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 BMW X7
Should Keep The BMW Faithful Coming Back For More
While BMW got serious about their SUV game around the same time as most other luxury brands, it took them until just a few years ago to deliver a 3-row example. This year, that X7 is updated with new style and new tech. So, let’s see if that makes it the ultimate premium 3-row family machine.
When it comes to utility vehicles, bigger seems to be better for a lot of people. So, for BMW, there’s none bigger or better than the X7 3-row utility, which for 2023 gets a comprehensive update after just 4-years on the market. That includes a facelift to bring it more in line with the new 7-series carline, which is to say joins the more vertical, aggressive grille party. Also, the actual headlights have been moved lower in the front fascia, with squinty DRLs above for the first time on a BMW. In back, taillights take on a 3D posture, with a new chrome bar connecting them.
There are also multiple new M Sport packages to choose from to spice up the exterior, with larger air intakes up front, high-gloss black trim, upgraded exhaust, cascade grille lighting, and 22-inch wheels, as well as M Sport brakes…
…and the interior too, with aluminum trim and exclusive steering wheel. But, by far the biggest change inside for ‘23 is a new dashtop curved display that eliminates the typical BMW well-hooded gauge pod and blends 12-inch Live Cockpit Pro into the 15-inch infotainment touchscreen, which now features iDrive8. Both a Head-Up Display and a large panoramic sunroof are standard.
Whether set up for 2 or 3 passengers, 2nd row seat room remains plentiful, and though the X7 doesn’t look ungainly large like many of its competitors, access to the 3rd row is quite good. Cargo space is reached through a fairly unique, Range Rover-style, split tailgate, which is quite oddly satisfying to watch unfold. There’s room for 48.6 cubic-ft. of goods behind the 2nd row, with a max of 90.4 cu.-ft.
The base xDrive40i has always been the sensible choice, even more so now with a new inline-6 turbo getting a significant bump in horsepower from 335 to 375, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that results in a total of 398 lb-ft. of torque.
At our Mason Dixon test track, there was enough to blast this big beast to 60 in just 5.4-seconds. That’s only about half a second slower than the V8 did the deed back in 2019. Making that optional 523-horsepower V8 simply overkill at this point. Our best ¼-mile pass was 13.9-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. All X7s get a quick shifting sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission, which adds a new Sprint Function that finds the lowest usable gear instantly and maxes electric boost with a hold of the left shift paddle. What fun!
New looks and updated tech are cool, but BMW has also addressed dynamics as well, with a retuning of all chassis systems, including the optional Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive suspension with roll stabilization and uses GPS and camera data to prepare for what’s coming. We’re not sure if our slalom course was anticipated, but the X7 sure felt well-equipped to handle it. All-wheel drive is standard on all X7s, along with comprehensive drive modes.
In our braking runs, the pads bit down hard quickly, stopping us from 60 in just 115-feet with very little nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 6-cylinder are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 22-Combined. We averaged just 21.0 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
There’s an average Energy Impact Score; 13.5-barrels of oil yearly, with CO2 emissions of 6.5-tons.
Pricing starts at $78,845, and it’s a significant step up from there to $104,095 if you want the V8. Even more reason to stick with the 6-cylinder as far as we’re concerned.
It took the ultimate driving machine folks quite a bit of time to enter the 3-row family crossover segment, but when they did, they were able to create their largest utility ever and keep it consistent with their values. For 2023, the BMW X7 gets even more dynamic, embraces new tech, and looks better too. All things that should keep the BMW faithful coming back for more.
- Engine: I-6
- Horsepower: 375
- 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 21.0 MPG
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 398 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9-seconds at 100 mph
- EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined
2024 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970