AUTO WRITERS can be like children, cackling and arguing over the silliest things.
Consider the Cadillac Allante' commotion.
One group, the Europhiles, sniffs that this expensive offering from General Motors is not fancy or fast enough to run with upper- series Mercedes-Benz, Porsche or BMW cars. These mostly born-in-the-USA, went-to-Europe-on-a-junket writers feel compelled to compare all vehicles to what they drove through the Black Forest.
Then, of course, there are the America-Firsters. To them, the Allante' is not really American. The car's body is designed and built by Pininfarina in Italy, after all. Besides, with its 170-hp engine, the Allante' can't outrun a U.S.-made Corvette, right?
All of this goofiness misses the point. Most people don't buy ultra-luxury cars to drive 'em full-tilt-boogie. Who wants to explain a 115-mph, joy-toy crash to an insurer? Indeed, after such a smash-up, who'd be able to explain anything?
And forget the "I-bought-it-for-the-quality" junk, and its equally ridiculous counterpart: "I bought it for the resale value." Superior automotive quality -- reliability, durability and serviceability -- can be had at far less than the cost of most luxury cars, foreign or domestic.
Resale value? Any first-year business student knows you don't "invest" big bucks in a machine that sucks air, burns fuel, vibrates, and rolls over hostile roads on a regular basis.
You buy a car like the Allante' because it makes you feel good all over, because it does wonders for your ego and libido. You buy it for the Lust Factor, folks. Think of it this way: It beats the heck out of analysis.
Complaint: The price. Unjustified, as it tends to be for nearly all luxury cars sold in this country.
Praise: 'Tis an automotive jewel, a simply elegant machine. From its Cogolo leather interior to its silver metallic body, the 1988 test Allante', driven on roads outside Montreal, is a work of art.
The car is all the more remarkable because it's a front-wheel-drive convertible, a type not especially known for handling excellence or body integrity. But the Allante' shows supreme grace in movement and style -- so quiet, so smooth. The chassis obviously is put together right: The thing doesn't shake and shimmy on bumpy roads.
Head-turning-quotient: Total knockout, world-class beauty.
Acceleration: Doesn't match good muscle cars in zero-to-sixty times. But who gives a pa-hooty? What matters is how well the car moves in traffic, how well it accelerates, say, during high-speed lane changes. The Allante's 4.1-liter, fuel-injected V-8 does quite well, thank you. It develops 170 hp at 4,300 rpm, which means, in terms of speed, a driver can be as big a fool in this car as he can in a more powerful machine.
Sound system: Electronic AM/FM stereo radio and cassette, by Delco/Bose. Superb.
Finer points: Despite its eloquent hedonism, the Allante' has features that speak to the practical soul. To wit: an excellent, third-generation Bosch anti-lock braking system, a generous use of two-sided galvanized steel to control body rust, a well-designed, easy-to-read instrument panel, and 10-way-adjustable Recaro seats that comfort the body without putting the driver to sleep.
Mileage: About 23 to the gallon (22-gallon tank, estimated 500-mile range on usable volume), running driver only, mostly highway, with top down.
Price: $54,700. Only available option is a cellular telephone. Nothing "base" about this one. Estimated dealer invoice is $45,948. A very nice car, but, at the stated selling price, not that nice.
Warren Brown covers the auto industry for The Washington Post.