One day, while driving past my local Volvo dealer (in my brother's long-term-loan V70), I spotted a black sedan in the forecourt.
“That's an S80, you don't see many of them,” and “that's pretty cheap ($25K)," I thought to myself.
The next time I went to the dealer for a service, I had a good look at the black sedan. I had to Google “Volvo V8 AWD”, as I didn't know they even existed.
Being both cunning and devious, the head mechanic threw me the key fob for the S80, and told me to “take it for a spin, see what you think”.
Wet day, fair amount of traffic, so I drove like an old man for several kilometres. When I found a clear bit of road, I put my foot down. Cue several bad words and a lot of laughing. Stupendous traction and a howling Yamaha V8 are a great combination. Before the test drive was finished, I was working out how to pay for the car... which I eventually got for $21K.
This is a 2007 Volvo S80 V8 AWD, in metallic black (not my favourite colour, but meh). It comes with all the fruit you would expect in a flagship sedan – full leather interior, heated and cooled electric seats with memory, sunroof, 12-speaker 650W audio system with six-CD stacker, six airbags, auto climate control, full electric windows, 18-inch alloys and bi-xenon active headlights.
It misses out on factory sat-nav (good!) and stuff like blind-spot warning (not needed, thanks).
First, let me say that this is not a sports car, or a sporty sedan or anything else like that. Think of it as a Swedish muscle car. A powerful V8, but done Nordic style – so four doors with good rear room, six-speed auto, AWD (Haldex IV, which splits torque between 95:5 and 50:50) and the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in. And the audio system is epic. 12 speakers from Dynaudio, driven by an Alpine digital amplifier.
So, what's it like to drive? Let's start with the good points:
The engine is a 4.4-litre 60-degree V8 designed by Yamaha, putting out 232kW and 440Nm. 0-100 comes up in 6.2 secs, 80-120 in 3.8 secs (tested). It's smooth and torquey, with a great V8 rumble (particularly after I replaced the mufflers, ahem).
This is an excellent long distance cruiser, supremely comfortable and relaxing. Grip and traction are beyond reproach, and the ride is generally good.
Fuel economy is not bad, either. Currently, with 80 per cent of my driving in the 'burbs, I am averaging 13L/100km. The best I've seen is 6.2L/100km and the worst, 16.5L/100km. Hey, it weighs around 1750kg. And despite that heft, stopping power is good. The brakes are powerful and progressive (336/305mm ventilated rotors).
The not so good?
The 4C (adjustable) suspension, which changes the damper rates, doesn't quite work. “Comfort” is too soft/bouncy, “Sport” is almost right, and “Advanced” is too harsh. Stiffer springs improve things a lot (my next mod).
The turning circle is bad, a boat-like 12.2m, thanks to a transverse engine and wide tyres, but at least parking sensors all round help.
Due to the soft suspension, push too hard and you will get moderate understeer.
And insurance is on the steep side, as they always charge you for what the car cost new ( around $100K), not what it's worth now (and I have comprehensive, duh).
Reliability, you ask? Pretty good. No major problems. I did get a five-year add-on warranty when I bought the car which covers most mechanicals. This necessitates 10km/six-month services (basically an oil change and full safety check) which usually costs around $250.
A noisy power steering pump was replaced under warranty. The radiator developed a leak after a nasty country road pothole impact, which cost me a bit more due to labour.
The only mods I have done to the car are to replace the standard tyres (245/40) with slightly taller ones (245/45), which are much cheaper and give a better ride. A bigger cold air intake improves airflow into the engine, and the rear mufflers were replaced with straight though sports mufflers (with standard looking tips), which sound better and have freed up some power/torque.
Overall, I am very happy with my sleeper, and would miss it if anything happened to it. After almost 200,000 kms, the interior is almost like new (no creaks, rattles et cetera), everything works, and the engine runs beautifully (on E10/95/98 RON) without using/losing any oil. Would I consider replacing it with another? Yes, I would.
Bloody Volvo Driver? Damn right, I am!