It's fair to say that Volvo has one of the strongest, most clearly-defined images in the automotive industry. Even if you've never driven a Volvo, what's the first word that comes into your mind when you hear this brand name? That's right. Safety. In particular, passive safety--elements designed to protect you when sheet metal starts crumpling and you no longer have control of the situation. Along with its other strengths--durability and reliability--Volvo stood for safety when safety wasn't cool. The Swedish carmaker's pioneering work in this area has helped to make dramatic improvements in crash survivability, not only in Volvo products but throughout the industry at large. This is an enviable record, but there's just one problem. Safety is obviously important, and it's increasingly high on the priority lists of today's car buyers. But safety isn't exactly exciting. Although Volvo's new 850 sedans and wagons measure up to European standards of stability and agility, their outstanding performance in the realm of occupant protection conjures up visions of amored personnel carriers. All of which explains the 850R, the newest member of Volvo's front-drive 850 lineup. It has all the usual Volvo virtues, but it has something more compelling, something we don't usually associate with this brand: This here Svenska can scoot, ladies and gentlemen. It has the handling and brakes you'd expect of something wearing a BMW badge, and it can hustle from 0 to 60 mph in about 6 seconds.