This article talks about exactly the things I loved about Burnout (I mostly played Burnout 2). He's right that the soundtrack is uniformly terrible though.
When I played it I used the XBox's ability to rip CDs to its hard drive, and replaced the included techno/metal gunk with a Burt Bacharach compilation I'd just got.
It made the races very relaxing - I played much better. I just loved swinging gracefully through the turns while singing along to "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" and "Close To You".