- Emphasis on safety
- Excellent seats
- Rip-roaring available V-8
- Strong brakes
- Not much steering feel
- Disappointing fuel economy
- Stark, love-it-or-hate-it interior
- Staid exterior
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.
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.
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.