2010 Volvo S80 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 21, 2010

Safety and comfort—and advanced tech features—never get short shrift in the 2010 Volvo S80, but not even a V-8 and all-wheel drive makes it a serious sport sedan.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the S80 sedans with inline six-cylinder and V-8 engines to bring you a full collection of driving impressions and an assessment of how they match up against rivals. TheCarConnection.com has also researched other reviews from reputable sources and handpicked highlights from some of them for an information-packed full review.

As the flagship model and largest sedan in Volvo's lineup, the 2010 Volvo S80 places a clear priority on comfort, safety, and technology over outright sportiness. However, it's still possible to imbue the S80 with a performance edge with either the turbocharged T6 model or the V-8 model.

The S80 has a conservative look from the outside; its profile and details play it a little too safe, in the opinion of the editors. A new grille, more chrome accents, and a more visible dual exhaust system help update the outside look for 2010, while inside the S80 gets other minor changes, such as silk-metal inlays and new door panel stitching. The interior is a little more overtly stylish, with a thin center stack that resembles a high-end audio system, including extra storage just behind for smaller items. While the design might be a bit stark and Scandinavian, the materials have verged more to the realm of traditional luxury cars in recent years, with chrome trims and real wood as well.

With a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the base 2010 Volvo S80 has plenty of power and a somewhat perky feel overall, and it sounds nice and refined. However, it's not nearly as exciting as the available 311-horsepower V-8, which comes with all-wheel drive and can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. In between there's a T6 model, also with AWD, plus a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine making 281 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel-drive system that comes in T6 and V-8 versions sends nearly all torque to the front wheels during normal driving but can reapportion up to 50 percent to the rear wheels as needed. Across the board, the S80’s powertrains are way too thirsty, and this is one of the S80’s chief failings. The base six-cylinder version gets an acceptable 18 mpg city, 37 highway, but both the turbo six and the V-8 will rarely break 20 mpg in real-world driving, with ratings of 16/24 mpg and 15/22 mpg, respectively. With any of the versions, the six-speed automatic transmission is quick to respond and quite smooth-shifting. In T6 or V-8 trim, the Volvo S80 offers an active suspension system that continually adjusts the S80's shocks from Comfort, Sport, and Advanced to fit varied types of driving; it can also tie in with the variable-assist power steering, which ranges from light to firm. TheCarConnection.com's editors strongly prefer the V-8 version, which brings thrilling acceleration, but it’s hard to get excited about the S80’s handling, which feels safe but too disconnected for a sport sedan.

Review continues below

Throughout the line, ride comfort is great, but the suspension in the V-8 could be firmer yet; even in Advanced mode with the automatic suspension, it could be tighter. The S80’s seats are among the best in this class of vehicle, and they’re better than those in some sport sedans costing more. The nicely contoured backseat is large enough for three petite folks or two American-sized adults, and the climate-control system has vents built into the B-pillars for better comfort in back. The front seats now have optional heating and cooling with fan-driven ventilation.

The S80 has an excellent safety record going many years back, and the 2010 version is no exception. The 2010 S80 retains top "good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in every category and is named a Top Safety Pick. Front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control, are standard. In addition to all the usual accident avoidance and occupant safety items such as front, side, and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control, a new system primes the brakes before an accident; blind-spot detectors send audible alerts. There’s also Volvo’s Personal Car Communicator, a keyfob-connected in-car sensor that tells you if your security system has detected a break-in—or even a heartbeat.

The 2010 Volvo S80 comes with a lot of traditional luxury features, but there are also plenty of extras—many of them the stuff of ultraluxury cars—on offer, if you’re willing to pay quite a bit more for it. Base and V-8 models of the Volvo S8 offer a good list of features, and the Climate Package, Convenience Package, and Technology Package provide plenty of opportunities for add-ons. A newly enhanced Executive Package brings classic wood inlays, plus extras like massage seats and softer leather, while a power moonroof and backseat refrigerator are offered as stand-alone options. Also new this year is a Multimedia Package that pairs the excellent Dynaudio audio system with a DVD navigation system, rear headphone jacks, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

7

2010 Volvo S80

Styling

The 2010 Volvo S80's soft, understated exterior and fashionable instrument panel and interior materials should please most shoppers.

The S80 has a conservative look from the outside, with a profile and details that play it a little too safe, in the opinion of the editors.

Volvo has taken a different direction with its vehicles for a decade or more now, but it's no longer a new look on the outside. Cars.com says that although with the S80 "Volvo has shaken the boxy look it made famous, the S80 is still unmistakably Volvo." Another reviewer at Cars.com is less impressed with the rear styling, describing it as "dull as a doornail." Kelley Blue Book praises the outside appearance of the Volvo S80, reporting that the "subtle wedge shape is effectively reinforced by a sweeping roofline and prominent shoulder ridges."

According to Edmunds, the "2007 model year brought a full redesign for the S80," but it "didn't change drastically in size or appearance." The '07 redesign brought a "much larger grille opening, a sporty bumper and under-grille treatment, larger headlamps...and body sides that are free of moldings," according to Automotive.com. Since then, changes on the outside have been minor; a new grille, more chrome accents, and a more visible dual exhaust system help update the outside look for 2010.

The interior of the 2010 Volvo S80 is stark and Scandinavian, but the materials in recent years have given a pleasing warm contrast and a more balanced overall look. With a thin center stack that resembles a high-end audio system, including extra storage just behind for smaller items, it's overtly stylish yet also functional. Kelley Blue Book points to the S80's "well-appointed cabin," which "reflects a Swedish-modern mentality," and Edmunds says that "the understated wood trim has the look of paneling versus the usual shiny veneer." Kelley Blue Book likes the S80's "elegant slim-line center stack that houses the audio and climate control switchgear."

For 2010, the S80 gets other minor changes inside, including silk-metal inlays and new door panel stitching.

8

2010 Volvo S80

Performance

Performance clearly isn't the priority for the 2010 Volvo S80, though the T6 or V-8 models will certainly bring satisfying acceleration.

The 2010 Volvo S80 is offered with three different powertrains, including a powerful V-8 and all-wheel drive, but none of the combinations deliver the adrenalin surge that serious enthusiasts might expect.

With a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the base 2010 Volvo S80 has plenty of power and a somewhat perky feel overall, and it sounds nice and refined. However, it's not nearly as exciting as the available 311-horsepower V-8, which comes with all-wheel drive and can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. In between there's a T6 model, also with AWD, plus a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine making 281 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel-drive system that comes in T6 and V-8 versions sends nearly all torque to the front wheels during normal driving but can reapportion up to 50 percent to the rear wheels as needed.

Kelley Blue Book is satisfied with the standard engines, which it reports are "fully capable of dealing with daily commutes and cross-country cruises," but points out that both the "T6 AWD and V8 AWD [are] demonstrably quicker, more responsive and far more engaging." ConsumerGuide notes that "the 3.2's smooth 6-cylinder provides adequate power but lacks punch compared to V6-powered class rivals and even cars costing thousands less." When it comes to the turbocharged inline-six and V-8 trims, these "are a bit docile from a start but deliver willing power appropriate for the class." Edmunds isn't a fan of the smallest engine, saying it "doesn't really get the juices flowing" and "acceleration was modest with either of the lesser engines"; they suggest that "buyers seeking a more authentic luxury experience will undoubtedly prefer either the midrange S80 T6 or the high-line S80 V8."

TheCarConnection.com's editors strongly prefer the V-8 version, which brings thrilling acceleration, but it’s hard to get excited about the S80’s handling, which feels safe but too disconnected for a sport sedan. Car and Driver emphasizes that the rest of the car doesn't match the engine. Even when "equipped in its most expensive guise with the sculptural and guttural Yamaha-built 311-hp, 4.4-liter V-8," Car and Driver says, the Volvo S80 has "all the flavor of Wasa crisp bread, which is like eating particle board." Automotive.com, however, is "very impressed with the overall behavior of the V8 engine, which sounds quite a lot like a Corvette V8 when first fired up in the morning, then settles down to a nice, smooth idle."

Across the board, the S80’s powertrains are way too thirsty, and this is one of the S80’s chief failings. The base six-cylinder version gets an acceptable 18 mpg city, 37 highway, but both the turbo six and the V-8 will rarely break 20 mpg in real-world driving, with ratings of 16/24 mpg and 15/22 mpg, respectively. Car and Driver reports 13-15 mpg in the city and 23-24 mpg on the open road—not outstanding by any means.

With any of the versions, the six-speed automatic transmission is quick to respond and quite smooth-shifting. In T6 or V-8 trim, the Volvo S80 offers an active suspension system that continually adjusts the S80's shocks from Comfort, Sport, and Advanced to fit varied types of driving; it can also tie in with the variable-assist power steering, which ranges from light to firm.

Most reviewers appreciate how well the 2009 Volvo S80 rides, though it’s clear that some crisp handling responses are sacrificed in the process. Kelley Blue Book points out that the Volvo S80's "emphasis leans more towards ride comfort than sheer agility. The...three-way adjustable shock absorbers, speed-sensitive power steering and a more aggressive wheel and tire pairing...won't transform an S80 into an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series, but it will enhance both ride and handling at the touch of a button." ConsumerGuide praises the brake system for being "worry-free" but reports that their test model "suffered from a slightly mushy pedal."

ConsumerGuide asserts that Volvo S80 "never feels sporty, but handles with controlled competence." Otherwise, Edmunds says, "the S80 comes across as tepid for a luxury sedan in this class...[and] does little to engage its driver." However, according to Cars.com, "from a driving-thrills standpoint, there's no reason for anyone to move up to the V-8...not only is the T6 $7,000 less than the V-8, it's just a better-driving car." Cars.com praises the smooth steering, stating that while it's "not as pinpoint precise as a BMW's," it is "a safe car that can pass on demand and has a comfortable ride. The S80 delivers an almost perfect blend of comfort and performance."

9

2010 Volvo S80

Comfort & Quality

Not everyone will love the interior of the 2010 Volvo S80 because of some of the finer design points, but its comfort, spaciousness, and refinement are undeniable.

Throughout the 2010 Volvo S80 line, ride comfort is great. The S80’s seats are also among the best in this class of vehicle, and they’re better than those in some sport sedans costing more. The nicely contoured backseat is large enough for three petite folks or two American-sized adults, and the climate-control system has vents built into the B-pillars for better comfort in back. The front seats now have optional heating and cooling with fan-driven ventilation. Cars.com says "it could have a bit more room in the backseat, but the space isn't what you'd call confining," and Kelley Blue Book reports the Volvo S80's "60/40 split-folding rear bench has sufficient head and leg room to take on a pair of average-sized adults or a trio of kids."

Kelley Blue Book notes that "the somewhat modestly-scaled 14.9 cubic-foot trunk" can be expanded by dropping the backseats, providing a pass-through opening. Cars.com, however, isn't pleased with the storage space, declaring that "the small trunk was a bit of a surprise" and noting that "it's not exactly deep or tall, so large suitcases have to be wedged in tightly."

Reviewers are split about the quality of the S80 interior. Cars.com sums it up pretty well: "The materials are all soft to the touch, the leather is plush and the seats are ultra comfortable. What's left to want?" Edmunds is a bit more critical of the S80. While acknowledging that the Volvo S80 interior has the auto industry's "most supportive seats [and] its cabin has all the expected amenities, it lacks the unrestrained elegance and exacting quality of competitors' interiors." ConsumerGuide, however, says that "materials aren't especially rich for a premium car," but admit the "cabin is decently appointed overall."

ConsumerGuide also reports that noise levels aboard the Volvo S80 are "subdued, but not as quiet as many luxury-class competitors...both 6-cylinder engines growl under acceleration."

Automotive.com likes the fact that "a menu system tailors the seats, rearview mirrors, climate control, audio, navigation, and the amount of steering wheel feel in the car's speed-dependent power steering system." The reviewer "found the steering wheel controls a bit fussy at first, and hard to use, but owners will figure them out quickly." Automotive Traveler notes, "The needlessly fiddly navigation controls were the only negative we identified."

The 2010 S80 has controls and displays that are quite simple—for a luxury car, that is. Cars.com reports that you'll notice "buttons...lots of them." However, these "allow you to turn on the air, stereo, safety features and more with a simple push; there are no complicated menus for simple tasks, just buttons." ConsumerGuide reassures prospective buyers that "the gauges are easy to read. While the abundance of buttons can seem complicated, the controls are actually very easy to use."

10

2010 Volvo S80

Safety

With top-notch traditional crash-test results and some leading-edge technology, the 2010 Volvo S80 absolutely shines when it comes to safety. Its list of available safety features simply can't be beat.

The S80 has an excellent safety record going many years back, and the 2010 version is no exception.

The 2010 S80 retains top "good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in every category—including the new roof-crush test—and is named a Top Safety Pick.

Front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control, are standard. In addition to all the usual accident avoidance and occupant safety items such as front, side, and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control, a new system primes the brakes before an accident; blind-spot detectors send audible alerts. There’s also Volvo’s Personal Car Communicator, a keyfob-connected in-car sensor that tells you if your security system has detected a break-in—or even a heartbeat. Kelley Blue Book reports the Volvo S80 has, as standard safety features, "anti-whiplash (WHIPS) and side-impact protection (SIPS) systems, Dynamic Traction and Stability Control, anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Assistance and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags."

J.D. Power notes that the S80 offers additional protection for occupants in the event of a collision with "a transversely mounted inline-6 powerplant—an uncommon engine arrangement, but a necessary contributor to the high safety ratings the S80 earned." ConsumerGuide is impressed by the optional adaptive cruise control with radar assist that "can ready maximum braking force if a collision is imminent." Edmunds praises the 2009 Volvo's optional Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which "uses warning lights mounted on the A-pillars to alert the driver when another vehicle pulls up in the S80's blind spot."

Cars.com reports that the Volvo S80 continues this tradition with "breakthrough safety gizmos we hadn't seen until very recently." MotherProof explains that "since the early 1970s, a Volvo Traffic Accident Research Team has been on call 24 hours a day to immediately respond to the site of Volvos involved in an accident within their immediate vicinity." The reviewer appreciates the importance placed on collecting "data on how the vehicles performed in real-world crashes, including researching police and medical records in conjunction with the accident."

10

2010 Volvo S80

Features

The 2010 Volvo S80 has an options list to satisfy tech-savvy shoppers, lean sport-sedan lovers, or those seeking traditional luxury features.

The 2010 Volvo S80 comes with a lot of traditional luxury features, but there are also plenty of extras—many of them the stuff of ultraluxury cars—on offer, if you’re willing to pay quite a bit more for it.

Kelley Blue Book reports that the Volvo S80 has a lengthy list of standard features, such as "numerous power assists, including eight-way adjustment for the front seats, a tilt and telescopic steering column, dual-zone climate control, 160-watt/eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary input and MP3 capability, [and] power sunroof." Also standard are a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, a tinted windshield, Rainsensor windshield wipers, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Edmunds notes that the V-8 trim has "higher-grade leather upholstery, additional wood trim, an interior air quality system and Volvo's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) system," which "combines keyless startup with a security system that uses two-way radio technology to monitor the car's security status." Heated front and rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, high-pressure headlamp washers, and an inner door-opener light are all standard on the V-8 model, too.

Edmunds is enthusiastic about the S80's seats and sound system: "Dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash CD changer and an MP3 player jack, Bluetooth and one-touch power windows are also included."

Base and V-8 models of the Volvo S8 offer a good list of features, and the Climate Package, Convenience Package, and Technology Package provide plenty of opportunities for add-ons. Heated windshield wash nozzles, rain-sensor wipers, headlamp cleaning, and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system are among the many options.

A newly enhanced Executive Package now brings classic wood inlays, plus extras like massage seats and softer leather, while a power moonroof and backseat refrigerator are now offered as stand-alone options. Also new this year is a Multimedia Package that pairs the excellent Dynaudio audio system with a DVD navigation system, rear headphone jacks, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Automotive Traveler has a 2010 Volvo S80 with the ventilated seats and appreciates the cooling feature. "You'll never appreciate this more than when the outside temperature is in excess of 125 degrees as it was on our sojourn to Death Valley," the reviewer says.

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