This Volvo is on the edge, its 'solid and safe' patina flaking away. Beneath all that sturdy Swedish engineering lies an animal-a solid, safe and very, very fast animal.

Yeah, we didn't believe it either, but our man Cleve Mason at Volvo insisted we try it anyway. "If you hate it, I'll buy you guys dinner at the best place in Ventura," Mason said. What the hell? We were hungry-dinner on Cleve would be great. How good could an S40 be?

For the record, this isn't an 'officially sanctioned' Volvo project; you won't find this stuff at your local dealer. And Mason isn't on Volvo's PR team. He's one of those invisible office guys who do 'stuff' to keep the company running.

"I just wanted to show how good the S40 can be," he says. "Although it's probably not the direction Volvo would encourage, I think these things have great potential... and it has the 'uniqueness' factor."

Performance is far from dead at Volvo. The T5 models are right up there with Europe's best luxury makes. To hang with the big boys, a few simple nudges are all it really takes.

Those 'nudges' took place in Gothenburg, Sweden, where a few enthusiastic Volvo engineers looked for something to do after work. If we've learned one thing, it's never to underestimate a Swede-those long, dark winters conspire to produce truly awesome cars. And no doubt about it, this is one of them.

The lads borrowed heavily from the S60 R, pirating select internal and external engine bits, including pistons, injectors, airbox, exhaust manifold and the larger K04 turbocharger. The all-aluminum five-cylinder engine's output was augmented with dual variable cam timing and its 2.5 liters benefit from a custom intercooler, external oil cooler and Volvo's special ECU tuning. The Swedes estimate 320 to 330 hp, enough to propel this car to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds.

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