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If you’re a Southern boy (me) or a convertible (the 2016 Buick Cascada that I tested), May in Detroit can be the cruelest month. The calendar trumpets summer, but the weather gods blow winter. My first Memorial Day here in 2000, my Virginia-transplanted family and I packed swimsuits for the beaches of Charlevoix and wound up freezing under blankets in a 40-degree chill. Sheesh. Won’t make that mistake again.

But Mrs. Payne and I did have plans to cruise Woodward topless (the car, not us) when the Cascada arrived May 2. Right on cue, Mother Nature delivered a 45-degree blast. Fortunately, we were prepared.

Rolling up to Woodward at under 30 mph, I toggle the high-tech soft-top down and it disappears under its body-colored tonneau cover. Windows up. Turn on the heated steering wheel. Heated seats at three bars. Climate control dialed to 80 degrees.

Oh, yeah. We’re cruisin’ the boulevard in style.

Heads turn. Mouths gape. And not just because we’re topless in polar bear weather. Or because the 17-second roof stow is the coolest thing this side of a Porsche Boxster or Chevy Corvette convertible (which shares the Cascada system). But because this is one bodacious Buick. Short of the gorgeous Avista coupe which sashayed down the Detroit Auto Show runway last January, the Cascada is the sexiest Buick made.

I fell for it in February when I saw a fleet test car on the road. Attractive on a static show stand, Cascada has a more distinct presence on the road. With its raked windshield, sculpted sides and huge, standard 20-inch wheels, the Buick bears a resemblance to the stunning Cadillac ELR, the best-looking (and worst-marketed) compact car in the GM stable.

That said, my Toasted Coconut-colored Buick convertible is as out of place in Michigan in May as a Southerner in a bathing suit. Cascada’s tanned beach bod debuted to media test drives in Florida for a reason: GM wants the coasts to take notice.

Buick survived the Great Recession because it’s the darling of the Chinese. The brand has been reborn stateside as its Encore and Enclave SUVs dovetail perfectly with our ute love affair. But at its core, Buick is a luxury brand that sells style. And no one knows style like GM’s European Opel design shop, which cooked up the Cascada (Spanish for “waterfall”) in 2013.

With the U.S. market starved of mid-market convertibles, Buick saw an opening.

My Southern buddy, Robert, in West Virginia craves convertibles. His open-top Toyota Solara coupe (last made in 2008) is long in the tooth and his options for convertible replacements are Mustang and Camaro muscle cars. Not his style. The Buick is prettier than the Solara and the brand impresses Big Bob with its bulletproof quality. Buick has quietly been racking up Consumer Reports huzzahs.

His Solara has been trouble free for 10 years. Cascada, you had him on looks and reliability. So, Brother Withrow wants to know, how’s the Buick drive?

Europeans pride themselves on trim figures born of healthy diets. Obesity is so American! Not so our European Cascada beauty. Based on GM’s aging Delta II platform, Cascada is a porker next to newer chassis like the svelte Cadillac ATS and diet-conscious Chevy Cruze (I lost 250 pounds in one generation!).

The Cascada weighs in at a hefty 4,000 pounds — 1,000 pounds heavier than the similarly sized Cruze. That weight is partially explained by extensive bracing to make the convertible more athletic. Throw it around Oakland County’s rolling hills and the Cascada’s compact dimension are rewarding. Over Detroit’s signature rough roads, the big 20-inch wheels can jar loose a little cowl shake — but sunshine states’ smooth asphalt will be much kinder.

Bury the throttle out of a Long Lake ess curve and Cascada exposes another European trait: small engine-itis. With gas at $8 a gallon, the Europeans fitted Porky Pig with a torque-challenged, 200-horse 1.6-liter turbo engine. Put your boot in it, and the four-banger screams away to ... a ... lethargic ... 8.3-second zero-60 time. Oh, how I pined for Solara’s 250-horse V6.

The aged platform also robs the Cascada of talking points like GM’s Android Auto and Apple Car Play apps — standard features on a Cruze, for example, that lists $15K cheaper. Not that I complained much about GM’s old interiors — it’s just that the new ones are so good. So Cascada’s blizzard of console buttons looks like an airline cockpit next to the newer, cleaner system. And the tiny touchscreen display is so recessed that even my orangutan arms have trouble reaching it.

I had to move my seat forward to comfortably fiddle with the controls. My 5-foot-5-inch wife had to use a broomstick. It would have been easy for Buick to shrug off such idiosyncrasies as the compromises necessary for a low-volume, convertible. But happily they added some sweet chunky bits to whet the appetite.

Consider the rear seats. In a Camaro these are leg-chewing benches suitable only for small children. But the Cascada invites rear passengers with an easy, single-pull handle on top of the front seats that automatically moves the seat forward. Climb in, toggle the handle again and the seat floats backward — seat sensors stopping short of your knees. Robert will be flattered by the service — even if the legroom can’t rival the bigger, Camry-based Solara.

Where the drop-top show shames the Solara, it also swallows most of Cascada’s trunk. Where will Floridians put their golf bags? GM caddies to the rescue: Flatten the rear seats and a cavernous pass-through opens to the trunk. Golf bags easily fit in the gaping space.

The beauty of the Cascada and ELR make them prime meat for the coastal sunbirds GM craves. They are also missed opportunities for the General’s excellent plug-in hybrid system that languishes in the non-luxe confines of the Chevrolet Volt. Offer a plug-in Cascada at $40K and it would instantly put dowdy Buick sedans on the hip coastal green list.

Until then, Buick’s crossover lineup will continue to wow — and the $33,990 Cascada will satisfy Southerners’ cravings for a coupe convertible. For those of you cruising Woodward topless in May, just keep the wick turned up to 80 degrees in the cabin — summer should be here around, ummmm, July or so.

Henry Payne is The News’ auto critic. Email: hpayne@detroitnews.com. Twitter: @HenryEPayne

2016 Buick Cascada

Specifications

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger convertible coupe

Price: $33,990 base ($37,385 as tested)

Powerplant: 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 200 horsepower, 221 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: Zero-60: 8.3 seconds (Car & Driver)

Weight: 3,979 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23

Report card

Highs: Beach beauty; high-tech drop top

Lows: Not enough engine for its girth; trunk challenged

Overall:★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★

Fair ★★★Poor ★

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