Volvo S80 D5 SE Lux
26 August 2006
Volvo used its first S80 saloon to debut a brave new design direction where boring boxy lines were replaced by taut muscular curves. The world heralded the S80 as a positive step forward for the Swedish company.
Sadly, Volvo wasn't quite ready for a repeat performance with the new model. On first acquaintance, many will think the 'new' S80 is little more than a facelift injecting S40 DNA into an ageing luxo barge. Not so; the S80's all new and bears not only a striking similarity with the S40, unusually for a large car, it shares its smaller sibling's underpinnings too. Volvo engineers must have been burning the midnight oil to accommodate not only a stretch to the S80's bigger dimensions, but also a range-topping 4.4-litre 315PS V8 and its four-wheel drive hardware.
Engine-wise there will be two new units: the aforementioned V8 and a 238PS 3.2 straight six. There's also the option of a 200PS 2.5 petrol, but the fleet focus will be on the pair of 5-cylinder diesel 2.4s, available with 163 and 185PS outputs. All bar the 4x4 V8 have new six-speed gearboxes. We stuck with the more powerful of the two diesels. Offering plenty of punch and a sprint to 60mph in 8.0secs, the S80 mates well with diesel power. It promises an impressive combined fuel figure of 44.1mpg, but unfortunately there's some vibration through the steering wheel at idle and the unit isn't as refined as rivals' engines. There's also some engine and road noise when on the move.
However, the ride comfort of the regular suspension (switchable sport suspension is standard on the SE Sport model) is first rate on all surfaces. And instead of the lumbering beast of old, the new S80 now handles well, although lacking the ultimate finesse of a BMW or Jaguar.
What it does best is the business of soaking up mile after mile of motorways, with a pair of supremely comfortable armchairs offering just the right levels of support.
Inside is where the real improvements lie. The S40's 'floating' centre console has been adopted to great effect. There's an atmosphere of simplicity, elegance and quality, with a pleasingly low button count. Instead, you'll find a single Audi-esque control that operates audio, satnav and bluetooth phone controls.
Volvo will also introduce a collision avoidance system on its version of clever cruise control, as a £900 option, which works well, braking smoothly if the car's computer brain thinks you're too close to the car in front.
Cost-wise, the Volvo should be close to the mark with early RV predictions at the 42% mark. This is a huge leap over the outgoing car's 36%. The S80 may not be an original design or class-leading drive but it retains its excellent ride comfort and now has a high-tech reason to appeal in the ultra-tough executive market which, depending on final costs figures, should bring it closer to its rivals.