2012 Volvo S80

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Review: 2007 Volvo S80

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2015.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

A nicely redesigned sedan, with the first V8 for a Volvo auto.
Pros:
  • First Volvo V8 auto
  • Totally redesigned
  • Good roadability
Cons:
  • Gimmicky engine start/stop button
  • Not as sporty as one might think
  • Use of old model's name

The new Volvo S80 not only is nicely redesigned, it's also the first Volvo auto model offered with a V8.

Volvos have had engines with four, six and five cylinders, with the five-cylnder unit seeming peculiar to many Americans. "Where's the sixth cylinder?" they've wondered.

But never mind. People who bought Volvos in this country readily accepted the fact that Volvo went its own way, building cars that for more than a decade were slow and boxy, with marginal 4-cylinder power.

However, Volvos also were practical and generally regarded as the safest autos, although accident studies in Sweden showed that rugged Saabs were just as safe, if not safer, than Volvos.

Volvos were sold to generally upscale Americans who just wanted an auto that would take them safely to destinations. They felt that such things as styling and power were fine for other cars, but not needed for Volvos. As with some Volkswagen Beetle owners, there were those who regarded Volvos as "anti-cars"—just necessary if you didn't want to take public transportation.

Sporty History
By the 1980s, most folks had forgotten, or never knew, that Volvo's sporty, mid-1950s 2-door PV444 (I owned one) and 1958-65 PV544 models with dual-carburetor 4-cylinder engines and manual transmissions occasionally beat good sports cars on road racing tracks.

As competitors began adding safety features to cars, Volvo started making sexier models in the 1990s with turbocharged 6-cylinder engines. (We're not forgetting the 1980s Volvo turbocharged 4-cylinder models, but only Volvo fans regard them as anything special.)

V8 Finally Arrives
Volvo finally offered an engine Americans could easily understand—a V8. But it was put in mid-2005 in Volvo's XC90 premium midsize SUV—not in a car model.

The 2006 Volvo S80 had a turbocharged inline 5-cylinder with 208 horsepower. It provided lively performance, but stiffer competition called for a Volvo auto with a V8.

Ford Motor Cop. owns Volvo and Jaguar, so Volvo first tried installing a Jaguar V8 in the redesigned 2007 S80. But the engine didn't fit, so Volvo used its smooth V8 from the XC90 in the new S80.

No Safety Compromises
The S80 V8 is installed transversely—or sideways—to allow good passenger room and ample space for "crumple zones" in accidents. Volvo figured that V8 or no V8, it wasn't about to give up any of its safety features.

The 4.4-liter V8 produces 311 horsepower. Acceleration is strong in town and in fast freeway/highway traffic, and Volvo says it's among the lowest-emission V8s.

All-Wheel Drive
The new S80 with the V8 has standard all-wheel drive, but the car also can be had with front-wheel drive and a Volvo inline 6-cylinder, also mounted transversely. It's larger and more potent than its predecessor, producing 235 horsepower without a turbocharger.

The V8 delivers an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 25 on highways, while the six-cylinder provides 19 and 28. Volvo recommends premium gasoline for both.

New Transmission
The engines shoot power through a responsive new 6-speed automatic transmission with easily used manual shift capability.

Although sleeker, the new S80 looks much the same as its predecessor and is easily recognizable as a Volvo. Dimensions aren't changed much, inside or out.

Not a Sports Sedan
While the new V8 is impressive, the S80 is no sports sedan, although it can be confidently driven fairly hard. It's a competent luxury car, with accurate steering, compliant ride, secure handling and strong brakes. The pedal initially feels too soft but has a linear action for smooth stops.

The S80 is priced at $38,705 with the 6-cylinder engine and at $47,350 with the V8. That major price difference may make some wonder if the V8 version is worth the extra money, even though it has all-wheel drive. After all, the 6-cylinder version is loaded with comfort, convenience, safety and luxury items, including leather upholstery and real wood inlay trim. However, the S80 V8 price undercuts the prices of rivals with V8s.

Continuity is fine for an automaker, but one wonders why Volvo didn't give the significantly changed S80 a new model designation, such as "S90."

Advanced Safety Items
Among advanced safety features of my test S80 V8 was a newly optional $595 Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).

The system uses cameras near the outside mirrors to activate small warning lights on the inside windshield posts when vehicles that might be in a driver's blind spot are detected. I didn't find the lights distracting, but they can be turned off. (I first saw a BLIS system in an experimental safety car at Ford headquarters several years ago.)

Another unique safety feature is a world-first "heartbeat sensor." It's a pocket-sized control module that warns within about 300 feet of the car if an unwanted person is hiding in the S80 and is part of a $495 Personal Car Communicator, which includes keyless access and starting.

Other noteworthy optional safety features are $995 run-flat tires with a tire-pressure-monitoring system and $1,495 Adaptive Cruise Control, which automatically keeps the S80 a safe distance from vehicles ahead.

Swiveling Headlights
A $2,495 Sport Package contains speed-sensitive steering, steering-linked swiveling headlights that follow bends in the road and driver-selectable and computer-controlled adjustable shock absorbers.

Standard safety features include front- and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction/anti-skid control.

The quiet interior looks upscale in a subdued manner. The supportive front seats are comfortable, and the back seat is roomy, with a large fold-down armrest containing dual cupholders.

Gimmicky Starting
Climate and audio controls can be easily used, although some are rather small. The start/stop engine dashboard button is gimmicky, especially since a driver must insert a plastic fob in a dashboard slot before that button can be used. Why go through two steps to start the engine, when one would do if you just twisted a regular ignition key?

The large trunk has a low, wide opening and a lid that moves well up and out of the way. Rear seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area, but don't sit completely flat.

The S80 is a major improvement over its predecessor and should be a hit, as long as buyers of the V8 version don't expect it to be a substitute BMW sports sedan. However, it's doubtful that many folks shopping for a Volvo would want a car that resembled anything else.

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BB03 - 8/29/2014 11:17:25 AM