It's a hard question: Why do you love me?
The easy answers are cliches: You are beautiful. You make me happy. You're hot!
True love has deeper roots. It is planted in memory, nurtured by experience, sheltered by the soul. It is powerful. It takes over, transforms you in much the manner that solstice, the dates of maximum tilt of the Earth's equatorial plane relative to the sun, transforms seasons.
Love makes you silly. But you don't care. You see that 2006 Pontiac Solstice roadster sitting there. It is a car among thousands of cars, several of which are in your driveway.
There is a Porsche Boxster S. It is bright red with a tan interior. It has a deep, throaty exhaust note. It's sexy; and it is a Porsche.
There is a Saturn Ion Red Line, a thing of winged adolescent fantasy. You would have loved it when you were 18. But you're 40 years older. The Ion Red line fits neither your psyche nor your body. That time has passed.
And there is a Mazda MX-5 roadster -- cute, very cute. It is the quintessential heartthrob next door. You've known and loved it for years. You could buy it. But it is the car you would cheat on if a Pontiac Solstice moved into the neighborhood.
There is something wonderfully raw about the Solstice. It is sinewy, sensuous, yet absent anything that could be considered extraneous makeup. It is seductive minimalism. It appeals to a driver's basic instincts.
As such, the Solstice is flawed in the conventional sense of automobiles. It makes no pretense of practicality. Trunk space is a minuscule 3.8 cubic feet. There are some interior storage pockets; but they hold precious little.
Operating the Solstice's cloth convertible top is a bit of a chore. It's a manual job. You must get out of the car to lower or raise it. It's not an onerous task; but it's more difficult, in terms of steps required, than operating the semi-automatic roof of the Boxster S, or dropping and lifting the manually convertible top of the MX-5 from the comfort of the driver's seat.
But neither the Mazda MX-5 nor the Porsche Boxster S -- nor, for that matter, the ascetic Honda S2000 or the self-conscious BMW Z-4 roadster -- engenders the warmth of the Solstice. The MX-5 has heritage. The Boxster S and BMW Z-4 have prestige and status. The purposeful Honda S2000 has performance. But not one of those cars has passion, an essential element of love.
Passion bespeaks honesty. It does not hide behind fancy badges or history, does not hold itself aloof from the lover. It is accessible, democratic -- as infectious as the celebratory joy that moves a stadium crowd to its feet.
The rear-wheel-drive Solstice has passion. People young and old of multiple hues and ethnicities crowded around the car everywhere I took it. Other motorists followed me on the highway, honking horns and giving me thumbs up in approbation.
The Solstice was even a hit in the parking lot of a Starbucks meeting place in Northern Virginia, where some owners of million-dollar mini-mansions -- houses too big for the small lots that once held modest brick residences -- marveled that something so well designed, so exquisitely proportioned, could cost so little. Solstice prices start at $19,420. You can fully option the car at $25,000.
People wanted to know how the Solstice ran. I answered their question with queries of my own: When was the last time you danced with someone you loved? Did you try moves at odds with your partner's rhythm? Or, did you move with him? A 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower, four-cylinder engine moves the relatively lightweight Solstice -- 2,860 pounds -- fast enough. Higher horsepower cars can pass it. But few of them can move so nimbly! Credit the Solstice's four-wheel-independent suspension, its nearly 50-50 distribution of body weight front to rear and its standard 18-inch diameter wheels. The car goes exactly where pointed. It's like driving a sharpened pencil.
I am unabashedly silly about this car with its clamshell trunk cover, splendidly sculpted body and down-to-the-bone-honest sexy ways. There's nothing coy about this one. It grabs you. It grabbed me; and I am seriously considering the possibility of letting it grab my wallet.