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The 2011 Volvo S80 remains the flagship sedan of Volvo's lineup, a model that showcases the brand's priorities of comfort, safety, and technology, as well as a distinctly different notion of interior design.
Volvo might have a number of vehicles that are especially dynamic, design-wise, but the S80 isn't one of them; it's simply quite conservative-looking from the outside. The S80 feels more overtly stylish inside, where there's a version of Volvo's 'floating' center stack at its best; that's a thin center stack that resembles a high-end audio system, including extra storage just behind for smaller items. Materials are top-notch, and have been up to the caliber of traditional luxury cars in recent year, including chrome trims and real wood—with new silk-metal inlays and door-panel stitching added last year—and they bring a nice contrast to an interior design that's fundamentally a bit stark and Scandinavian.
The 2011 S80 has a some solid performance credentials—especially from the available 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six in the all-wheel-drive T6—but while it has strong acceleration and a sense of responsiveness, its handling isn't quite up to snuff for a sport sedan.
Outside of safety and longevity, Volvos are probably best known for having excellent seats. And for that, the 2011 S80 is no exception. You can't do much better than the perches in the S80; they're better than those in some sport sedans costing much more, and perfect for those of a wide range of sizes, thanks to all their adjustability; and they have enough underlying firmness for long-distance comfort. The front seats also have optional heating and cooling with fan-driven ventilation. The nicely contoured backseat is large enough for three petite folks or two American-sized adults (with enough headroom and legroom), and the climate-control system has vents built into the B-pillars for better comfort in back. While materials go outside convention a little bit, along with the design, there's a lot to get comfortable with inside. Soft leather upholstery and trims are satisfying and luxurious, and there's little if any hard plastic up at eye level.
The 2011 Volvo S80 is first and foremost a comfortable, safe luxury car; but dive into the options list and you'll find enough to satisfy the most tech-savvy—or serious audiophiles. This year, Volvo has bolstered the S80's feature lists by adding a few standard features and expanding the available options. Sirius Satellite Radio and a six-month subscription is now standard, and dual xenon HID headlamps with Active Bending Light are now a standalone option. Other topo features include an excellent 650-watt Dynaudio surround sound system, and several packages including trim and appearance upgrades plus a (somewhat dated) DVD-based nav system. Still offered in the S80 is the Personal Car Communicator, a special keyfob system that can report the security status of your vehicle remotely—including the capability to detect an intruder in your vehicle.