by James Siddall
Can you think of a more fundamentally fulfilling and fun combination than music and motoring? I can't. Or at least I can't think of many.
I mean, does anything quite rival a road trip through this beautiful country of ours – and I've travelled just enough to realise how beautiful it really is – with the right mix of tunes playing? Or does anything quite rival driving hard, arching your choice of steed into serpentine twisties, with the volume control set to 11 and something hard-edged banging over the sound system? And does anything quite rival simply sitting at a view spot with some especially soulful and stirring music lightly thrumming through the speakers?
The good news is that in-vehicle sound systems – otherwise known as ICE or In Car Entertainment – have dramatically, massively improved over recent years. Now I don't know how old you are, but I'm 44. That's easily old enough to remember just how awful most ICE used to be.
Today several in-car systems can play music from audio sources including radio, CD, iPods, USB flash drives, SD cards and more. A far cry indeed from the days when a single-speaker AM radio was about the best you could hope for.
Better yet, high-quality ICE isn't just the preserve of the sort of blinged-out metal you see on shows like “Pimp My Ride.” Oh no. Many stock-standard cars now offer quite superb sound.
Which just leaves us with the question of what to play. Now, of course, personal choice forms a massive element here, but when running hard and fast there's little to compare with something like Bruce Springsteen's classic “Born To Run.” Consider the lyrics and tell me if anything matches this song when really pressing on:
“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream/At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines/Sprung from cages out on highway nine,/Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line.”
Night Ranger's song “Sister Christian” also holds a special place for me. Some years ago I spent a week tooling around Miami and its surrounds in a massive, chrome-bedecked, V8-powered Yank tank of a Lincoln Town Car with this track playing endlessly.
Meanwhile, if you're helming a luxury car – and I tried this a while ago when I spent a week with a new Suzuki Kizashi – something classic is just the ticket. Carl Orff's incomparably stirring “Carmina Burana” is always a good place to start. Or perhaps something by Bach, Mozart or Chopin.
And let's not neglect those romantic moments, bearing in mind that to love – and to be loved, ideally – is not only one of the most fundamental of human needs, but a magical and magnificent thing at that. In which case, for me at least, there's little to touch sitting with that special person somewhere secluded and scenic with the likes of Johnny Cash singing “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Of course, if you're a little younger there's a massive array of other songs to select – even if it's something by Justin Bieber who's really not that bad, for all the time and energy put into dissing him.
So yes, ICE really is cool. Or hot, depending on how you look at it.
iX Online Motoring