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As the flagship of the Volvo line, the S80 showcases the curvier new side of Volvo, but in a somewhat more conservative—some might say prestige-oriented—way.
And that's true especially from the outside. And although the look is attractive from the side, with an dashing roofline, and a look that's unmistakeably Volvo from the front, the S80 looks dated from some angles—and definitely less daring than the smaller, flamboyant S60 sport sedan. The instrument-panel and cabin design of the 2013 Volvo S80 show no signs of looking dated or stodgy, though. In fact, the style mavens will still be very satisfied with the against-the-grain look inside, with contrasting materials and Volvo's 'floating' center stack—a thin panel that houses a high-end audio system, with extra storage behind.
The performance-oriented 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six in the all-wheel-drive T6 is an impressive powertrain that can move the S80 quickly; but even with it the S80's just not that much fun to drive. Factor in a lack of steering feel, and the sense that you're carrying a lot of heft, and this is a car that definitely feels more agreeable on the highway. Go with the base straight-six and front-wheel drive, and you'll have a car that feels a little more nimble, if you don't need the all-weather ability. Again, highway trips are its forte; with the comfortable suspension settings and quiet interior, the S80 devours the miles.
There's one front-page story for the 2013 Volvo S80 that can't bear enough emphasis: It has great seats. Whether you're tall or short, thin or thick, we can't imagine much better than these front perches. Those in back will be happy, too. Adults fit quite well, thanks to smart contouring—although don't expect limo-like space—and you can fit three across if your passengers are more petite. The leather upholstery doesn't let you down either; it's a good mid-point between plush and durable enough for family use. Also, with real wood finishes, metallic touches, and contrasting hues, the materials stray from the typical luxury-car convention, yet the interior will never strike you as ordinary or mass-market.
Ride quality on standard S80 models is perhaps firmer than some will expect; but out on the open road, it makes more sense as the S80's stoic ride character translates to excellent stability and none of the queasy, bouncy character that some other softer luxury cars possess.
All the usual luxury-sedan features are offered here, but it's safety—and especially active safety—that's central to the S80 package. Add the available Technology Package, and you get a suite of radar- and camera-related active-safety features including Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control, Distance Alert, and a Lane Departure Warning system. This year that package also includes a Road Sign Information system as well. Rain-sensor wipers and headlight washers are now included in all 2013 Volvo S80s, and 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—has been made standard.