GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Volvo's traditional boxy chrome grille decorates virtually every second car seen on the streets of Gothenburg, an industrial port city on Sweden's western coast and headquarters for the Swedish automaker, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country's economic output.
With so many Volvos evident on Sweden's roads, some dating back decades, one might suspect a test drive conducted in the prototype of a curvy new Volvo S80 flagship sedan would hardly attract attention — but it does.
Heads turn, fingers point, and eyes follow the vehicle wherever we steer it. And when we park it at the port of Marstrand during a tour through the rocky Bohuslan archipelago, pedestrians come up and surround this striking new Volvo. Cameras emerge from pockets, while people pose in front of the car’s bolder-looking front grille with its distinctive diagonal chrome slash. Countless photos are snapped, one after another.
Obviously, Swedes recognize a dramatic new Volvo when they see it, and this car certainly seems to excite them.
S80 stands out
The fact that this midsize sedan also has a slew of shapely curves and contours in its sheet metal — in stark contrast to the typical tanklike shapes of previous Volvos — causes the S80 to stand out, even in a veritable sea of Volvos. Swedes also take note of the car because Volvo has invested heavily in its creation, betting its future on successfully competing against some of the finest midsize performance sedans in the world.
As the front-wheel-drive replacement for the aged rear-wheel-drive Volvo S90 (960), this new S80 has the most curvaceous exterior ever crafted by Volvo. The sensuous skin carefully conceals a luxurious interior trimmed in leather and fit for five. Look beyond the slick exterior style to find agile handling traits and powerful performance.
For powerplants, we have our choice of a 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine that is either naturally aspirated or turbocharged. The S80 also comes with a sophisticated chassis, set up to deliver precise performance characteristics, not to mention some of the most advanced automotive safety systems on the planet. The car is tight and athletic in action yet rich and sensuous in feel and tone. In a word, the S80 is simply stunning.