Equipped with Volvo's Haldexbased all-wheel drive, this S40 tends to squat during hard launches, the same behavior most Audi Quattros exhibit. However, the power delivery is much different, more of a progressive surge than explosive charge. Nearly all its torque is available at 2000 rpm and the engine feels like it'll never run out of steam. Rowing through Volvo's six-speed manual is a study in precision-its weight and spacing is ideal, with the ratios well matched to the power curve.

Mason modded the suspension with Koni's brilliant FSD shocks and Eibach springs. Mazdaspeed upper control arm links correct excessive negative rear camber while H&R anti-roll bars reduce understeer. Beneath the handsome BBS CH wheels (8x18 inches' worth) are Rotora 13- inch brake rotors with four-piston calipers and braided brake lines. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires measure 235/40 at all corners and are grippy as hell-a real surprise given their unusual transverse tread pattern. The body wears Volvo's own accessory bits, including front and rear spoilers, rocker extensions and a small decklid spoiler.

The result is the most rewarding Volvo I've ever driven. This S40 'R' feels tight and precise, its chassis neither too hard nor too soft. Cornering prowess is excellent, giving the driver plenty of time to correct wayward lines. The bigger Rotora binders are easy to modulate, with an extremely firm pedal. The only problem I've found is that the larger rear running gear sometimes rubs against the inside fender-it's easily fixable and certainly forgivable.

This is exactly the type of car we love to see. Sadly, it will be hard to duplicate over here, as this Euro-spec car was a fairly base model: no sunroof, a manual transmission, manually adjustable seat, no vanity mirrors, etc. Dealers hate cars like this... not enough markup potential.

Yes, Mason was obsessed with this project, determined to make Volvo a player in the ultra-hot sport sedan market. Congratulations dude, you win. I guess we're buying dinner.

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