2009 Volvo S80
After a much needed redesign in 2007, the Volvo S80
is just beginning to settle into the automotive landscape. And after a successful if uneventful freshman year, it’s becoming clear that, if there’s one thing this car is good at, it’s subtlety. The S80 is quick, especially in V-8 guise, but in a nonchalant, sophisticated sort of way. It’s attractively modern, but rarely turns heads. In short, it’s a Volvo if we’ve ever seen one – cutting edge yet muted all at once. While the C30 might have been a stylistic departure for Volvo, the 2008 S80 is simply an evolution of its former self, which is fine by us. The cabin is well appointed and stylistically modern, with its clean-cut floating center console, computerized gauges and simple yet magnificent seats. Of course there’s plenty of safety technology available on option from the stereotypically caution-minded brand, and as far as mid-size luxury sedans go, the S80 is a pleasure to live with. Just don’t expect it to thrill you to death – Swedish as it might be, it’s no six-foot blonde.
What's to Like
The S80 features sleek, modern styling both inside and out. There’s plenty of legroom and adults will be perfectly comfortable in the back seat. They’ll be warm too, with optional rear seat heaters. The car’s ride provides excellent levels of comfort for extended rides. Numerous and impressive safety options are on offer. It is a Volvo, after all.
What's Not to Like
Even though a V-8 powered model is on hand, its dynamics lack the poise of the performance-oriented competition. Despite the use of a six-speed transmission, city fuel economy remains low, even with the six-cylinder engines. The V-8 model is a bit on the svindyr side, at $11k over the base model.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
For the most part, the S80 has a compliant, comfortable ride, making it perfect for daylong rides and mundane commutes. The seats are incredibly comfortable, the steering wheel well proportioned, and optional active cruise control makes long drives as painless as possible. However, if you run across an empty back road you’d like to carve into, it’s got a few technological tricks that make the drive a little more roligt. There’s three-mode adaptive suspension on hand known as Four-C, and the weight of the steering can be toggled through three modes, the heaviest giving the best steering ratio for sporty drives, though it remains relatively vague on feedback. Unsurprisingly, it likes to understeer at the limit, as Volvos tend to, but opt for either the T6 or V-8 engines and you’ll discover plenty of torque-filled punch when your right foot asks for it.
Engine and Drivetrain
The S80 T6 AWD is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six that produces 281 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. A 3.2-liter 235 hp inline six-cylinder is also available in front-wheel drive format, and the top of the line model uses a 4.4-liter, 311 hp V-8 to drive all four wheels. All drivetrains use a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Active suspension and steering, 18-inch alloy wheels, active bi-xenon headlights and sports seats with integrated fans to cool you off (a la Mercedes-Benz), are available as part of the Sport Package. Like any good Swedish car should, a cold weather package is on offer to help get through brutal, sunless winter months, and includes heated front and rear seats, heated headlamp washers and automatic rain-sensitive wipers. For the insanely paranoid and/or cautious, Volvo also offers a keyless entry system that tells drivers if the car is locked, if the alarm is armed, and if a heartbeat is detected within the car as they approach it. Thump, thump!
Key Technology Evaluation
The Collision Avoidance Package incorporates several impressive technological features including adaptive cruise control, radar-assisted collision warning with automatic braking and distance alert in case you’re cut off whilst your eyes are off the road. Additionally the package includes a lane departure warning system similar to Infiniti’s, which beeps at you if you cross a lane marker without your blinker activated. Also impressive is Volvo’s Blind Spot Information Sensor (BLIS), which uses digital cameras to detect cars in the your blind spot and, should a car be detected, illuminates a light next to the rearview mirror to alert drivers.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Despite having six gears to work with, the S80 returns uninspiring fuel economy in traffic, with the 3.2 inline six-cylinder achieving 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. The 3.0-liter turbo and V-8 both yield slightly less at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, numbers that are on par with the V-8 competition. Despite the poor mileage, environmentalists will be happy to learn that all three engines achieve outstanding ULEV-II emissions ratings.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The interior of the S80 is simplistic and very clean-cut, offering a refreshing alternative to the button-filled interiors of some of its competitors. All of the controls have a quality tactile weight and feel to them, and the seats are comfortable enough to put you to sleep in seconds. We like the twin computer screens that sit within the gauges, even if Mercedes-Benz beat Volvo to the punch.
The S80 is an attractive car, its long nose making it best viewed from a rear three-quarters view, though very low front-end shots also help to hide its snout. The sloping rear window blends into the attractive tail in contemporary European style. Volvo offers a variety of rims, though we’d say it looks best on the seven-spoke 18s; avoid chrome at all costs – it just doesn’t fit the brand or the country of origin.
Market Segment and Pricing
At first glance the S80 appears to be somewhat of a bargain, with the 3.2-liter’s MSRP coming in at $38,705. However, the price grows quickly with other specifications, T6 AWD comes in at $42,045, and the V8 AWD racks the price up to $49,210. We’d say the T6 AWD is probably the best compromise, and it prices well against its competitors, which include the $46,280 Acura RL
, $42,950 Audi A6 3.2
and $43,900 Infiniti M35
, though it remains underpriced by Hyundai’s new $37,250 V-8 equipped Genesis.
What We Think
Thanks to a simple, comfortable interior, attractive styling and variety of engine and drivetrain choices, the Volvo S80 presents a refreshing alternative to the competition. If you’re a safety-phile, there’s little questioning its cutting-edge safety technologies, but there’s plenty left for those who are looking for a plush mid-size sedan with a Scandinavian twist. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about seeing another one parked on every block.