Cold, rain, sleet, snow: Take your choice. It`s obviously time to prepare by putting the sports coupe on blocks in the garage and hauling out the Jeep, Explorer or Blazer utility vehicle.

Unless your sports coupe is an Eagle Talon with four-wheel drive, inwhich case you have a year-round multipurpose machine at your disposal.

When the sun is shining and the roads are clear, the Talon is a sportscoupe that leaps from the light.

When the roads are rain-soaked or snow-covered, Talon is a utilityvehicle that pulls you through. No need to throw a tarp over it and sit backand wait for spring.

We test-drove the top-of-the-line Talon TSi all-wheel-drive model. The 2- liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder develops 135 horsepower in the base model andgenerates a kick-in-the-pants 195 h.p. with the turbocharged TSi.

All-wheel-drive road-holding ability complemented the power, and four-wheel antilock brakes were a safeguard to keep it under control. Antilockbrakes are a $681 option.

A 5-speed manual is standard, but our test car came with the optional 4-speed automatic at a hefty $823. There was no loss of performance, nofeeling of being shortchanged in the oomph department with the smooth-shifting, quiet automatic. And the 4-speed automatic is welcome whenconfronted with rush-hour traffic in a 195-h.p. car.

The all-wheel-drive Talon is rated at 18 miles per gallon city/21 m.p.g.highway with automatic (20/25 with 5-speed manual), roughly comparable to autility vehicle`s mileage. The price you pay for four-wheel drive is morefrequent visits to the pump, which is somewhat irritating in July but a small price to pay for the added traction in January.

Though long on looks and performance, the Talon has a few shortcomings.The rear-seat room in this sloping hatchback prevents adult entry and thecargo compartment will barely hold one meal`s supply of groceries. The rearseat backs fold to provide needed storage. Dual cupholders (you were waitingfor this line, weren`t you?) are in the center console between driver andfront passenger and are difficult to use. Holders that pull from the dashwould work better.

Base price of the Talon TSi 4WD model is $16,513. Standard equipmentincludes performance suspension; power brakes and steering; all-season, 16-inch, steel-belted, radials and alloy wheels; rear window defogger;automatic-off headlamps; driving lamps; intermittent wipers; power mirrors;tilt steering; tinted glass; AM/FM stereo with cassette and six speakers;automatic shoulder belts; carpeting; leather-wrapped wheel and gearshiftlever; and wrap-around spoiler.

Our test car added the $681 antilock brakes, $823 automatic and $163security alarm, plus a preferred equipment group for $1,588 that included air conditioning, speed control, rear window washer/wiper, power windows/doorlocks. The sticker read $19,768 plus $328 for freight.

The Talon is built at the Chrysler/Mi tsubishi Diamond-Star plant inNormal, along with the companion Plymouth Laser and Mitsubishi Eclipse.Illinois might not produce the most cars, but it can boast it builds some ofthe best.