- Sleek styling never gets old.
- Large luxurious interior.
- Powerful and torquey twin turbo engine.
- Lots of options to customise your S80.
- Quite a good handler.
- Somewhat pricey for a six-cylinder front-driver.
- Most of the options are pricey.
- Rear visibility is not the best.
- Hint of torque steer under hard acceleration.
- Rated a "reliability risk" by Consumer Guide.
Press Coverage :
The Volvo S80 has been more or less the same since its debut in 1999, which heralded the new design direction of Volvo for the new century. With a steep-sloping windshield, chiseled fenders and protruding nose, the S80 was like nothing Volvo had ever produced before. The S80 replaced the short-lived boxy S90 large sedan in Volvo's lineup. A wagon version of the old S90 was available, called the V90, but wagon duties have been taken over by the S60-related V70 wagon in the current lineup. But while it has redefined Ford-owned Swedish-built Volvo, it hasn't exactly redefined the large-sedan market. With a relatively small turbocharged engine putting down power through the front wheels, it iis far from the rear-wheel-drive V8 boats that Americans are used to. But curiously enough, the S80 in T6 trim can outperform many such large sedans with ease. The only downside is price, but the level of technology offered is more than the Americans while still being cheaper than the Germans. The only brands that could be considered competition are the new-age Japanese luxury marques and Sweden's own Saab to a certain extent.
For 2004, the S80 is evolved into a better car, with improved handling, quieter ride and a much-deserved facelift. Still powered by a twin turbo six-cylinder engine, it extracts every ounce of horsepower it can from its 2.9L displacement. With a peak power figure of 268 horsepower hitting at 5200 rpm, there is no shortage of grunt. On top of that, a massive 280 lb-ft of torque comes up at only 1800 rpm and stays flat up to 5000 rpm before dropping off at high revs, so you hit the engine's sweet spot before it even starts making any noise. Volvo certainly is shedding it's "boring and safe" image for "fast and safe." The only problem is the hint of torque steer that shows up under hard acceleration, as expected, but it is nowhere near as heart-stopping as the 850 T5 of old. An AWD version should join the lineup soon. Handling is pretty impressive for such a large front-driver, helped along by large 17-inch wheels, revised well-weighted steering and well-tuned suspension, although its cornering limit is lower than that of a late-90s BMW 5-Series. For more flexibility, a value-packed $995 Four-C suspension package can be ordered, which can vary suspension settings according to the road surface, while reducing body roll during spirited driving. The S80 T6 is in its element in a straight line though, cutting through the wind thanks to its 0.28 Cd body shape, with shifting taken care of by the Geartronic automanual. Braking is merely adequate, even with the all-wheel disc brakes helped by ABS.
The interior is filled with traditional luxury appointments, but a pricey Premier edition offers better leather and wood, overkill DVD entertainment system and what not. Options on all S80 models include $500 high-intensity headlights, $400 reverse warning monitor, and $695 Dynamic Stability and Traction Control. A better stereo, metallic paint, navigation system and better-looking wheels all cost extra.
The styling changes are so precise that they include new exterior rear view mirrors designed to reduce wind noise and help keep the side windows cleaner. The S80's tasteful two-tone color scheme ties the cabin together in cool, muted hues, from the dashboard and glove box to the doors and kick panels. The spare use of a simple, dark simulated wood lends a nice, understated accent. For 2004, the interior has been updated with new door trim panels, chrome-accented ventilation system controls, redesigned gauges, and charcoal-colored trim around the center console.
The available leather seats feel rich and firm and provide ample support, with just enough bolstering for a snug fit. Getting in and out of them takes little effort, as the seating position is upright and the doors open wide. The S80 has a roomy back seat and Volvo did not neglect comfort here. The wide rear bench easily accommodates three adults, with legroom compromised only when the front seats are in their rearmost position. All three rear seats have electrically retractable headrests as well; pressing a button on the center stack gets them out of the way for improved rearward visibility.
The S80 has a large, deep trunk made all the more accessible by its low lift-over height. Carrying a lot of cargo is no problem. A release inside the trunk allows the rear seat back to fold down for even more cargo capacity (except on the T6 Elite, where the reconfigured seat does not fold).
When it comes to safety engineering and features, Volvo has no peers. Dual-stage airbags for both driver and front-seat passenger adjust according to the force of the collision. Specially designed active headrests reduce whiplash in a rear collision. Inflatable window curtains, as well as side-impact airbags, protect the head and torso in a side collision. All three rear seating positions have three-point seat belts.
No turbo lag, a tasty wide torque band, and ultra-smooth performance. T6 models include a newly developed Geartronic "manumatic" transaxle, allowing the driver the choice of fully automatic or sequential shift modes. We do wish the four speed auto had another gear in it though, however the four that it does have gets you from point A to point B ultra quick and super smooth. A stiff chassis structure and the well-tuned suspension prove for a supple yet controlled ride/handling balance that's neither too soft or cloudy, or too hard or stiff. This is luxury-sport-sedan. While driving, you never forget each part of that nomenclature means just that. Also, the S80 is exceptionally quiet inside, holding both wind and road noise to a hush.
1997-1998 Volvo S90 / V90
2,922 cc / 181 hp / 199 lb-ft / 3461-3547 lbs / 0-60 mph 10.5 sec.