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Cadillac's classy Allante roadster came of age in the 1993 model year as a showcase for the automaker's potent Northstar engine. But the beefed-up Cadillac flagship barely made its debut before GM announced this would be Allante's final year of production.

Since its introduction in 1987, the Italian-American hybrid has been a showcase for GM's latest technology. It was the first Cadillac to feature four-wheel antilock brakes as standard equipment and the first to offer traction control.And its Italian-built Pininfarina body helped pioneer advanced manufacturing techniques.

It was the first front-wheel drive car ever to sport a 200 horsepower V8 engine, leading the campaign to prove that front-wheel drive cars can accommodate high-power engines without sacrificing control and suffering from torque steer - a malady that causes the front end to skid out of control during quick acceleration.

But until this year, it lacked the oomph of its rear-drive European challengers, like the Mercedes and BMW sport coupes.

For 1993, the Allante was refitted with the new 32-valve, 290 horsepower Northstar engine, along with a new overdrive automatic transmission and a new road-sensing suspension that automatically adjusts to driving conditions.

The result was a luxury roadster-rocket, delivering top-notch performance with unparalleled smoothness and perfect control. The 4.6 liter Northstar power plant, generating 290 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 290 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, propels the Allante from a dead stop to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds.

The car has a top speed of 150 mph, though I didn't get the test model over 120 in a weeklong test that covered more than 450 miles on all kinds of highways as well as a test track.

The Allante is quick off the line, handles like a true sports car and is impressively smooth riding andquiet. Checking my test-drive notes, I see the only criticism entered was "a little wind noise over 100 mph" with the top up.

As the priciest entry in the Cadillac line at around $65,000, sales never were strong. And the automaker needed the Northstar engines for its STS and Eldorado lines, which were beefed up with Northstar power for the 1993 model year and have been selling like crazy since they made their debut in the fall.

But aficionados with the money and an appreciation for classic styling will miss the Allante, America's only ultra-luxury two-seat roadster.