Volvo has transitioned from R-badged cars delivering increased performance to R-Design vehicles carrying more visual horsepower, but no additional underhood muscle. Volvo's R-Design models are well-trimmed and attractive, and Volvo wants to see if there's interest in an S80 wearing more athletic trappings. A tentative step toward a full-blown R-Design S80 is being tried in the UK, where an R-Design interior package is available on Volvo's top sedan.
The toe-dip into full-on R-Design waters will indicate whether there's enough demand to warrant working up a body kit. Tack-ons would include a rear spoiler, sportier fascia, and sill extensions for more visual aggression. The typical R-Design chassis tweaks wouldn't be needed, since the S80 can already be had with a sport-tuned chassis, so really, Volvo's most of the way to an R-Design S80 already.
Volvo is also keeping up with its green consciousness by fitting Start/Stop to many of its models, and testing reaction to that system on the S80 is another area Volvo is researching. Putting a Stop/Start S80 into production is possible, but would require some substantial rewiring and would increase the cost of the car. Volvo spokesman Chris Wailes told Autocar that hybrids will be in the model mix for 2012, and will use the most efficient engine possible mated to hybrid equipment that should return better economy than what Honda and Toyota are currently serving. However, don't expect a hybrid Volvo S80 to compete with the likes of the Toyota Prius.