2016 Buick Cascada
Buick is one domestic brand that Americans may a hard time figuring out. Maybe it’s because they enjoy higher sales in Asia than here. Or because the “roadmaster” sedan marque is best known today for its luxury SUVs. But one new Buick that needs little decoding for the home team is the Cascada. That’s waterfall in Spanish, it’s a drop top beauty designed for luxury fun in the sun motoring.
This 2016 Buick Cascada does indeed look ready and willing to deliver some high style motoring fun in the traditional European grand touring vibe. That makes sense as it’s a slightly Buick-ized version of the Opel Cascada that’s assembled in Poland and available on that continent since 2013.
As other recent Buicks also share a lot with Opel, many things will be familiar to those already in the Buick fold.
It’s smooth from all angles, with wraparound headlights, but less grill-work than other current Buicks. It looks like only the logo changes from Opel to Buick. Wing-shaped LED DRLs and steeply raked A-pillars add signature flair.
With a chassis derived from the compact Verano sedan, the Cascada has a tidy 184.9-inch overall length. The rear is equally smooth and curvy with a subtle deck lid spoiler, and large 1-piece tail lights. And since those taillights lift with the trunk lid, there’s a 2nd set inside for flashing in emergency situations.
And with that trunk lid open, you’ll also find a great 13.4 cubic-ft of storage space. Even when the top is stowed in the well-designed holding area, 9.8 cubic-ft. remains. You also get folding seat backs for even more utility.
The passenger space is a mixed bag. On one hand there’s lots of hard plastic. On the other, there are features like automatic seat belt presenters found on much pricier droptops.
The overall appearance is classy; with good room up front, yet only so-so seat comfort. Access to the rear seat is also quite good, but room is tight for adults.
We really like the shape of the dash and the gauges are sharp. But another Opel carryover are lots of similar shaped buttons on the center stack and console that may lead to control confusion until you get more acquainted.
Cascada has little direct 4-seat drop-top competition here. The Beetle and Mini Cooper convertibles are way too small, where Mustang and Camaro convertibles have too much muscle carry. The Volkswagen Eos is perhaps its closest rival. We think those desiring an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes droptop will look past Cascada.
Cascada power is GM’s Ecotec 1.6-liter I4 turbo. It provided an adequate amount of motivation around town with 200-horsepower and 221 lb-ft. of torque. A 6-speed auto is standard.
Soft top operation is one of the best designs we’ve ever seen; with quiet, smooth, and quick operation by a single switch.
We found ride-and-handling characteristics very dependent on whether that top was up or down, and the state of the road surface. Top-down on smooth roads; it’s all great. Drive more aggressively, and despite a Euro-stiff ride, it can start to feel a little flabby.
Putting the top up seems to bolster solidity, and even pushed hard at our test track we were fairly impressed with its speedy response, minimal weight transfer, and overall firm, neutral feel.
Acceleration tests are not its forte. The engine works hard but still rates gutless, taking 8.9-seconds to reach 60, and 16.9 to clear the ¼ at 88 miles-per-hour.
Countering is a quite respectable braking average of 124-feet from 60. A very firm pedal was also a pleasant surprise.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 20-City, 27-Highway, and 23-Combined; so our average of 26.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular was also better than expected. The Energy Impact Score rates average using 14.3-barrels of oil yearly, accompanied by 6.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
Perhaps the best news about Cascada is very reasonable pricing. It only comes two ways, base at $33,990, or loaded at $36,990.
Convertibles are not very popular in Asia. So, GM wisely tailored Cascada mostly for European and American consumption. And, we definitely think it will help Buick’s brand image here, even if more drivers are likely to “test” a Cascada in Florida rental fleets than at dealers.
We like Cascada. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but with domestic brand premium 4-seat convertibles in extremely short supply as of late, we think this “waterfall” delivers a refreshing turn at the wheel.
- Engine: 1.6 liter I4
- Horsepower: 200
- Torque: 221 lb-ft.
- EPA: 20 mpg city / 27 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 14.3 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 6.5 tons/yr
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined
2023 Lexus UX 250h
More Fun Than Premium, But That’s Just Fine With Us
Entry-level models are always tough for luxury brands to pull off well. You can’t deliver the full experience, but you have to give buyers enough of a taste so they’ll eventually trade up for more. Well one marque, Lexus, has been very successful at doing just that, and this week we look at their latest starter SUV, the UX.
This Lexus UX arrived for 2019 as the brand’s smallest SUV yet. Priced in the mid-30s, it delivered a heck of a lot of the Lexus experience for a modest amount of money. And with capable handling, easy maneuvering, and thoughtful features, it was an affordable entry-level luxury ute that was easy to love. For 2023, Lexus makes this little premium runabout even better.
For starters, the UX is strictly hybrid now as the previously standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is no more. And while the Hybrid used to be exclusively all-wheel-drive, Lexus has now made a front-drive version available with AWD an option.
Lexus Hybrid Drive pairs 2 electric motors to a 2.0-liter I4 for a total combined output of 181-horsepower. All-wheel-drive versions add an additional motor in back to drive the rear wheels.
Front-wheel-drive versions get an improved Government Fuel Economy Rating of 43-City, 41-Highway, and 42-Combined; all-wheel-drive versions remain 41-City, 38-Highway, and 39-Combined. We averaged 39.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our all-wheel-drive tester.
That’s a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 7.6-barrels of oil consumed yearly with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
If there was any shortfall of the original UX, it was that it was a tad noisier, with perhaps not quite as refined a ride as what we were used to from Lexus. Well, for ’23, they have enhanced the body structure with more welds, and quieted down road noise with new tires. One thing that didn’t need changing is that its small size makes it a real joy to whip in and out of traffic…
…or the cones of our handling course at Mason Dixon Dragway, stopping just short of sport sedan territory with quick steering and excellent feedback.
Overall handling is very neutral, with minimal body roll, and it seems to know where you want to go before you move the steering wheel.
That’s courtesy of the F Sport Handling package which adds an Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, as well as additional bracing for the steering system.
On the acceleration front, there’s a nice little jump off the line, but economy is definitely the priority, with a slow and steady trek to 60 of 8.1-seconds; though that is 2/10ths quicker than the Hybrid we tested in 20-19.
No fake CVT shifting, just consistent high-revving throughout the ¼-mile; though there are paddle shifters on the wheel to select through 10 simulated gears if you choose. Our best time was 16.2-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
A good firm pedal and ample feedback made panic braking above par for a luxury utility. Some nosedive, but stops of 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour were stable and consistent.
Despite being the brand’s entry-level SUV, it doesn’t look much like a traditional utility vehicle, appearing more like a sleek overachieving hatchback, especially with F Sport Design upgrades.
Visibility is somewhat compromised by the minimal greenhouse, but that’s what we have cameras and sensors for these days.
With the F Sport Handling Package’s heavily bolstered sport seats, the front cabin experience is not quite the plush high-end Lexus we’re used to either. Still, we loved it.
Granted, rear seat room is really only adequate for pre-teens; but the total interior experience is well above typical entry-level expectations.
Thankfully, the UX joins the rest of the Lexus lineup in eliminating the frustrating Remote Touch Interface and upgrading to a touchscreen in standard 8 or optional 12.3-inch sizes.
Pricing starts at $36,490 and reaches $43,920 with F Sport Handling. All-wheel drive is now a $1,400 option with all trims.
While it’s an even better gateway into the Lexus SUV family than before, with its considerably handling performance and hatchback vibe, it does seem to be more of a global or urban effort than one designed for wide-open American highways. But that’s okay with us too. The Lexus UX is a fun little utility with great fuel economy, and just enough of the Lexus treatment to make you want to come back…and step up…for more.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I4
- Horsepower: 181
- 1/4 Mile: 16.2-seconds at 87 mph
- EPA: 41 City / 38 Highway / 39 Combined
- Transmission: CVT
- 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 39.9 MPG (Regular)