The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Volvo S80 won’t set the world on fire, but it's comfortable, refined and packed to the gills with safety equipment. Equipment levels are generous too.
Reasons to buy:
- Refined engines
- Interesting interior design
- Well equipped
How good does it look?
At first glance, the Volvo S80 is instantly recognisable as a Volvo, thanks to the traditional nose treatment. Elsewhere, its all curves and attractive lines, and much more interesting than Volvo’s of old. If a saloon isn’t practical enough for you, then there’s always the V70 which shares all of the S80’s design, but is wrapped up in a load-lugging estate’s clothes.
What's the interior like?
The S80 was one of the first models to adopt Volvo’s new interior design language with the floating centre console at the heart of the new design. Attractive, modern finishes, together with soft-touch plastics give a feeling of quality and the impression that the cabin is built to last. All of the major controls are well-weighted and logically laid out, with the instrument cluster easy to read both during the day and at night. Only the blocky display within the rev counter lets the side down, looking old fashioned, and is at odds with the modernity of the rest of the design.
How practical is it?
Space inside the S80 is pretty good, with room for four in comfort. There’s plenty of legroom in the rear, and taller passengers will find that the headroom is generous. Luggage room isn’t particularly competitive at just 422 litres, with both the Saab 9-5 and Audi A6 beating the S80 by around 100 litres. The seats do fold down in a 60/40 split fashion to free up more space, however. The driver will find it incredibly easy to find a comfortable seating position thanks to a multi-adjustable steering column and seats. The latter in particular are sumptuous and more akin to sitting in your favourite armchair than behind the wheel of a car.
What's it like to drive?
The S80 is certainly no driver’s car, despite the wide range of powerful engines that can be specified under the bonnet. Grip levels are high, and the Volvo handles well enough, it’s just that the experience isn’t going set the world on fire. Vague steering is the main cause, coupled with an unsettled ride on pot-holed roads. Both road and wind noise are impressively muted, and the engines refined and quiet. The S80 is best cruising at motorway speeds, where it soaks up the miles impressively and serenely.
How powerful is it?
There really is an engine for all tastes, ranging from a trio of brand new petrol engines, to three frugal diesel units. The latter are more popular in this size car, with the D3 in particular the best seller. For those adverse to cars that drink from the black pump, the range kicks off with a 1.6-litre T4 model producing 178bhp, through a 2.0-litre T5 delivering 237bhp, up to the flagship 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine that puts out 300bhp and is mated to all-wheel-drive. On the diesel front, there’s a 108bhp 1.6-litre unit that is much better than the meager output suggests, a mid-range 2.0-litre five-cylinder D3 engine that is a true delight, and the familiar 2.4-litre D5 powerplant that produces 202bhp.
How much will it cost me?
Most of the engines in the S80 are frugal, offering low levels of CO2 and decent fuel economy. The best selling 2.0-litre D3 engine emits just 139g/km of CO2 and achieves 53.3mpg on the combined cycle. Automatic versions sit at 154g/km and 47.9 respectively. There’s even an entry level 1.6-litre DRIVe model that emits just 109g/km of CO2 – astonishing for the size of car. Insurance costs are average compared to its major rivals, but is bettered by the new Saab 9-5. Residual values could be better, and are behind the standard set by the premium brands.
How reliable is it?
Volvo generally does well in reliability surveys, although it is too early to tell whether some of the engines will be, as they are new to the market. The 1.6-litre diesel engine in the S80 DRIVe model in particular is well proven, as it’s a Ford/PSA sourced unit, but suffers from problems with the diesel particulate filter clogging up. Volvo’s new Chinese owners, Geely, are keen to elevate the brand further and compete with the premium brands. Quality and reliability will be central to this plan and only time will tell whether they are successful. There have been several recalls to remedy issues with the gearbox and engine.
How safe is it?
This generation S80 hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, however, the previous generation car scored a solid four star rating back in 2000. And this is without the benefit of all the safety kit in the new generation car. There’s driver, passenger, side and head airbags as standard, along with whiplash protection front seats, dynamic stability control (DSC) and traction control. There’s also ISOFIX child safety seat fasteners for the rear seats. Adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system are available at extra cost, as well as a blind spot information system (BLIS).
How much equipment do I get?
All S80’s come well equipped, with even the entry-level ES fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, air-con, cruise control and leather steering wheel and gearknob. SE models add 17-inch alloy wheels, rain sensor, rear parking sensors, power folding door mirrors, leather seats, Bluetooth hands free connectivity and auto-dimming rear view mirror, while SE Lux trim includes xenon headlights, sat-nav and electric driver’s seat. The flagship Executive models come filled to the brim with kit including 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, front parking sensors, heated front and rear seats, wood trim, and a rear seat audio system.
As with all Volvo’s from the past, comfort and top-notch safety are the main reasons to buy. Factor in decent equipment levels, competitive running costs and an attractive cabin and the S80 looks like an attractive buy.