Car Advice Rating (out of 5):
2007 is going to be a busy year for Volvo with up to six new launches including the widely acclaimed C30.
Wasting no time, Volvo has just released Scandinavia’s finest, the new flagship model - S80.
The superbly chassised Volvo S40, first produced in 2004, appears to be the lead donor for the much improved styling cues, which grace both the exterior and interior of the new S80.
This second generation car represents a milestone for Volvo. It’s the first time they have dropped a V8 engine into a sedan and we hope it’s not the last.
The 4.4 litre Yamaha built V8 is a gem of a powerplant and a perfect match with the S80. If on the other hand, power is not your thing, you can opt for either the 3.2 litre inline 6 or the 2.4 litre Turbo Diesel powerplant, called the D5.
We drove the V8 and the Turbo Diesel models, while the six cylinder variant won’t be available in Australia until late March.
The new S80 is a whole lot faster looking car than the model it replaces. The subtle changes which affect almost all panels have produced a beautifully sculptured and muscular motor car.
I was keen to kick off the drive in the V8 – who wouldn’t, given that it rates on the prestigious US website “forbes.com” as the first entry in their “What We Can’t Wait To Drive In 2007” list.
It’s sure nice to see a set of reasonably wide pipes at the rear of the 4.4 litre S80, even if they are discretely positioned. 18 inch “Venator” alloys are standard on the V8, but our car had the optional “Bling” chrome treatment which I was particularly happy with. The louder the Volvo, the better.
“Scandinavian luxury” is how Volvo describes the interior styling in the S80, and the moment your behind settles into the sumptuous leather pews, is the moment any back pain you might have had prior to this experience, simply vanishes.
It’s all about minimalist luxury and functional switchgear compared to the mostly over-teched German rivals where impossibly thick owner’s manuals are mandatory reading for even basic tasks.
Although the “floating” centre console has been retained in the S80, it has unfortunately lost that exquisite “Bang & Olufsen” slim line look, which was both a treat to use and admire.
Nonetheless, there are lashings of superb brushed aluminium and wood inlays throughout the car, which along with some very fluid lines, lift this car to a position well and truly alongside more expensive offerings.
Sound from the Dolby/Dynaudio 12 speaker system is super high end and mercifully, you can plug your ipod directly into an auxiliary input and avoid the torturous misery of ad driven, commercial radio.
And if you are one of the millions who suffer from Asthma and allergies then you’ll be at peace in an S80. The interior materials have been chosen carefully, avoiding any substance which may inhibit clean air inside the cabin. I don’t suffer from allergies so I can’t report, but with the approval of the so called Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association, I’m certain you can breath easy.
Although close in length to BMW’s 5-Series which is considered a medium size car, the S80 will carry 5 adults comfortably with plenty of leg and head room due largely to the design and angle of the rear seats.
The aperture of the boot is not all that wide, so large boxes might be a struggle although capacity is a reasonable 480 litres making interstate family trips a breeze.
Both models come with a sizeable standard features list which includes:
The S80 has been blessed with a keyless start system, so just make sure the remote fob is on your person and hit the starter button, something I was anxious to do.
Just before I do that, let me brief you on the Fob, yes the Fob! It’s actually called the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) for good reason. You see, from a radius of around 60-100 metres, your PCC will let you know if your car is locked or unlocked or if the car’s alarm has been triggered. And here’s the piece de resistance – it can detect a heartbeat in the car just in case the intruder is hiding!
The 4.4 litre V8 produces a deliciously refined growl which seems ready and willing from any position on the rev counter. The throttle response is instant but without the slightest hint of harshness. This is a whole new game from Volvo and so far, so good.
With 232 kW of peak power at 5850rpm and a serious 440Nm at 3900rpm, it’s a wonderfully flexible powerplant which will accommodate effortless highway cruising, some hard charging on twisty country roads and off the line duels with unsuspecting Holden V8 drivers who want to have a go.
Sports sedan comes to mind when you are in the ‘giving it some stick’ mode and grip - well grip is just not an issue with Volvo’s Haldex AWD system on board and working in concert with Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) with yaw sensor.
You’ve also got some interesting choices to make behind the wheel of the S80 such as how much boost you want dialled into the power steering and what suspension settings you require.
We chose the least amount of boost setting, and therefore heavier weighted steering for those particularly windy sections and the car made light work of these at sometimes ferocious speeds.
There are three push button settings with the suspension setup, comfort, Sport and Advanced. We tried all three and while they pretty much work as labelled, the Advanced setting is not quite stiff enough and a long way short of that which was employed on Volvo’s aggressive V70 R wagon. A compromise between the two would be nice.
The standard Six-speed Geartronic make this car enormous fun to drive in either auto or manual mode, irrespective of which powerplant it is mated to. Shift changes are very rapid and gear ratios are well placed.
Our test car was optioned up with some bristling new technology in the guise of Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision warning and Brake Support and BLISS.
Designed for Highway use, the radar guided system will maintain a preset speed and distance from the car in front. If for some reason you fail to react in the event on a likely collision (that’s a forward collision) then you’ll receive an audible and visual warning. The brakes will also pre-apply in readiness for emergency breaking by the driver which will also activate the emergency brake lights (they flash).
Interestingly, Volvo is currently developing a fully automatic system which will bring the car to a complete stop, without driver input. (Click the link above to view the footage)
You might be wondering what the heck BLISS is. That’s Blind Spot Information System, and it’s a good thing for those of us who like to change lanes more frequently than others. The moment a car or motorcycle enters your blind spot, an orange light mounted just inside both side mirror assemblies, alerts the driver.
Whilst the company is on a design roll at the moment with the S80 and the soon to arrive C30, one thing is certain, your safety is their priority and as you might expect, there are airbags everywhere.
If you’re worried about fuel economy with a high powered V8 engine – there’s no cause for alarm as this is a highly efficient powerplant which is rated at 11.9L/100km combined, provided you’re not trigger happy with the throttle.
The 2.4 litre S80 D5 on the other hand will return a measly 7.2L/100km and puts out 136kW at 4000rpm and a significant 400Nm at 2000-2750rpm.
Roll-on acceleration in the D5 is strong although, off the line acceleration is not overly rewarding and reflects the relatively small capacity of this engine.
That said, the power specifications put this car almost head to head with the Mercedes Benz E 280 CDI with 140kW and the same 440Nm of torque from what is essentially a 3-litre engine. But at a cool $101,500 for the Mercedes, the Volvo looks like a clear winner at $71,950.
Where the D5 shone though, was in the same twisty bits we hammered the V8 through earlier. And shock horror, the diesel powered S80 felt quicker and more nimble at speed over this terrain. The answer to this dilemma lies firmly in the weight department. The S80 V8 is 155kg heavier than the front wheel drive D5 and is precisely why it seemed a quicker steer.
Another interesting observation was that it took us a few minutes before we realised that the D5 was not all wheel drive but front wheel drive – given the speed and poise with which it conquered the bends.
Volvo has produced a world class car with no discernable faults and a price tag well south of its competitors
Volvo S80 V8 AWD Quick Reference Guide
Volvo S80 D5 Quick Reference Guide