Car reviews: A pause for station identification

To review a vehicle properly, there are some weeks when Dan Neil must address intricacies at length. There are others, like this one, when he reviews the 2008 Volvo XC70 wagon, where the spirit must rule the review. And then he can have some fun. The XC70, you see, is rather blatantly outdoorsy Volvo.

Naturally, I’m guilty. I used to wear a rather large and obvious diving watch. Oh, do you scuba dive? Why, yes, I do, and thank you for asking. . . . One fun fact about this watch is that it was guaranteed watertight to 300 meters, or 984 feet, which means that at that depth my lifeless corpse would know exactly what time it was.

So it looks cool, OK? And yet the XC70 is such a lifestyle accessory, such a proclamation, it verges on automotive typecasting. If you like bashing up to Big Bear for some snowboarding, you’re going to like this car. If you have a cabin around Tahoe, you’re going to love it. If you attended the University of Oregon, donated to the World Wildlife Fund, explored your roommate’s sexuality, got a member’s refund from REI or blew out a rotator cuff while kayaking the Snake River, forget it: You’ll be utterly smitten. Your knickers are going to wind up on the rear-view mirror.

Meanwhile, of course, there’s Global Dan Neil, Jeremy Clarkson of the London Sunday Times. It only takes Clarkson seven paragraphs to mention the car he’s reviewing this week — the Subaru Impreza — so you know more detours are coming. After the initial stories on music racism and DJs who sound the same, but before the supergroup and dog metaphors, he gets into a story about a woman taking an eternity to tell him about the details of her Impreza.

This is the thing with Subaru ownership: every last detail matters. Every tiny piece of the water-injection jigsaw is more important than your child’s next breath. You don’t own a car like this, you are assimilated by it. You become one.

With men I find this tiresome. But with girls I find it very sexy. So as this girl rabbited on with ever more initials and numbers, I was overwhelmed by a need to introduce her to a friend of mine who has a Mitsubishi Evo 9. This is the only girl in the world who put a topless photograph of herself on her Facebook page. I would love to see them argue about which is the better car. With a bit of luck, it might even end up in a fight.

You keep reading to find out what kind of fight. Because Clarkson most assuredly plans to tell you.

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