The S80 is Volvo’s chivalrous answer to the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series, mid-sized executive juggernauts. The S80 was first introduced in 1998, the second generation followed in 2006 and since this period its remained unchanged give or take a few styling updates. Meanwhile next generation ‘Beemers’ and Mercs have come and are nearly gone.
The S80 comes with two trim levels, SE Nav and SE Lux which has five derivative models, and a range of 4-cylinder turbodiesel engines starting with a 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre and the top spec 2.0-litre 5-cylinder version.
The engines are mated to either a 5-speed manual and two automatic transmissions, the six-speed Powershift or the eight speed Geartronic. Prices start from £30k for entry level specs and increase to around £40k plus for fully loaded top spec models.
Volvo have continually tweaked the S80 design, new front and rear bumpers and wider grilles were the most recent changes. All told the styling is regressive compared to the XC60, S60 and so on let alone the 5 Series and E Class.
That said its solidly built on the outside and within, when you close the doors it feels like shutting a high-security bank vault and you begin to wonder can that 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine cope with this mass. On the inside you get a spacious interior that has a cosseting ambience. There is almost a stillness in the air as you inspect the cabin, its faultless in terms of build quality and materials used and feels more “with the times” that the exterior design suggests.
“All told the S80 is what it is, a comfortable cruiser, end of, that is able to soak up bumps like marsh mellows soak up a frothy coffee. If you accept that then you can forgive its less than sporting attributes of which there are few.”
Equipment levels are good, but you do pay for it, the S80 D4 SE Lux on test sits just below the top spec horizon, various options up the expense to near £40k. The S80 may look traditional but its got Volo’s TFT digital instrument binnacle and a host of options ranging from heated front seats to driver safety features such as Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake, lane departure and blind spot warning indicators. Some of these feature are standard in the SE Lux and some optional, like the paddle shift levers on the steering wheel which are an extra £150.
The seats tell you a lot about the S80’s true nature, they are comfortable and wrap around you and that’s pretty much what the driving experience is like. Don’t expect the S80 to be sporting in any way, sure Volvo gives you the driving modes but that’s like a Mahout asking an Elephant to perform ballet moves. So there will be no description of the steering feel, bump rebound, or anything else besides. Although I could mention the front and rear hydraulic shock absorbers do an impressive job of alienating troubled road surfaces with distinction.
All told the S80 is what it is, a comfortable cruiser, end of, that is able to soak up bumps like marsh mellows soak up a frothy coffee. If you accept that then you can forgive its less than sporting attributes of which there are few.
Volvo like all manufactures are downsizing their range of engines, the old thirsty petrol engines are slowly being phased out and in their place, for the UK at least, are a new range of diesels, a hybrid S80 is not yet available. The 4-cylinder 2.0-litre engine emits 160bhp and crucially 400Nm of torque and the latter gives the S80 the right amount of power to weight ratio that enables smooth and powerful acceleration. At idle the engine does sound rather louder than offerings from Audi and BMW but out on the motorway the diesel noise fades and overall the S80 is well insulated from the elements.
The 8 speed transmission is a huge bonus in terms of fuel efficiency, you can drive at 90mph, in 8th gear and the S80 will effortlessly cruise at just below 2,500 rpm which is the golden zone for fuel economy barons and you will still get up to 47mpg on a combined run. However drive around in an urban setting and the Geartronic feels a little clunky, there is a bit of lag when accelerating in first gear but out on the open road the transmission is as smooth as butter at room temperature.
The S80 may be stuck in a styling time warp but underneath the layer of tradition its been continually updated, new technology and cleaner more efficient diesel engines. The D4 emits 116g/km of C02 so this old dog is now cheaper to tax.
Tax issues aside the Volvo S80 is a no less than refined alternative to a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E Class. Its more discreet than the latter three and its designed for one thing, comfort and ease of comfort and if you understand that than you can live with the S80’s looks.