2009 Volvo S80 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Luxurious sedan offers sumptuous cabin, all-wheel drive.
The Volvo S80 is fast, comfortable and roomy. Big and luxurious, it's Volvo's flagship sedan. It rides nice around town and it's powerful and tracks straight as an arrow at high speeds.
The S80 offers a choice of engines: a powerful V8 and two six-cylinder engines, including a new T6 turbocharged six-cylinder.
Built by Yamaha, the V8 sounds like a Corvette engine when it first starts up then settles to a smooth idle. It's smooth and creamy when cruising and very responsive. At high speeds the S80 is quiet and smooth. Its performance (0-60 in 6.5 seconds) should please most buyers, especially when the weather turns bad and the all-wheel drive can shine.
Steering effort and chassis settings are adjustable, allowing the driver to adjust for smooth, soft sailing or taut control for more responsive handling. We found the car handles quite well for a large luxury car.
Inside is a sumptuous cabin with comfortable seats, Bang and Olufsen audio, and an available navigation system. Adaptive cruise control allows the driver to maintain set following distances with the cars ahead: the system will accelerate or slow the car as needed.
The S80 is loaded with safety equipment, from its protective structure to its state-of-the-art active and passive safety features.
We think the S80 is the best overall car ever to come out of Sweden, slick, modern, pretty but understated, quick and powerful. It's relatively sporty and there aren't any rough edges on this package anywhere.
The 2008 Volvo S80 is available with an inline-six-cylinder engine and front wheel drive ($38,705), a V8 engine and all-wheel-drive ($49,210), or the T6 turbocharged six-cylinder ($42,045)
Option packages for the S80 include the Sport package ($2,495) with 18-inch alloy wheels and 245/40R18 tires and speed-sensitive steering with three-way adjustable steering effort. An audio upgrade includes a six-CD changer, MP3 player, auxiliary input and USB. Other options include satellite navigation with remote control ($2,120), adaptive cruise control ($1,495), front and rear park assist ($495), and dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system ($1,800).
The safety package on the S80 is world-class, from the patented body structure to the ABS, traction control, yaw control; front airbags; the new dual-chamber side airbags, with one chamber for the hips and one for the chest; radar adaptive cruise control that can brake the car without driver action; the collision warning system with pre-braking; and the optional blind-spot information system, or BLIS ($695), that senses vehicles in the right and left blind spots and delivers a warning if there's something there. The headlights are active xenon lamps that follow the road around curves. Also included in the safety roster is the Personal Car Communicator, a new electronic key fob design that can lock or unlock the car from distances up to 110 yards, and can tell you what state the locks are in. It can activate the alarm, and can sense the presence of a human heartbeat inside the car. A traffic distance warning system on top of the dash triggers a flashing red light and an audible warning, both of which can be defeated by the driver if desired. And those are just the highlights.
The Volvo S80 looks like a big version of the S60 and S40 sedans.
It's not as long as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or a Cadillac STS.
The S80 features a large grille opening, a sporty bumper and under-grille treatment, large headlamps, a domed hood, a whole new rear end treatment with large taillamps and a sportier bumper, a roof that works better in the wind tunnel, and body sides that are free of moldings.
The instruments feature the traditional Volvo trapezoidal binnacle. The freestanding center stack that connects the dashboard to the console is a key interior design element, adding Bang & Olufsen elegance to the interior design.
The switches, controls and instruments follow traditional Volvo design themes, but everything is contemporary, including the tachometer and speedometer, more classic and less industrial than the previous design.
The navigation system, when ordered, pops up out of the dashtop, either by using the new steering-wheel-mounted controls on the right rear of the wheel or the provided remote control, which stores in the console. We found the steering wheel controls a bit fussy and hard to use, but owners will figure them out quickly.
A menu system tailors the seats, rearview mirrors, climate control, audio, navigation, and, the amount of steering wheel feel in the car's speed-dependent power steering system.
The sumptuous surroundings in the S80 are amplified by the wonderfully comfortable seats and the extra front and rear legroom that Volvo hopes will help to put the new car squarely into the luxury class. The seats are available plain, heated, or heated and cooled.
The 160-watt, eight-speaker sound system will play MP3 files and has an auxiliary input for iPods and other players. Volvo will also offer a five-channel, 13-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound system developed in-house with Bang & Olufsen and Dynaudio.
The Volvo S80 is a rock-solid sedan, a wonderful steed for covering large swaths of highway quickly and comfortably.
We were impressed with the V8 engine, which sounds like a Corvette when first fired up in the morning then settles down to a nice, smooth idle. This engine is a Yamaha-designed 60-degree V8 with balance shafts, so it doesn't sound like a conventional 90-degree V8. It's smooth and creamy all the way up the rev range to 6500 rpm, and for its relatively small displacement, it pulls very well and can easily sustain speeds of 135 mph on the open road. The V8 gets an EPA-rated 15/23 mpg City/Highway.
The six-cylinder engine gets an EPA-rated 16/24 mpg (with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive). The T6 is rated at 15/23 miles per gallon.
At high cruising speeds, the cabin is quiet, with a bit of wind noise off the tires and a bit of tire noise coming in.
The Volvo chassis system underneath the S80 is an evolution of the 4C chassis, with adaptive shock absorbers changing second by second according to inputs from the road and the car itself. The system offers three different settings: Comfort, Sport, and Advanced.
Steering effort is adjustable, and we found the firmest setting to be ideal for our tastes: hefty and solid, the way we like our steering. With the steering set this way and the Advanced settings plugged into the chassis system, the Volvo was a paragon of driving for the sheer fun of it, taut, quick to react, and flat in the corners, with the V8 engine always ready to play.
We experienced the adaptive cruise control system, which worked as advertised to maintain our preset distance to the car ahead in the fast lane, and we heard and saw the collision warning system mounted directly in front of the driver on the dashtop, a system which we quickly silenced on the crowded two-lane roads.
We found the brakes powerful and quick and positive when used hard from high speeds (100 mph).
Modern, pretty but understated, quick and powerful, the Volvo S80 is an excellent choice among luxury sedans. It's surefooted stance and solid on the highway. The all-wheel-drive system that comes on most models adds to an impressive safety package.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw reported from Sweden, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Volvo S80 ($38.705); AWD; T6 AWD ($42,045); V8 AWD ($49,210).
Options As Tested
navigation system, blind-spot information system.
Volvo S80 V8 AWD ($49,210).
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