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The Allanté was Cadillac's first venture into the ultra-luxury roadster market. The vehicle was sold from 1987 through 1993, with roughly 21,000 models built over its 7-year model run. Allanté's production was planned at 6,000 units per year, however, sales figures show Cadillac only built about half as many. Because of the accent over the "e", the name is pronounced "ah-lon-tay," just as in coupé.

Development and production

Originally designed under the code name "Callisto", the Allanté was intended to restore Cadillac to its position as a premium luxury automobile builder. Allanté's direct competitor was the very successful Mercedes-Benz SL, and to a smaller degree, the Jaguar XJS. Allanté's 4.1 liter V8 was shared with other Cadillacs across the line, but when specified to the Allanté, several changes were made. Unlike Buick's Reatta, which shared powertrain and underpinnings from the Riviera and the Oldsmobile Toronado, Cadillac borrowed very little from the Eldorado and Seville for Allanté.

The body of the Allanté was designed and built in Italy by Pininfarina (of Ferrarimarker fame). The completed bodies were shipped 3,300 miles from Italymarker in specially-equipped Boeing 747s, 56 at a time, to Cadillac's assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michiganmarker. The bodies were then mated to the chassis. This led to a few interesting nicknames, such as "The Flying Italian Cadillac" and "The world's longest assembly line."

The Allanté was initially priced at US$54,700, far above the price of any other contemporary Cadillac. Today's Cadillac XLR, also a convertible roadster, at roughly $70,000 is similarly priced. The high performance Cadillac XLR-V at $100,000 has regained the cachet of being the most expensive Cadillac product, when adjusting for inflation.

The car's front-wheel drive (FWD) powertrain was unique in its class, and brought the car in for serious criticism. FWD is rare among high-priced sports and touring cars, as the configuration's frequent tendency toward understeer under heavy cornering, torque steer under heavy acceleration, and a poor front-rear weight balance is not desirable. The Mercedes 560SL — along with the rest of the Allanté's competitors — was rear-wheel drive. Many car magazines and auto enthusiasts argued that no sports car, let alone one at the Allanté's price, should have been FWD. Early reviews cited Pininfarina and not Cadillac as the source of this decision, saying they felt it would make the car more versatile. Additionally, poor power-to-weight ratio in the early years also made the car perform sedately. This led the target market to conclude that by offering an underpowered car at over $50,000 with no engine upgrade option, Cadillac was not serious in competing in the performance roadster market. This initial impression gave the Allanté an image ("all show, no go") from which it was never able to recover.


The 1987 Allanté, with its removable aluminum hardtop and the industry's first power retractable AM/FM/Cellular Telephone antenna, debuted with a multi-port fuel injected version of Cadillac's aluminum 4.1 L HT-4100 V8, along with roller valve lifters, high-flow cylinder heads, and a tuned intake manifold. The new roadster also showcased an independent strut-based suspension system front and rear. Bosch ABS III four-wheel disc brakes were also standard. Unique to Allanté was a complex lamp-out module that substituted a burned-out bulb in the exterior lighting system with an adjacent lamp until the problem is corrected. The Delco-GM/Bose Symphony Sound System - a $905 option on other Cadillacs - was standard on Allanté. The only option was the available cellular telephone, installed in a lockable center console.

For 1988, changes were minimal, and the base price was raised slightly to $56,533.

In 1989, prices again rose slightly, now at $57,183. Allanté's engine, the new 4.5 L V8, produced 200 horsepower, and with 270 lbs.-ft., it provided the most torque from any front-wheel-drive automobile in the world. Unlocking the trunk now also unlocked the side doors - similar to Mercedes. Analog instruments, in place of the standard digital dash cluster, were now available as a no-charge option. As a theft-deterrent, Allanté added GM's PASS KEY system - which renders the fuel system and starter inopertaive if an incorrect ignition key is used. Allanté also received a new speed-sensitive damper system called Speed Dependent Damping Control, or SD²C. This system firmed up the suspension at 25 mph (40 km/h) and again at 60 mph (97 km/h). The firmest setting was also used when starting from a standstill until 5 mph (8 km/h). Another change was a variable-assist steering system.
1993 Cadillac Allanté with single-piece windows and revised seats

1990 brought about a second model, a lower-priced ($53,050) companion model that did not come with the removable aluminum hardtop, just the cloth convertible roof. The Allanté sticker price (with hardtop) was now $58,638. By mid-year, prices were dropped to $57,813 for the hardtop/convertible and $51,500 for the convertible - and this included a $650 gas guzzler tax along with $550 destination charge. Allanté's fully-integrated cellular telephone was $1,195. Allanté's bumper-to-bumper new car warranty, 7 years and 100,000 miles, was three years longer than other Cadillacs, and an additional 50,000 miles of coverage. Allanté owner's also received a special toll-free number to call for service or concerns. Headlamp washers and dual 10-way Recaro seating remained standard, among other niceties. In addition to a new driver's side airbag (which meant the loss of the telescopic steering wheel - although the tilt steering column feature was retained), the analog instrument cluster introduced last year was standard on the convertible, and available at no extra cost on the hardtop/convertible. Technological news was the addition of traction control - the first front-wheel drive automobile in the world to be equipped as such. The elaborate system was able to cut fuel to up to four cylinders to reduce power and optimize traction. The electronically-controlled shock absorbers were retuned to remain in "soft" mode for up to 40 mph. Previously, they entered "normal" mode after just 25 mph. A revised audio system allowed a compact disc player to be added as standard equipment, along with the cassette player.

1991 added a power-latching mechanism for the convertible top, and the digital instrument cluster was now a $495 option for the convertible model, priced at $57,260. A mid-year price drop brought the Allante convertible down to $55,900, and the hardtop/convertible down to $61,450 (from $62,810). Allanté still boasted the most luggage room in its class; an astonishing 16.3 cubit feet of storage, when utilizing the pass-through compartment into the cabin area - more than twice the 7.9 cubic foot trunk of a Mercedes SL.

The Allanté for 1992 was priced at $58,470 for the convertible, and $64,090 for the hardtop/convertible. Both prices included the mandated gas guzzler tax, which was now at $1,300. As it had been the custom for a few years now, price drops were announced mid-year, $57,170 for the convertible, and $62,790 with the removable hardtop. Again, the digital cluster (available at no extra cost on the hardtop) was optional on the convertible, priced at $495. 1992 was the last year of the multi-adjustable Recaro seating design, as 1993 would go into production with less expensive Lear-designed 8-way dual power seats. Also available on the convertible at extra-cost, a pearl white paint group priced at $700.

Introduced in early 1992 for the 1993 model year, Allanté was scaled down to just one model this year, the soft-top convertible priced at $59,975 (not including a mandatory $1,700 gas guzzler tax for vehicles sold in the United States). The removable 60.5 lb. aluminum hardtop was now a separate option, as well as the $495 LCD digital instrument cluster in place of the standard analog instruments. The available $700 pearlcoat paint option (in Flax or White) returned. Also available, chrome squeeze-cast aluminum wheels. For its final outing, Allanté received the 4.6 L Northstar DOHC V8. This engine was initially rated at 290 hp (216 kW), but Cadillac upped the rating to 295 hp (220 kW) at 5600 rpm by the time the first models were sold. Torque output was 290 ft·lbf (393 N·m) at 4400 rpm. A new unequal-length control arm rear suspension, shared with the Seville and Eldorado, was also introduced that year, improving handling. Also new for the small Cadillacs was Road Sensing Suspension, an active damper management system, and improved disc brakes. The Bose name was no longer associated with Allanté's sound system, as the '93 model went into production using GM's Delco Electronics "Premium Symphony Sound System". Other changes for the Allanté included a revised variable-assist power steering rack, deeper front spoiler, and single-piece side windows, which did away with the stationary forward vent window.

A 1992 comparison test of the Northstar-powered Allanté by Car and Driver placed it above the Jaguar XJS V12 convertible and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL in North America. Although the Cadillac roadster got big points for its new engine, Allanté was criticized for its handling, which was an inherent result of the front wheel drive layout. Ultimately, it was the rapid rise in the retail price of its competitors due to changes in exchange rates that won the test for Cadillac. At that time, the Allanté's price seemed a bargain compared with the $71,888 Jaguar and $90,335 Mercedes-Benz.

Specifications Table

Year Engine Transmission Power Torque 0–60 mph (97 km/h) 0–100 mph (161 km/h) 0–.25 mi (0.4 km) Top speed Braking from 70 mph (113 km/h)
1987–1988 4.1 L HT-4100 V8 4-speed F-7 auto 170 hp (127 kW) 235 ft·lbf (319 N·m)
1989–1992 4.5 L HT-4500 V8 200 hp (149 kW) 270 ft·lbf (366 N·m) 7.9 26.3 16.3 at 83 mph (134 km/h) 122 mph (196 km/h) 183 ft (56 m)
1993 4.6 L Northstar L37 V8 4-speed 4T80-E auto 295 hp (220 kW) 290 ft·lbf (393 N·m) 6.4 17.7 15.0 at 93 mph (150 km/h) 140 mph (225 km/h) 189 ft (58 m)

Production numbers

  • 1987 - 3,363
  • 1988 - 2,569
  • 1989 - 3,296
  • 1990 - 3,101
  • 1991 - 2,500
  • 1992 - 1,931
  • 1993 - 4,670
  • Total: 21,430

See also

  • Chrysler TC by Maserati - Another Italian-American front-wheel drive convertible released to compete with the Allanté.


  • Eric Peters Automotive Atrocities-cars we love to hate

External links

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