The last thing we remember was the wife trying to revive us in thedriveway.Having graduated cum laude in resuscitation, she knew immediately what to do when the old man did a header onto the pavement. ``Toss a brew in his face and try not to get it on his tie,`` she ordered No. 1 twin. The reason for performing a full gainer was that we foolishly looked-without glasses-at the window sticker on the 1993 Cadillac Allanteconvertible we were test-driving. Without the magnifiers the sticker appeared to read: $82,375, apparentlyexplaining why some refer to General Motors Corp. as the ``Mark ofExtravagance,`` or a slogan along those lines. Once the bifocals were attached to the nose, we realized the price wasonly $62,375. Oh happy days. While $60,000 is ridiculous, $80,000 is absurd. Cadillac General Manager John Grettenberger said Allante is Cadillac`stest-bed vehicle. Allante helped check out the reliability of systems such as computer-command ride control and traction control before they were includedin other Cadillac cars. Grettenberger said there will always be a low-volume test-bed car atCadillac (Cadillac sells about 2,000 Allantes annually), though it may notalways be the Allante. In the future the midsize ``baby`` Cadillac theautomaker is developing might be the technology guinea pig. It`s not that Allante is a DeSoto masquerading as a Cadillac, it`s justthat low volume doesn`t justify a high price-test bed or no test bed. The Allante debuted in 1987. The 1993 version is light-years better thanthe original in performance, ride, handling and quiet. Performance gets a huge boost in 1993 with the introduction of the 4.6-liter, 32-valve, 295-horsepower Northstar V-8 engine to replace the 4.5-liter, 200-horsepower V-8 of 1992. The Allante boasts a 0-to-60 m.p.h. timeof 7 seconds and a top speed of 150 m.p.h., and if it weren`t for the rumblesound effects of the exhaust, you probably wouldn`t know the engine wasrunning. The engine is smooth and quiet and delivers a kick. What it doesn`tdeliver is fuel economy. The mileage rating is 14 m.p.g. city/21 highway,which brings the car a gas-guzzler tax of about $1,700. Not only does the mileage rating require frequent stops for petrol, those visits are less than entertaining because the fuel-filler neck is low on thebody panel behind the driver`s door. The location means you have to stoop tofill. Michael Jordan would have to get down on one knee to reach the fillerneck-if Chevrolet would let him. Cadillac says Northstar is a ``world-class`` engine, strong words fromthe same folks who brought us the $62,375 price tag. ``World-class`` is theindustry`s new buzzword. The Allante delivers world-class quiet, perhaps. But world-classreliability, durability and dependability? Hey Cadillac, two weeks on themarket does not world-class make. And world-class mileage? Absolutely not. W here world-class takes on meaning is when you drive Allante and realizethe care and attention given the management of ride and handling. There`sindependent four-wheel suspension so that the bump you hit with the left fronttire doesn`t transmit harshness to the other three. There also is something called ``road sensing,`` which means thesuspension ``reads`` the road by measuring the vehicle`s wheel position andbody motion. Sensors monitor road conditions to instantly change suspensionsettings from soft to firm or vice versa. In layman`s terms, it`s calledpampering. Traction-control also is standard. That system prevents wheels fromspinning and the car from slipping and sliding when it takes off from thestoplight, as the Allante`s anti-lock brakes keep wheels from locking and the car from skidding when it tries to stop at the light. When we drove in heavy rain, we accelerated from the light and theAllante dug in and kept gaining speed as if the pavement we re dry. Cars to ourright and left were tiptoeing through the water while our car stepped lively. Traction control provides a most reassuring feeling when you know much of yourmotoring will be in snow. Add to all this the Allante`s speed-sensitive steering, which varies theamount of steering effort required based on vehicle speed-less effort to pull between those narrow yellow lines at the mall, a bit more to cross the lineseparating lanes on the interstate. Another plus is the driver-side air bag. But Cadillac needs to put the``SRS,`` or ``supplemental restraint system,`` lettering on the steeringwheel hub housing the bag. If you are going to provide the safety cushion, letthe person behind the wheel know it`s there. Because Allante is a test bed for new technology at Cadillac, why didn`tthe automaker opt to test the addition of a passenger-side air bag? At least, to Cadillac`s credit, the steering wheel offers a tilt option, a feature notalways available when a bag is offered. Another plus is that this convertible doesn`t have blind spots. There are small glass panels behind the driver`s and passenger`s windows; they provideenough of an opening so you can see other vehicles on the side before youchange lanes. The convertible top is semi-powered, meaning it unlocks and locks fromthe front header when you pull a control knob, but still requires a lift/pull/push routine to get the top down and under the tonneau cover and fasten thelatch on that cover. A couple of gripes, however, are that the cupholders block access to theashtray, and that there is an overwhelming number of buttons, dials andnumbers on the instrument panel above the console, including the radio, airconditioning, compact disc player and driver information center (time,temperature, miles until the gas tank is empty and the like, plus suchwarnings as ``headlights suggested``). The final complaint is with the passenger`s seat, which rattled each time we struck a bump. It wasn`t a world-class rattle, but enough of a nuisancethat we`d be at the front of the line at the dealer`s service department themorning after the car was purchased. Additional standard equipment includes every item that starts with thedescription ``power.`` Notes For 1993 Chevrolet has dropped the GEO Storm hatchback, the ugly attemptat making a sedan look like a wagon. The Storm coupe adds a new color, a crossbetween plum and purple. Very nice.
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