Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

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Thread: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

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    Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL
    From the Archive: Cadillac's upstart Allanté challenges the old guard of heavyweight convertibles, the Mercedes SL.
    Car and Driver
    BY: PATRICK BEDARD
    From February 1989

    This is a title match, heavyweight two-*seater division. The undisputed champion Mercedes-Benz SL is stepping into the ring yet again, one more time in its amazing eighteen-year-long career. This time the challenger is the brash young Cadillac Allanté. "Palooka," says the scuttlebutt. "The Allanté is all hype and no punch. Look at its record in the showrooms. This is gonna be another Mercedes KO."

    For sure, the champ has built a career on knockouts. The contenders look good on paper, but they always come up short. What most ringsiders don't know, however, is how hard this challenger has been training for 1989. We previewed the toughened Allanté at a recent work*out, and it showed us some impressive new moves.

    Still, the SL's record is formidable—the envy of all the prestige-car makers. Sales results for 1988 are not complete as this is being written, but Mercedes sold 11,964 SLs stateside in 1987 and 12,530 in 1986. For a car that's always been priced in the stratosphere, that kind of showroom success is astounding.

    That kind of success, it must be said, is also exactly what brings out the challengers. The 1989-model 560SL lists for $64,230. If past sales continue, that amounts to a nice little three-quarter-*billion-dollar-a-year business. Would other carmakers like a bite of that? Do sharks like steak tartare?

    We'll tell you how much one particular German maker wants a piece of the SL's action. Have you seen the recent print ad for the Porsche 928S4, the one with the headline that reads "Think of it as a Mercedes with Tabasco sauce"? Huh? Is there any way you can squint your mind's eye so that the fastback-sleek and enormously powerful 928 comes across as some kind of spicy Mercedes? We can't either. But if the champ were beating you up in the market—really hammering you despite your best offensive efforts—perhaps you'd blurt out whatever desperate thing came to mind, too.

    How bad is the champ killing them in sales? Worse than you'd think. In 1987, Porsche sold 1967 928s, and 1988 is off about 30 percent from that. In a good Porsche year, Mercedes moves about six times as many SLs.

    And if the customers regard the SL as the standard, then so must the challengers (and so must we). The Allanté was created with the SL in mind. Cadillac never said that exactly, but it did point to the customers it wanted—and they were all heading for their local M-B stores. How could they be intercepted? Showing them a better SL was the obvious strategy. Cadillac held nothing back with the Allanté. It even confronted its own Not Invented Here Syndrome, admitted that outside help was necessary, and hired Pininfarina to design and manufacture the bodies and help with general development. Cadillac, you must understand, didn't just roll another model out the door: the Allanté is a premeditated and carefully executed move to sock it to the champion SL.

    How's it going so far? Not badly, we'd say—despite what you may have heard about weak punches in the showroom. In model-year 1987, the introductory year, Cadillac reported 1651 Allanté sales, followed by 3502 sales of the 1988s. Admittedly, this is not heavy traffic and it didn't cause much sweat at Daimler-Benz.

    Nonetheless, we think the Allanté made a respectable showing. We say that for two reasons: (1) its over-$50,000 introductory price was twenty grand more than anything else wearing the Cadillac label, which means there were no customers predisposed to over-$50,000 Cadillacs, and (2) the Cadillac label gets no respect in the ultrahigh end of the business. Moving the iron against that sort of head wind is necessarily slow going.

    But so what? Champs aren't made in a year or two. Look at the SL. It has secured its lock on the market over eighteen years. There's only one question: Is the Allanté a better car? If it is, the sales will come in due time.

    ls the Allanté a better car? That is the question, isn't it? And that's the reason for this title match. Why wait years for the vote to come in when a few days of driving and a few trips to the test track can serve up the answer immediately?

    Read More at the link above...
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    If all that is tl;dr for you then here’s a hint of who won this comparison:
    I posted this thread.
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    You know, you look at the sales figures of these cars in the $50k plus roadster class from that era, and you realize that, while never reaching those levels of the SL, that Allante sold pretty damned well even as it was considered a sales flop.
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Allante is a beautiful car. I wish GM stuck with it.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Fun looking back. I worked at an independent German car repair shop in the first half of the 70's and worked on and drove the 350/450 SL (plus it's older siblings the 190, 230/250/280 and one 300) so I was pretty familiar with the breed.

    Then I worked at a Chevy dealer in the 80's. Though self employed starting in '88 I remained good friends with my former employer and when he managed to pick up an '89 Allante at the auction I got to drive it a fair amount going to lunch and to the auction (to pick out a Caprice for my wife) while he used it as a daily driver.

    I would echo most of what C/D said. I never got to drive the larger engined SL, the Allante would have had it's way with the earlier V8 SL, but the Allante cried out for something better still than that engine. I know Cadi means V8 but one has to wonder what the Allante could have been with a Buick Turbo under the hood.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    I always loved the look of the Allante! I drove a new 1993 with the Northstar and thought it was almost overpowered. I thought about picking one up, but I'm not sure the electronics aged well.
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by BlackGTP View Post
    Allante is a beautiful car. I wish GM stuck with it.
    I was sad when the Allante died with no replacement. When the XLR came out, I was excited about Cadillac's return to the segment. Of course, they didn't stick with XLR either -- yet another of the many frustrating fits and starts that have characterized Cadillac basically since the Allante's introduction.

    My dad was a Cadillac guy and had a friend who owned a Cadillac dealership. Consequently, my dad got several Allantes as service loaners over the years between 91 and 93. I was in high school and college at the time and got to drive all of them.

    I remember how easily the Allantes would chirp the front tires. I also remember struggling to get the top to latch at the boot on one of the cars. As long as everything was working properly, I could get the top up and down pretty quickly.

    I've always thought these were handsome cars. The styling set the direction for the other Cadillacs that would follow, specifically the '92 Seville and Eldorado.

    Killing the Allante right when it finally got a world class engine was such a classic GM move. Heck, they just did it again with the Cadillac CT6 Blackwing! The fits and starts continue.
    Last edited by Murrow; 09-20-2020 at 04:11 PM.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by rockyspaw View Post
    I always loved the look of the Allante! I drove a new 1993 with the Northstar and thought it was almost overpowered. I thought about picking one up, but I'm not sure the electronics aged well.
    I see them in the local papers all the time and find myself thinking and then coming to the same conclusion.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by Murrow View Post
    I was sad when the Allante died with no replacement. When the XLR came out, I was excited about Cadillac's return to the segment. Of course, they didn't stick with XLR either -- yet another of the many frustrating fits and starts that have characterized Cadillac basically since the Allante's introduction.

    My dad was a Cadillac guy and had a friend who owned a Cadillac dealership. Consequently, my dad got several Allantes as service loaners over the years between 91 and 93. I was in high school and college at the time and got to drive all of them.

    I remember how easily the Allantes would chirp the front tires. I also remember struggling to get the top to latch at the boot on one of the cars. As long as everything was working properly, I could get the top up and down pretty quickly.

    I've always thought these were handsome cars. The styling set the direction for the other Cadillacs that would follow, specifically the '92 Seville and Eldorado.

    Killing the Allante right when it finally got a world class engine powertrain was such a classic GM move. Heck, they just did it again with the Cadillac CT6 Blackwing! The fits and starts continue.
    Need someone with drawing skills to imagine for us what a modern day Allante would look like (of course with it being rwd). What chassis should a modern Allante be on? I'm thinking the CT5 version of the Alpha chassis, the Corvette chassis (C7) I think is too sport oriented for what the Allante should be.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by BlackGTP View Post
    Need someone with drawing skills to imagine for us what a modern day Allante would look like (of course with it being rwd). What chassis should a modern Allante be on? I'm thinking the CT5 version of the Alpha chassis, the Corvette chassis (C7) I think is too sport oriented for what the Allante should be.
    Too bad MonaroSS isn't still with us . He could show us how it should be.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by Murrow View Post
    I was sad when the Allante died with no replacement. When the XLR came out, I was excited about Cadillac's return to the segment. Of course, they didn't stick with XLR either -- yet another of the many frustrating fits and starts that have characterized Cadillac basically since the Allante's introduction.

    My dad was a Cadillac guy and had a friend who owned a Cadillac dealership. Consequently, my dad got several Allantes as service loaners over the years between 91 and 93. I was in high school and college at the time and got to drive all of them.

    I remember how easily the Allantes would chirp the front tires. I also remember struggling to get the top to latch at the boot on one of the cars. As long as everything was working properly, I could get the top up and down pretty quickly.

    I've always thought these were handsome cars. The styling set the direction for the other Cadillacs that would follow, specifically the '92 Seville and Eldorado.

    Killing the Allante right when it finally got a world class engine powertrain was such a classic GM move. Heck, they just did it again with the Cadillac CT6 Blackwing! The fits and starts continue.
    And when they put the Northstar engine in it, it finally approached their sales target of 5-7,000 units per year (4,670). It’s mystifying that that didn’t change their mind.

    They could have redesigned the way the convertible worked (maybe with a power folding top, and add AWD) and it would have only gotten bigger from there.

    I read somewhere that Cadillac initially planned the XLR to be built on the sigma platform, and have an all-aluminum body, but GM thought that would be too expensive (of course). I think they should have gone that way, it would have been seen as more special instead of a Corvette in a suit with the wrong engine (wrong engine for a Corvette, that is). But GM gonna GM.
    I am on the border of genius and crazy. I keep trying to cross over into genius, but ICE keeps sending me back to the crazy side of the border.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    The Allante certainly was a looker.

    This article is an example of something that seems to have happened to a lot of Cadillac models. A lot of people seem to remember the Allante as this embarrassing FWD entry that couldn't really compete. Granted, this review was against a very old Mercedes, but still the Allante won. It also won a three-way USA Today comparison pitted a against Lexus and either a Mercedes or Jaguar.

    People often seem to remember Cadillacs years later in a more negative way than they were remembered at launch. Every new Cadillac gets compared to a Cimarron or a V-8-6-4 and is treated as the first decent Cadillac since 1955. Then as time goes by, opinions of the car seem to retroactively downgrade.

    FWD has its limitations, but Cadillac did it as well as anyone.
    Last edited by ksr; 09-21-2020 at 06:23 AM.
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert1969 View Post
    And when they put the Northstar engine in it, it finally approached their sales target of 5-7,000 units per year (4,670). It’s mystifying that that didn’t change their mind.

    They could have redesigned the way the convertible worked (maybe with a power folding top, and add AWD) and it would have only gotten bigger from there.

    I read somewhere that Cadillac initially planned the XLR to be built on the sigma platform, and have an all-aluminum body, but GM thought that would be too expensive (of course). I think they should have gone that way, it would have been seen as more special instead of a Corvette in a suit with the wrong engine (wrong engine for a Corvette, that is). But GM gonna GM.
    This doesn't show a bump for the Northstar version at all. Peak of 3,407 in 1990. Although this shows sales by calendar year and lists 1994. 1993 was the last model year. If you combine 1993 and 1994, it comes in at just above 4,000

    It's a shame they gave up. GM in the early 1990s had a really rough stretch, hemorrhaging cash. I think that led to the demise of the low volume niche cars like Allante and Reatta. And the Fiero, which was high volume at start but faded badly. Too bad with the Fiero too, as the plans for the next generation looked pretty amazing.

    https://carsalesbase.com/us-cadillac-allante/
    Last edited by ksr; 09-20-2020 at 04:15 PM.
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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    For those who haven't watched.

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    Re: Tested: 1989 Cadillac Allanté vs. Mercedes-Benz 560SL (C/D Archives)

    Quote Originally Posted by ksr View Post
    This doesn't show a bump for the Northstar version at all. Peak of 3,407 in 1990. Although this shows sales by calendar year and lists 1994. 1993 was the last model year. If you combine 1993 and 1994, it comes in at just above 4,000

    It's a shame they gave up. GM in the early 1990s had a really rough stretch, hemorrhaging cash. I think that led to the demise of the low volume niche cars like Allante and Reatta. And the Fiero, which was high volume at start but faded badly. Too bad with the Fiero too, as the plans for the next generation looked pretty amazing.

    https://carsalesbase.com/us-cadillac-allante/
    I saw 4670 on the Allante wiki page, and I realize it says “production numbers.” So, ok, my bad,
    I am on the border of genius and crazy. I keep trying to cross over into genius, but ICE keeps sending me back to the crazy side of the border.

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