When General Motors imports a car from one of its overseas divisions, they don’t usually change much on the boat ride over. A Chevy SS, for instance, is a Holden Commodore with a bowtie badge. In the case of the Buick Cascada, they didn’t even change the name: this is the Polish-built Opel Cascada, right down to the letterbox-shaped license plate bracket on the front bumper. And hey, if you’re picking a car from the global lineup to go Buick, this seems like the right one.
The Cascada isn’t overtly powerful, but its 1.6-liter turbo four matches the output of VW’s 2.0-liter, with 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. It makes lusty turbo noises but hardly has an exhaust note, which is fine enough for a roofless machine. The interior looks good, with money spent in smart places—there are little motorized arms that hand you your seatbelt, as in a Bentley or BMW coupe, but you still fire the ignition by cranking a metal key. The top is fully automatic and you can put it down while driving, up to 31 mph. The ride is nice, with the HiPer strut front suspension quelling any trace of torque steer. Not that there’d be a lot of torque steer anyway, but you can relax your hands on the wheel under full throttle and it stays dead centered. There are no Saab Viggen flashbacks of the front end crabbing for the guardrail every time the boost comes up.
The Cascada is priced in the mid-$30,000 range, looks sharp and has four real seats. Which means that these days, it doesn’t have much competition. Sure, you could get a Mustang or Camaro droptop in that price range, and either of those would slay the Cascada on performance. But there are people out there, believe it or not, who can’t really see themselves driving a Camaro. These are the buyers who used to go for a droptop Chrysler Sebring, back in the late ‘90s when it was kind of sleek and respectable. And now they’re underserved, what with the convertible market catering to performance on one end and luxury snottiness on the other. There’s room for something that splits the difference. There’s room for a Cascada.