Washington Post and WashingtonPost.com
July 10, 2005
A Sports Car in Mellow Tune
Sometimes, you change the music. I did. I found a castaway compact disc in my bedroom library, an album of reworked jazz, blues and swing classics called The Supper Club -- all performed and arranged by saxophonist Sonya Jason.
It was a beautiful collection of warm melodies and hot tunes, including Don't Get Around Much Anymore by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell, Summertime by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward, and When Sunny Gets Blue by Jack Segal and Marvin Fisher.
It was the music I listened to in my childhood home on Clouet Street in New Orleans. It stirred happy memories. I resolved to substitute it for the 1960s Motown songs I had planned to take on my drive of the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT V6 coupe.
Music can change your perception of a car. I think it's because everything has an inherent rhythm. That's especially true of sports cars, which are designed to make bold, emotional statements and which exist primarily to get the senses jumping, the juices flowing.
Sports cars done well are poetry, music and dance. They exude feeling. They demand drivers who want to feel them. Passengers are a secondary consideration in sports cars, which is why sports cars seldom have comfortable accommodations for more than one extra body.
The new Eclipse GT V6, although larger than its predecessor models -- dating to the inception of the Eclipse line in 1990 -- holds true to the sports car dynamic. It has four seats. But the two in the rear are useless, and that is as it should be. Sports cars are selfish and built to stay that way.
Thus, the right music is important in a sports car because music is deeply personal. Each lyric, every note carries a special message for the listener. It's how "a song" becomes "my song" or "our song."
I was going to drive with Motown dance music because the Eclipse GT's tightly stretched, yet sumptuously curved body reminded me of all of those girls from St. Mary's Academy and Xavier University Preparatory in New Orleans, who looked so good in their Saturday night dance dresses after a week of hiding their beauty beneath those awfully ugly parochial school uniforms.
But then I stumbled across Sonya Jason's album . . . and fell in love. That was lucky for me and for the Eclipse GT V6, because love changes things. It helps you see beauty where you might have missed it, because it demands that you pay attention to what you're doing and who you are doing it with. You start looking for different things.
Had I stayed in my retro-Motown mood, I would have been looking for a hot ride in the front-wheel-drive Eclipse GT V6, and I would have been disappointed. The car moved well. But in factory dress with its standard 3.8-liter, 263-horsepower V-6 and six-speed manual transmission, it did not move as fast as rivals on the road. Drivers of V6 Ford Mustangs and Mazda RX-8 cars, for example, had no trouble overtaking me on my runs along Interstate 66 and I-81.
But I was mellow. It mattered not that I missed the fast dance or was left out of the crowded left lane of the highway. The Eclipse GT V6 was working too hard to boogie with that traffic. I chose not to speed anymore.
Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the car and the ride, because the Eclipse GT has many virtues -- beautiful styling inside and out, a comfortable interior that also allows you to carry more than an overnight bag and a spectacular Rockford Fosgate audio system equipped to play compact discs and MP3 files.
You won't win any races in the factory edition of the Eclipse GT V6. But if you accept the car as offered and you choose the right music, a good partner and a scenic road, you may win a heart, and that's a good thing.