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1980-1989 Cadillac

The Cadillac Allante Evolves
To spark sales, Cadillac made several improvements to the 1989 Cadillac Allante.
To spark sales, Cadillac made several improvements to the 1989 Cadillac Allante.

The Cadillac Allante was not the upmarket homerun Cadillac needed to boost its image with the new breed of upscale buyers who looked first to Europe for their high-performance luxury two-seater.

The Cadillac Allante was introduced for the 1988 model year to much hoopla but little of the showroom traffic-generating business Cadillac needed. Sales were moribund, resale values were frightful, and the car just didn't seem to have that sexy spark to unseat the Mercedes-Benz SL as the darling of the small but coveted prestige roadster crowd.

So in Cadillac scrambled to fix what ailed its Italian-American amalgam. It gave the 1989 Cadillac Allante a 4.5 V-8 uprated to 200 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Alas, that and a shorter final drive ratio sufficiently lowered EPA-rated mileage to incur a $650 Gas Guzzler tax, which upped actual delivered price to $57,183.

But 0-60-mph acceleration dropped from 10 seconds to 8.5 or less for the 1989 Cadillac Allante. And Cadillac kept things safe at every speed with new speed-sensitive power steering, larger wheels and tires, and three-mode "speed-dependent damping" (shock absorbers that automatically adjusted firmness to match road surface).

Also added for the 1989 Cadillac Allante were more-comfortable seats, a somewhat improved top mechanism (but still manual), and PASS-Key antitheft protection. Model-year production for the 1989 Cadillac Allante rose from 2,569 to 3,298, which was encouraging.

But Cadillac Allante sales were now being propped up by a "guaranteed resale" scheme pegged to the higher residual values of the Mercedes SL. Cadillac promised to pay the difference if an Allante owner traded for another new Cadillac. It was a tacit admission that the Cadillac Allante, Cadillac's SL-fighter, was no threat to the vaunted Mercedes.

The Cadillac Allante would survive through the 1993 model year, by which time Cadillac knew its image needed fixing, and hoped to make amends for recent blunders with several new initiatives for the 1990s.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1970-1979 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1990-1999 Cadillac: Import competition and a stale image rock once-proud Cadillac. Here's the low-down on Cadillac's come-down.