Join Date: Nov 2004
15 GOLF R
Caresto T6 Roadster
Psssst. Here's a secret: the car you see pictured here isn't an Italian supercar, a British seat-of-the-pants sports car or an American-built hot rod. It comes from Sweden and - deep breath - it's a Volvo.
The car maker universally known for creating middle-of-the-road, middle-class motors seems to have finally flipped. The car is called a Caresto T6 Roadster and it is everything that Volvo is not: it's fast, exciting and daring and there's not a "Baby on board" sticker in sight. It is to all intents and purposes an antiVolvo.
Underneath the composite and aluminium bodywork is the DNA of the XC90 school-run SUV. Stuffed beneath the bump-erless rear end is the latter's straight-six, twin-turbo petrol motor, and the Caresto is also equipped with Volvo's four-speed Geartronic automatic gear-box. With roughly a third of the XC90's weight to lug around and a healthy hike in power to 330bhp, the T6 boasts performance levels that would have Volvo's usual customers slack-jawed with shock.
The car is the brainchild of Leif Tufvesson, who worked at the Volvo Concept Centre before running the development programmes for Koenigsegg, the Swedish hypercar builder.
Tufvesson started his company, Caresto, in 2004. The T6 Roadster was his first creation, and Volvo liked it so much, it somewhat cheekily claimed it as its own. Tufvesson has now produced three models, all with a uniting theme: they're Volvos, but not as we know them.
Unbelievably, the Caresto T6 Roadster is road-legal. Well, it is in Sweden. In the UK the exposed wheels make the car illegal, but a set of mudguards would solve that problem, and Caresto builds these £100,000 cars to order.
Getting into it with the double-bubble glass canopy in place is not pretty when you're a big man like me, but no worse than posting yourself into a smallish sports car such as a Lotus Elise. Once I'm in, all I can think is: thank goodness it's an automatic, because there is no space for a clutch pedal or, for that matter, both of my knees.
A quick look around at the beautifully finished interior and you realise that this is no home-brewed, chop-shop special.
Everything is better than factory fit, and it's a bit odd to spot all the Volvo-ness inside. The gear-lever is a Volvo unit, as is the surround. The key is from a Volvo; the dials are from a Volvo, albeit stretched and reshaped better to nestle into the custom dash. It even smells of Volvo.
It patently isn't a Volvo, though. After all, how many Swedish estates have you sat in with carbon-fibre panels and a dashboard that's hand-beaten from aluminium and then shrouded in leather? As you peer out through the slim wind-screen, a pair of fully exposed 20in alloy wheels and tyres frames the bonnet. Glance in the mirrors and all you see is a graceful wave of bodywork and another chunk of uncovered rubber.
On the move, this is one hot rod that feels surprisingly friendly. You can potter about gingerly like Sven on a fishing trip and the T6 Roadster won't worry you in the slightest. That, however, is merely a testament to how thoroughly Tufvesson has engineered everything. The first time you floor the accelerator, the car lives up to its hot rod claims.
The T6 is eye-wideningly quick. And, just as important, it sounds quick too. With every shift up through the gears, the two turbos' air pressure is released with a loud whoosh, and the car belts towards the horizon with the kind of enthusiasm you usually get only from a serious supercar.
Tufvesson says he hasn't verified the performance of his outlandish creation, but it's clear it has the potential to sprint to 60mph in less than 5sec and a top speed that would threaten your sanity.
It's not all about straight-line speed. Unlike most hot rods, this one can handle bends just as well as it can fire itself up a drag strip. Under the head-turning bodywork is a tubular steel chassis, onto which Tufvesson has bolted custom-designed independent front and rear suspension with carbon-fibre leaf springs. He then positioned the engine a few inches behind the driver, affording good weight distribution and ample traction for the rear tyres, while the whole contraption weighs in at just 2,370lb, a little more than a ton, which is less than the average supermini.
And, boy, does it work well. It delivers the undiluted feedback every enthusiast craves. Driving my Audi hire car back to the air-port felt like trying to plough through 3ft of cotton wool.
Of course, it all comes at a cost. For £100,000 you could buy an Aston Martin V8 Vantage and keep the change, or a Porsche 911 Turbo. With the T6, though, your money would be buying something that's as rare as it gets in the world of exotic cars: a hot rod of supercar capabilities tailored to your exact requirements - with a Volvo badge.
Hot Wheels specs
ENGINE 2922cc, six cylinders
POWER 330bhp @ 5400rpm
TORQUE 270 lb ft @ 2300rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed auto
FUEL / CO2 25.6mpg / n/a
ACCELERATION 0-62mph: 4.5sec (estimate)
TOP SPEED 150mph (estimate)
TAX BAND G (£400 a year)
VERDICT Exclusive, exciting, awesome
RELEASE DATE On sale now