2003 S80 New Car Test Drive
Easily the best-looking Volvo in more than a generation, the flagship S80 is luxurious, roomy and safe. It's terrific on the open highway with a smooth ride and Gibraltar stability. Inside, the S80 is welcoming, attractive and understated. A highly evolved six-cylinder engine smoothly powers the front wheels. The twin-turbocharged T6 version delivers outstanding acceleration.
Volvo designed the S80 to compete against the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, Jaguar S-Type, Acura 3.5 RL, Cadillac Seville, Lexus GS, Lincoln LS and Saab 9-5. That's tough opposition, and a few of those cars offer significantly better handling. But the S80 compensates with its near-silent ride and unique look and personality, as well as Volvo's renowned engineering designed to protect its passengers.
For 2003, Volvo has deleted the power moonroof and leather upholstery from the base S80 2.9, and reduced its list price by nearly $2000. The T6 model now includes Volvo's On Call Plus communications system. And last year's 75th Anniversary Edition continues as the S80 T6 Elite.
Volvo builds three versions of the S80.
The base-level S80 2.9 ($36,455) is powered by a 2.9-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 194 horsepower. Last year's leather upholstery and power moonroof have been deleted in favor of a lower list price. But a leather steering wheel is now standard, as are most of the other goodies associated with a luxury sedan, including automatic air conditioning with dual controls, power windows, alloy wheels, and anti-lock brakes. A $1995 Premium Package adds back the moonroof and leather upholstery that were standard last year (and brings the total price back to last year's $38,450). Ordered separately, leather costs $1400, and the moonroof $1200.
S80 T6 ($43,935) is equipped with twin turbochargers, boosting the output of that same 2.9-liter six to 268 horsepower. T6 also comes with traction control and lower-profile tires (P225/50HR17, in place of the 2.9's P215/55R16s). In both cases, the tires are Michelin MXM4s. For 2003, Volvo's On Call Plus telematics/mobile phone system is also standard, along with a 12-month subscription to the service.
Both the naturally aspirated and twin-turbo engines drive the front wheels through an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. But only the T6 has Volvo's Geartronic manual override.
The rear compartment of the S80 T6 Elite ($46,995) is re-configured for an additional two inches of legroom. Special hinges allow the rear doors to open wider. Other rear-seat amenities include seat heaters, burl wood trim, and a console with two 12-volt outlets. There's even a miniature DVD player with twin seven-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) screens. And if you like snacks with your flicks, you can add a small refrigerator for $700. Production will be limited to just 100 cars, so get your order in early.
On Call Plus is optional on the base model for $835. Traction control for the base model costs $695. A Warm Weather Package ($575) for all three models includes an air quality system (AQS), an infrared-reflective front windshield, an electric sun curtain for the rear window, and manual curtains for the rear side windows. For cold weather driving, the Climate Package ($625 on 2.9 and T6, standard on Elite) includes the air quality system, headlamp wipers and washers, heated front seats and Rainsensor Windshield Wipers. The Rainsensor wipers replace the intermittent wiper control and automatically adjust wiper speed based on the amount of water sensed on the windshield.