Usually, I get to drive each test car for a week. During that time I try to drive at least 500 miles in every driving situation one could hope to encounter in Central Florida. That gives me a good feel for the way car a reacts in our tough driving
environment. But this week's test drive is a little different. Because of a scheduling mix-up, Cadillac had an Allante in its test fleet that had reached the end of its road and soon would be auctioned. I got to keep it for a few extra weeks. I
have said that Cadillac's Allante, the most expensive American production car you can buy, is well-worth the price. I still feel that way after an extended test drive, but there are some minor improvements that could make the car even better. ENGINE,
PERFORMANCE Critics rapped the first luxury/sports two-seater convertibles, citing their disappointing performance. Much has changed since 1987. This year the car's fuel-injected 4.5-liter, V-8 engine produces 200 horsepower and delivers superb
performance. Cadillac says 0 to 60 mph takes just 8.0 seconds. And those numbers are going to improve. Late in the 1992 model year, Cadillac will debut in the Allante what could to be the finest American V-8 engine produced. Called the Northstar, the
Cadillac-only engine will feature overhead camshafts and 32 valves. Horsepower is expected to be near 300. An Allante with a Northstar V-8will pace next year's Indy 500 stock car race - without modifications. But this year's engine is wonderful.
You never think of Cadillacs as racy, but you should hear the Allante's burbling exhaust. With the top down, it inspires spirited driving. With the top up, you can't hear it unless you really wind up the engine. I found the engine to be a willing -
though not overpowering - performer. That's good, because a car like the Allante needs to impress with finesse as well as with muscle. Cadillac has struck a nice balance between the two. The four-speed automatic transmission proves General Motors
makes the world's finest automatics. Not only is the shifting perfectly calibrated, it is ultra-smooth and the gears are designed to extract a decent mix of performance and economy. Intown, the Allante delivered 15 miles per gallon. On the highway, I
got better than 23 mpg. You expect a slew of standard equipment on a car that costs over $50,000. Cadillac delivers. The Allanteis equipped with traction control. Because it is a V-8-powered, front-wheel-drive car, things could get a little loose on
wet pavement. However, the traction control ensures that tires never lose their grip. STEERING, HANDLING, BRAKING The Allante is not billed as a sports car, but it could be. It excels in every driving situation - on smooth, flat roads; through
fast, sweeping curves; during hard braking; and into quick turns. In fact, any twist in the road you might find likely will present no problem for the Allant
e. The suspension is firm, but that does not translate into a ride that rattles your spine over speed bumps and bad pavement. If you like cars with superior mechanical specifications and high-tech equipment, you'll be pleased with the Allante.
FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS This was another area where the original Allantes came up short. Some say that's still the case because the car does not have a power top. After you learn to operate the top, it can be raised and lowered in less than a
minute. Unlike other convertibles, you have do this standing outside of the car. It would be more convenient to have an automatic top, but raising and lowering the black canvas top is not a problem. I do have a complaint in this area, though. There
was wind noise around the windows and where the top and body join. I think the Allante's interior is better than that of any other American car. The power red leather seats were excellent. After several long trips, I fel
great. The interior has a nice, warm ambience. The car's powerful computer system provides the driver with all the information he could need. Included are range, miles to empty, oil condition, trip odometer and trip time, outside temperature - among
others. The test car featured big, analog gauges that were clear, easy-to-read and glare-free. The speedometer and computer system also give metric readouts. All the switches are easily reached, sensibly laid out and lighted. The sound system, AM/FM
stereo cassette with CD player, is terrific. The trunk is fairly large for a two-seater. It can hold 16.5 feet of cargo. There is more storage space behind the seats.