2012 Volvo S80 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 20, 2012

With plenty of comfort, style, and safety, the 2012 Volvo S80 hits all the right marks for an image-conscious, affluent family--but lacks the sportier driving personality of the somewhat smaller S60.

As the flagship model in Volvo's model line, the 2012 S80 showcases the Swedish-born brand's priorities of safety and technology, along with a very different notion of interior design, and wraps it all into a very comfortable luxury-sedan package.

It's been several years since the S80 has been redesigned, but even when it last was, for 2007, it looked a bit conservative. And it especially does next to the curvier, more contemporary S60 that was introduced this past year. Inside, style mavens will be more satisfied. There's a version of Volvo's 'floating' center stack—a thin panel that houses a high-end audio system, with extra storage behind. Materials are top-notch, too—up to the caliber of traditional luxury cars, with silk metal inlays and real wood veneers, but with fundamentally stark, Scandinavian. contrasts.

The 2012 Volvo S80 can be equipped with serious go-fast hardware under the hood—a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six in the all-wheel-drive T6—but while it can move very quickly, the S80 is never all that much fun to drive. That's mostly because of the S80's rather dull steering feel, and the sense that the S80 carries itself with a lot of heft—even if it is quite maneuverable. Go with the base straight-six and front-wheel drive, and you'll have a car that feels a little more agreeable (and nimble) if you don't need the all-weather ability. Factor in the firm but comfortable suspension settings and quiet interior, and the S80 is hands-down one of the best long-distance highway cruisers on the market.

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In addition to a reputation for safety and longevity, Volvo has earned a name for itself in recent years for having excellent seats. You simply 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 add to the S80's long-distance appeal. Front seats also have optional heating and cooling with fan-driven ventilation, while 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. Materials definitely go outside of luxury-car convention in appearance, but there's plenty to be happy with from inside; there's very little if any hard plastic up at eye level, and the leather upholstery is plush and luxurious.

This year, Volvo has kept the S80 up to snuff for its safety-focused customer base by making the brand's City Safety obstacle-alert system standard on the 2012 S80. With an available Technology Package, you can step up to a suite of radar- and camera-related active-safety features including Full Auto Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control, Distance Alert, and a Lane Departure Warning 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. A new Volvo Sensus screen-based system is newly standard, too, and the S80 is now sold in base, Premier Plus, and Platinum trims--with premium sound, voice-controlled navigation, and a park assist camera reserved for the top of the line. Heated rear seats, dual active xenon headlamps, and a dynamic suspension system are among the features offered in other major packages. 

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