Volvo S80 review

The second generation Volvo S80 executive saloon benefits from the addition of the company's clever 'Drive-E' engine technology. Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

Volvo's second generation S80 has always been a safe, sturdy and dependable choice in the executive saloon segment, but newer rivals had recently left it behind a little. In response, Volvo's has built the line-up around its impressively efficient 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine. The result still isn't an obvious choice in this sector but for Executive saloon buyers not obsessed with German badgework, the S80 makes remarkable sense.

Background

Few cars are better equipped to keep a low profile than the Volvo S80. It's just that kind of highly efficient, yet unassuming car that slips in under the radar. The model's problem has been that many buyers choose executive saloons to make an impact and flaunt their status. Still, if you're of the kind that want executive luxury without the turning too many heads, this Volvo might be the answer. The first generation version was very similar in its approach and when it was replaced by this car in 2006, most assumed that Volvo would deliver something more dynamic. In many ways they did, but it isn't immediately obvious. Still, if you find class-leading safety, powerful engines or outstanding economy dull, then that's your loss. The most important news here is the addition of the first of Volvo's new generation of 'Drive-E' engines, the 181bhp 2.0-litre unit you'll find in the D4 variant that's become the default pick of the range.

Driving Experience

You won't be expecting this Volvo to handle like a BMW 5 Series - which is just as well because it doesn't, even if you specify the Lowered Sport Chassis, or, even better, the optional Active Four-C adaptive dampers and put them in their sportiest mode. But then, no other executive saloon in the sector handles like a 5 Series either and few of them compensate by being such a relaxing long distance companion as the S80. Those that do are either much more expensive - or they depreciate like a stone. Better to go for the 'Comfort' chassis specification and enjoy this car for what it is. The engine line-up is now restricted to the 181bhp 2.0-litre D4 diesel unit. Here, you get the tempting combination of 70mpg combined cycle economy with 0-62mph in 8.4s capability en route to 140mph.

Design and Build

The changes made to this improved second generation S80 amount to subtle styling nips and tucks. Otherwise, it's much as before, the boxy shape distinguished by the arched roofline and the rather bluff front grille up front as well as by distinctive shoulders that run all the way back to the tail lights. Inside, well, it's all rather refreshing. Slip behind the wheel and you're treated to an example of Scandinavian design at its very best. The Adaptive Digital Display we first saw in the smaller V40 has been added to allow users to adapt the look of the instrument panel. New to the range is the Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system with its 7-inch centre touchscreen and microphone above the driver to enable voice control. Via this, you can connect to the internet using a mobile 'phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This allows you to connect to apps like Spotify. We're not sure that we buy into that completely but there's certainly a nice blend of no-nonsense Scandinavian style thanks to nice touches like the slim 'floating' centre stack (with its smarter 'Silk Metal' frame) in the centre of the dashboard, quality materials for upholsteries and a thoughtful choice of inlays and colour schemes that blend smoothly together. As before, there's comfortable room for five adults and a huge 422-litre boot.

Market and Model

The S80 undercuts leading executive car rivals on price and with the single D4 diesel engine on offer, you get quite a bit of power for your Pound. Trim levels run from SE NAV to SE LUX and prices start at around the £32,000 mark. New to the range is the Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system with its 7-inch centre touchscreen and microphone above the driver to enable voice control. Via this, you can connect to the internet using a mobile 'phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This allows you to connect to apps like Spotify. Equipment levels on all models run to 16" alloy wheels, cruise control, electronic climate control and a punchy stereo package. More important standard features however, are those concerned with the S80's class-leading safety systems. It would take me all day to go into these, so I'll just give you the highlights. Volvo think that there's a great deal more to safety than just dotting airbags around the cabin - though of course, there are plenty of those. That's why a Collision Warning system has been developed for the car, along with a Brake Support set-up. There's also Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), active Bi-Xenon headlights that swivel with the car and a patented body structure developed at the Volvo Safety Centre. There's even a 'Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake' system that scans the road ahead for people and cyclists and will brake the car if the driver doesn't respond to warnings in a potential collision situation.

Cost of Ownership

The D4 'Drive-E' diesel engine provides for an impressive set of efficiency stats. After all, you can't really argue with limo luxury, 140mph performance, 0-62mph in a shade over eight seconds, 68.9mpg combined fuel economy and 108g/km CO2 emissions. Depreciation is always a tricky subject for Volvo and you'll have to accept up-front that the S80 will lose its value more quickly than its key German rivals. Long servicing intervals and lower asking prices help to redress the balance though and overall, the S80 is a competitive proposition on cost grounds.

Summary

This has to be the thinking person's executive saloon. No, it's not the most dynamic car to drive and it certainly could be a bit more charismatic. Still, there's little doubt that a lot of thought has gone into the S80, to our eyes still a handsome car with none of the pretension that accompanies some of its rivals. Build quality and safety are obvious strengths but the cabin design will also win the S80 many friends and the latest D4 'Drive-E' diesel engine is first class. If you're looking for a softer, friendlier antidote to all that Germanic slickness, this could be it.