Our Fleet Test Drive: Volvo S80 - Final Report
09 July 2007
Moist eyes all round as the Volvo saloon we loved hauling on long journeys leaves us forever
I know that every time I eye up a lengthy motorway journey for the next few months, I'll be thinking of our long-term S80.
After six months and more than 5000 miles in mainly long straight lines, the big Volvo has returned to its maker, leaving us in no doubt as to where its strengths lie.
Our 2.4-litre diesel S80 in SE trim arrived just before Christmas last year, complete with what was then £1370 worth of options including metallic paint, rear parking sensors and heated seats. Since then, the SE's excellent standard leather seats  have switched onto the options list, too, as part of a price and spec realignment to put the Swedish brand in line with their German rivals - BMW and Audi don't give standard leather on SE equivalent cars so Volvo has taken the 'if you can't beat them join them' course of action, claiming it wasn't getting the credit with RV powerbrokers for the additional spec. The leather seats, which provide extra comfort, are now a £1200 option but are totally worth the outlay if you can afford it.
The spec change seems to be working to a certain extent, with a slight RV uplift witnessed in the time the car's been with us.
Taking four adults down to Paris for the weekend just before Christmas suited the S80 down to the ground; the in-car conversation failed to find another £26,000 car better equipped for such a task. Ride and seat comfort, space, refinement, good stereo with iPod facility, cruise control and a decent boot  were the criteria, and the Volvo fitted the bill to a tee.
It's not quite playing to its strengths around town, though. The ride quality falls away on broken urban surfaces, and a heavy clutch pedal makes town driving a little tiresome. Saying that, we'd still save the cash and take the manual gearbox over the auto.
The only problem we experienced in six months was self-inflicted, with a piece of debris dislodging a cover on the underside, but the dealer fixed it without fuss.
There were, however, a couple of surprising little ergonomic moans with our S80. The electronic handbrake  is a bit of a stretch, tucked down and to the right of the steering wheel, while the lack of clutch footrest and rear jacket hook also disappointed.
The best fuel consumption figure we achieved came from our light-footed art director who managed 38.4mpg - still some way off the claimed 44.8 average figure, which was surprising. The run to Paris yielded only 35.6, though that was at brisk pace.
The S80 is no dynamic rival to a BMW 5-series, but how many people considering executive saloons are looking for rapid b-road machines?
The only thing that worries me about the Volvo is whether the very sober styling is enough to attract a new breed of customer brought in by exciting products like the C30 or XC90. What it does, it does very well, it's just a case of whether that's enough to get people to swap the keys of their admittedly more expensive or lower-specced German exec for the Swedish fob.