New & Used Volvo S80: In Depth
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The Volvo S80 is a subtle, large, and unassuming luxury sedan that puts safety and comfort above all else. It competes with the Cadillac XTS, Acura RLX, and the Lincoln MKS.Read our 2014 Volvo S80 review for the latest on prices, specifications, and gas mileage information.
The first generation of the S80 sedan was built from 1999 through 2006, and replaced the 940 and 960 in the Swedish carmaker's lineup. (Volvo is now actually owned by Geely of China.) That first 1999 S80 was powered by a thirsty 197-hp, 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine. While it was powerful enough, the S80 was a heavy car, and it didn't feel all that perky. It wasn't until 2004 that a 2.5T model was added, with a five-speed automatic transmission and optional all-wheel drive. The 2.5T was considerably quicker, but all S80s deliver a good ride, though the handling can hardly be considered sporty.
Late in its run, the first-generation S80 also offered a more sporty T6, with a 268-hp turbocharged inline six. Its available 4C active suspension permitted far better cornered and less body roll through turns. As with the newer generation, the first run of S80s offered lots of options and upgrades that further improved a notable level of safety and technology features. Those included dual-zone climate control, a backseat dual-screen entertainment option, HID headlamps, and more.
Even compared to some cars today, first-generation S80s offered a level of safety as good or better than any other large sedan. All S80 models included side airbags and active front headrests, though electronic stability control wasn’t fitted to all models. Top-of-the-line T6 models have stability control, but in a lapse of the “core safety” Volvo philosophy, that feature was optional on other S80 models.`
Today's S80 was introduced for the 2007 model year. From that year through 2011, Volvo offered a low-volume variant with a transverse V-8 engine (an unusual design) that produced 311 hp from its 4.4 liters. But fuel-efficiency regulations and the economic downturn killed off the V-8 Volvo, and the largest engine is now a sporty 281-hp, 3.0-liter turbo six. That's optional; the standard powertrain is a 235-horsepower 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.Starting in 2011, Volvo simplified and streamlined the S80 model range. Now, the base model comes with front-wheel drive and the T6 turbo model has all-wheel drive. In 2012, the S80 got Volvo's City Safety obstacle-alert system as standard equipment--and Volvo laudably managed to raise the front-wheel-drive S80's EPA fuel efficiency ratings to 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway (a 1-mpg boost on each measure). The 2013 model year added a new Road Sign Information function to the Tech Package, and all S80s now include as standard the Personal Car Communicator, rain-sensor wipers and headlight washers.
The S80, while sportier than the previous generation, is still more of a grand cruiser than a sport sedan. It prefers sweeping corners to tight canyon switchbacks. Its supremely supportive front seats, though, enable drivers and their passengers to rack up hundreds of miles a day and emerge without feeling wrung-out and achy.
As the company's luxury flagship, the Volvo S80 includes a remarkable degree of safety technology. A Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) uses warning lights next to the side mirrors to warn about adjacent vehicles, while the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) is a more sophisticated key fob system that will alert you if your car’s been broken into. It even includes a heartbeat sensor. These versions come with more impressive interior trim and an excellent available Dynaudio sound system.