2002 Volvo S80 Review

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Paul Wiley Cockerham Paul Wiley Cockerham Editor
February 11, 2002

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It’s been a few years since Volvo wowed the automotive community with its introduction of the S80, a surprisingly sexy luxury sedan that didn’t look like a box. Packed full of Volvo’s safety innovations, it opened up a new market segment for the company, providing existing Volvo owners something to move up to (indeed, a third of S80 purchasers did just that), while providing the market at large a peek at what this stodgy old Swede could do.

But when your stated competitive group included the Acura 3.5 RL, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac Seville, Jaguar S-Type, Lexus GS300, Lincoln Continental and LS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Oldsmobile Aurora, and Saab 9-5—strong personalities all—it’s hard to make a distinctive impression. Volvo’s traditional values of safety and engineering have, with varying degrees of success, been appropriated by competitors. When entry price hovers at the $40,000 threshold, strong performance and/or luxury statements are mandatory, and the base S80 2.9 has had trouble finding a voice, losing recognition even to its testosterone-tweaked, twin-turbo twin, the S80 T-6.

Serious progress

But the 2.9 has made some serious progress for 2002. Three horsepower (the DOHC in-line six is now rated at 194 hp) have been sacrificed in the name of low-end torque. The improvement was achieved by increasing the control area of the variable camshaft for the intake valves and by fitting a new inlet manifold for more effective gas exchange. A new exhaust pipe, which is designed for high low-end torque, also makes a contribution. Torque at 3000 rpm has, for example, been increased by about seven percent, according to Volvo, resulting in a marked improvement in throttle response and acceleration. The traction control has also been improved by increasing the speed range of the system, up to 75 mph from 44 mph.

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