Cold, rain, sleet, snow: Take your choice. It's obviously time to prepare by putting the sports coupe on blocks in the garage and hauling out the Jeep, Explorer or Blazer utility vehicle.

Unless your sports coupe is an Eagle Talon with four-wheel drive, in which case you have a year-round multipurpose machine at your disposal.When the sun is shining and the roads are clear, the Talon is a sports coupe that leaps from the light.

When the roads are rain-soaked or snow-covered, Talon is a utility vehicle that pulls you through. No need to throw a tarp over it and sit back and wait for spring.

We test-drove the top-of-the-line Talon TSi all-wheel-drive model. The 2-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder develops 135 horsepower in the base model and generates a kick-in-the-pants 195 h.p. with the turbocharged TSi.

All-wheel-drive road-holding ability complemented the power, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes were a safeguard to keep it under control (anti-lock brakes are a $681 option).

A 5-speed manual is standard, but our test car came with the optional 4-speed automatic at a hefty $823. There was no loss of performance, no feeling of being shortchanged in the oomph department with the smooth-shifting, quiet automatic. And the 4-speed automatic is welcome when confronted with rush-hour traffic in a 195-h.p. car.

The all-wheel-drive Talon is rated at 18 miles per gallon city/21 mpg highway with automatic (20/25 with 5-speed manual), roughly comparable to a utility vehicle's mileage. The price you pay for four-wheel drive is more frequent visits to the pump, which is somewhat irritating in July but a small price to pay for the added traction in January.

Though long on looks and performance, the Talon has a few shortcomings. The rear-seat room in this sloping hatchback prevents adult entry and the cargo compartment will barely hold one meal's supply of groceries. The rear seat backs fold to provide needed storage. Dual cupholders (you were waiting for this line, weren't you?) are in the center console between driver and front passenger and are difficult to use. Holders that pull from the dash would work better.

Base price of the Talon TSi 4WD model is $16,513. Standard equipment includes performance suspension; power brakes and steering; all-season, 16-inch, steel-belted, radials and alloy wheels; rear window defogger; automatic-off headlamps; driving lamps; intermittent wipers; power mirrors; tilt steering; tinted glass; AM/FM stereo with cassette and six speakers; automatic shoulder belts; carpeting; leather-wrapped wheel and gearshift lever; and wraparound spoiler.

Our test car added the $681 anti-lock brakes, $823 automatic and $163 security alarm, plus a preferred equipment group for $1,588 that included air conditioning, speed control, rear window washer/wiper, power windows/door locks. The sticker read $19,768 plus $328 for freight.

The Talon is built at the Chrysler/Mitsubishi Diamond-Star plant in Normal, Ill.