A cruise on Highway 1 heading north from Jenner to Stewarts Point along the rugged California coastline shows off a sophisticated ride quality and fancy appointments bound into the powerful S80 V8; the elegant flagship of the Volvo brand.
|1. The S80 is available with three engines: a 235-hp 3.2L inline-six, a 281-hp turbocharged 3.0L inline-six and a 311-hp 4.4-liter V8.
2. Pricing ranges from $39,200 to $50,950.
3. For 2010 the Collision Avoidance Package has been renamed the Technology Package and offers the same features like adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning and the Blind Spot Information System.
The S80 debuted in 1999, built on the adaptable P2 platform with curvaceous styling surrounding a luxurious cabin trimmed in leather with room for five passengers, a powertrain either naturally aspirated or turbo-charged and some of the most advanced automotive safety systems on the planet.
Revisions in 2004 represented the next step in the car's development with a fresh shape for the body honed to a sleek expression of Scandinavian design. Then in 2007 Volvo put the S80 in a larger package with three trims defined by three different engines. These three models apply to 2010 editions.
The S80 3.2 carries a naturally aspirated 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. It makes 235-hp at 6200 rpm plus 236 ft-lbs of torque at 3200 rpm. A new 225-hp PZEV engine is now also offered.
The S80 T6 stocks a 3.0-liter straight-six with twin-scroll turbo-charging and inter-cooling to achieve high torque at relatively low engine speed without the typical annoying turbo lag. With dual cams on top and continuously variable valve timing, the turbo nets 281-hp at 5600 rpm with a flat torque curve at 295 ft-lbs between 1500 rpm and 4800 rpm.
The top-level S80 V8 uses a 4.4-liter V8 engine designed by Volvo and built by Yamaha in Japan. The plant, set sideways in the engine bay, conforms to a narrow-angle vee with only 60 degrees between cylinder banks. To conserve space, the left bank offsets half a cylinder ahead of the right bank and accessories like the alternator mount directly to the block. It generates 311-hp at 5950 rpm, plus 325 ft-lbs of torque at 3950 rpm.
Each S80 engine employs the same electronic automatic transmission with six forward gears and Volvo's Geartronic sequential shifter. Shift-it-yourself maneuvers are made by throwing the console-mounted shift lever to the right through a gate, then pushing it forward to bump up a gear or pulling it back to drop down one gear at a time.
Fuel economy is rated at 16/25 mpg (city/highway) for the 3.2, 15/23 mpg for the T6 and 15/22 mpg for the V8.
The S80 3.2 has front-wheel-drive traction, but S80 T6 and S80 V8 carry all-wheel-drive equipment.
The active-on-demand AWD system is first rate and comes from Haldex, a Swedish pioneer in AWD mechanisms. An electronic device on the rear differential governs the system while also communicating with the car's engine control module and brake controller. When spin sensors at the wheels detect rotational differences between front and rear tires, this mechanism reacts by sending more power to non-slip wheels and less to spinning ones. Ultimately, the unit brings both front and rear wheels back into equilibrium; and the S80 proceeds safely in a straight-line path.
We note that every S80 model provides significant passive safety measures, beginning with a stiff core superstructure of high-strength steel ringing the passenger compartment and crush zones front and rear to absorb impact forces of a collision and deflect them from the cabin.
Riders are shielded in the cabin by frontal air bags and side-impact air bags in front seats plus Volvo's side curtain-style air bags. And to damp the whiplash effect during a rear impact, front seatbacks instantly move rearward to pare acceleration forces on the passenger's back and neck.
The S80 cars also carry the entire complement of electronic safety controls, which characterize Volvo vehicles. Among the alphabetical soup of acronyms for safety gear is an anti-lock brake system (ABS), hydraulic brake assist (HBA), ready alert brakes (RAB), fading brake support (FBS) and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
Further, the S80 has a traction control system (TRACS) plus Volvo's Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) device that employs a computer and various lateral plus linear motion sensors tied to ABS, TRACS and the throttle.
DSTC monitors the car's forward progress and, if dangerous oversteer or understeer skidding is detected; it acts automatically to correct the unstable maneuver by braking wheels or cutting the throttle.
And again for 2010, the S80 is one of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Picks,” which is an even more impressive accolade for this year as a new rollover roof structure test reduced the number of top picks from 94 last year down to just 27 for 2010.
Rumples in the pavement won't upset the S80's smooth-riding suspension because of active chassis management in a high-tech mechanism that regulates actions for the shock absorber at each wheel through electronic damping in an effort to isolate movement of the wheel for less bounce, vibration and noise. The chassis system has three settings: Comfort, Sport and Advanced.
More standard equipment goes into the 2010 S80 3.2 and T6 models, with items like a watch-dial instrument cluster, Rain sensing windshield wipers and Bluetooth hands-free phone interface being added in ’09 and luxury goodies like door panel stitching, metal inlays on the steering wheel, center console and shifter, as well as a visible dual exhaust and more chrome accenting outside being added for 2010. And for 2010 T6 models now get standard 18-inch wheels.
The S80 V8 for 2010 gets additions like speed sensitive steering, a more user-friendly navigation system, a standard Dynaudio premium sound system and dual Xenon Active Bending Lights (ABL) to help see around corners – yet another safety feature.
The Collision Avoidance Package has been renamed the Technology package but still offers the same features, including adaptive cruise control (ACC), collision warning with brake support (CWAB), distance alert (DA), driver alert control (DAC) and lane departure warning (LDW). And of course, the Blind Spot Information System (pioneered by Volvo and now available on a lot of Ford products) can be had for $700.
The Climate Package also gets an update with items like heated rear seats, heated windshield washers and an Interior Air Quality System (IAQS) with a humidity sensor.
The high-luxury Executive package is still available, and there are some pretty impressive stand-alone features like a Sport Chassis, a refrigerator with crystal glasses and LCD screens built into the front headrests.
Pricing for 2010 models begins at $39,200 for the S80 3.2; the S80 T6 lists for $42,950, while the S80 V8 sits at $50,950.
The Volvo S80 faces stiff competition in this segment of the marketplace. With names such as Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz and BMW dominating, not to mention Cadillac, the field is also set to expand and include Buick. How to rise above the crowd will be challenging.
If Volvo has one thing going for it, it’s safety. Combined with an attractive exterior shape and excellent interior ergonomics, the Volvo S80 should garner its share of affluent buyers. Whether that will be big enough to satisfy the Swedish automaker over the long haul, only time will tell.