finally push you into buying the affordable convertible you’ve had your eye on but were unable to take the plunge to splurge on yourself. As this is most likely the final year, there will be no other comparable four-seat convertible on the market at an affordable price tag, so get one while you still can.