When it comes to selecting cars to test drive, the criteria I use is easy. Is it new? Is it interesting?

So, it's been an interesting week behind the wheel of a 2002 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe.

After all, this car is DOA. GM ceased building them in late April, although they are still to be found on dealer lots.

But, this car has become incredibly scarce. Only 2,638 will leave the factory in 2002. Only 7,713 were built last year.

So, despite its familiar styling, my bright red test car turned quite a few heads. No doubt, it's the styling.

Long one of my favorites, the car's modern take on the angular '67 Eldorado is masterful. The trunk's simple line is nestled between vestigial fins. The hood's crisp styling and tailored fenders are classic in their beauty. The large greenhouse has a massive, but stylistically essential, blind spot.

All these things give the car its character. It is unmistakably an Eldorado.

That also means that most other drivers probably assumed I was older than dirt. The best proof of this was being cut-off by a cap- wearing cretin while cruising in New Jersey. His BMW 530i (with its GM-sourced automatic transmission) was no match for the Northstar V- 8's 300-horsepower. As I watched his lack of progress from the Eldorado's rear-view mirror, the look of surprise on his face made my day. The old saying is true: there is no substitute for cubic inches.

If you are interested in an Eldorado, you might want to know it comes in two trim levels, a base car and the Eldorado Touring Coupe (or ETC in Caddy speak.) The difference between the two is subtle, but significant. Both versions use Cadillac's Northstar engine. But the base car uses a lower horsepower version of the double-overhead- cam mill; 275 horses vs. 300 in the ETC.

The ETC also gets a firmer suspension. While most enthusiasts would welcome this, the ETC's balance between handling and ride comfort is a little behind the rest of the Cadillac line. Part of this is due to the fact that the Cadillac rides on an older version of the G-Body platform unlike its DeVille and Seville stablemates.

The Eldorado pounds over pothole-marked pavement, yet some wallowing still makes its way through. The steering is light, but the car is nimble enough to do some highway gymnastics.

The rest of the car is pure modern Cadillac.

The wood trim and leather upholstery has a rich, welcoming feel. Again, the details of the interior show how much better current stablemates are finished. The express-down drivers window has no express-up feature. The seats are somewhat lumpy and short, lacking good thigh or lower back support. The Bose audio system is good, but the sound lacks the punch of other Caddys.

Still, it's style that sells cars and this Eldo has it in spades.

Large two-door cars are automotive dinosaurs in the eyes of many automakers. The Lexus SC300/400, the Lincoln Mark series, even fellow-GM cars -- the Oldsmobile Tornado and Buick Riviera -- have all faded into history.

So too will the Eldorado.

The final run of 1,596 Collectors Edition Eldorados has been made: 1,064 in white and 532 in red. The Cadillac Museum will get the last one off the line.

But there's still time to grab a piece of history. Ten years after the current generation's introduction, the Eldorado still has the styling and power to draw stares.

Now that's interesting.


Engine: 4.6-liter all-aluminum V-8

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Tires: P235/60HR-16

Wheelbase: 108 inches

Length: 200.6 inches

Width: 75.5 inches

Weight: 3,865 pounds

Cargo volume: 15 cubic ft.

Base price: $45,265

As tested: Not available

EPA rating: 18 city, 25 highway

Test mileage: 18.5 mpg

Fuel type: Regular

Built in: Lansing, Mich.