2014 Volvo S80 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
March 12, 2014

The 2014 Volvo S80 isn't at all about performance, but what it does–and does well–is offer a safe, stylish, supremely comfortable sedan for fashion-conscious families.

The 2014 Volvo S80 is the flagship model for the brand, and while it wears a more curvaceous suit of armor than the boxy Volvos of yore, it does so in a more subtle, almost stately, fashion.

That's especially true from the exterior. Although it has the distinctive Volvo look from the front, and slick, rakish lines from the profile, there are some angles that age the S80's appearance. Sit it next to its more modern, more flamboyant S60 sport sedan sibling, and the S80 starts to look a little boring. That's not the case inside, though. The S80's Swedish interior keeps things simple, and–dare we say–cool, with contrasting materials and the 'floating' center stack, which houses the high-end audio system and climate controls. For 2014, the S80 gets new front and rear bumpers, LED day-time running lights, and a larger badge in the middle of the grille.

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 2014 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—have been standard since last year.

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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 2014 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.

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2014 Volvo S80

Styling

The S80's sober exterior lightens up with a Scandi-fabulous interior.

The Volvo S80 is more about conservative, yet prestigious styling, and it was one of the first cars to showcase a curvier side of Volvo's design.

The S80 hasn't changed much in recent years, though it did get a few new touches–like chrome accents, a new grille, and a more pronounced exhaust outlet–a few years back to sharpen its look. While it may look handsome in profile with its raked roofline and unmistakable Volvo front end, the S80 has started to age from certain angles–and it's definitely less exciting looking than its smaller S60 sedan sibling.

Thanks its simple, yet elegant Scandinavian design, the 2014 Volvo S80's interior continue to look current, even years after the most recent redesign. In fact, the style mavens will still be very satisfied. Volvo's 'floating' center stack—a thin panel that houses a high-end audio system, with extra storage behind—remains unrivaled for functionality and style. Materials take a stark, Scandinavian tack, with light and dark tones providing contrast, along with silk-metal inlays and real wood veneers that fully look the part of a luxury-car cabin.

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2014 Volvo S80

Performance

None of the S80 sedans feels remotely sporty, but they're competent to a fault.

In its T6 versions, the 2014 Volvo S80 comes with a 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six that produces 300 horsepower, much like the sportier S60 sport sedan. Granted, that engine feels a little tamer under the hood of the S80, but it still feels like a decent performer in a segment of refined luxury sedans.

On base models, you instead get a 240-hp straight-six and front-wheel drive. This is a combination we actually like for its straightforward presentation as a well-equipped luxury car; and as that, it's surprisingly nimble, maneuverable, and economical.

Choose the T6 model, and the S80 moves rapidly down the road, and is surprisingly nimble on mountain roads, though it's never too thrilling behind the wheel. That's due at least in part to the S80's dull steering and the car's overall weight, which is especially noticeable in front-wheel-drive models. With the T6, you also get an active suspension system with Comfort, Sport, and Advanced modes; it's a pretty sophisticated system and ties in with the variable-assist power steering, which varies its assist from quite light to very firm. Again, it all feels very artificial, though.

The all-wheel-drive system that's offered in the S80 can send up to 50 percent to the rear wheels when needed, but it's more a system for inclement weather than it is one for high-performance driving.

In any of its forms, what the S80 really does well—even against recently updated models like the BMW 5-Series or Audi A6—is on the open road. With a ride that's firm yet comfortable, a very quiet interior, superb seats, and a combination of confident tracking and strong passing power, the S80 is the way to do long road trips in style.

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2014 Volvo S80

Comfort & Quality

Insanely comfortable seats and plenty of room make the S80 an excellent long-distance tourer.

Perhaps one of the 2014 Volvo S80's greatest strengths is its pair of excellent front seats. Regardless of shape or size, we think you'll find yourself comfortable–the seats can be adjusted into several different positions, and there's optional fan-powered heating and cooling, too, making them perfect for a long road trip.

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.

Rear seat passengers won't have much to complain about, either. While there isn't necessarily limo-like space, adults fit nicely, thanks to smart contouring–and you can fit three across if your passengers are a little more petite. There are also A/C vents built into B pillars for better comfort.

Trunk space is surprisingly small, at just under 15 cubic feet, but the rear seatbacks (split 60/40) do flip forward.

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.

9

2014 Volvo S80

Safety

Active-safety gear and great crash scores keep the S80 on top of the protection scale.

Volvo's reputation for safety is the stuff of legends. Not only has the brand brought to life many of the more sensible safety items found in every car today–a la three-point seatbelts–but in recent years, it's also developed technologies that are designed actively reduce the number of injuries inside and outside of the car, should an accident be unavoidable.

Standard features on the 2014 S80 are plentiful: rain-sensor wipers and headlight washers are now included in all 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. And there's a new Tunnel Detection feature for the headlamps.

Volvo's City Safety system, which helps brake (even to a stop at lower speeds) to avoid a collision with vehicles ahead, comes standard. And with an available Technology Package, you can step up to 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. Separately, there's a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that places warning lights mounted on the front pillars, to alert the driver if there's another vehicle in the blind spot.

The S80 hasn't been redesigned in many years. Yet we've given it a particularly high score because of all those features, Volvo's longstanding reputation, and its repeat status as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+, and its strong results in the small-overlap test. It's quite simply one of the safest cars on the market, and if some NHTSA ratings came about, we'd be inclined to move it higher.

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2014 Volvo S80

Features

Volvo's stocked the S80 with lots of luxury features, while it skips the unnecessary bling.

The 2014 Volvo S80's list of modern luxury and technology features help mask its aging design.  There are three trim available–base, Premier Plus and Platinum–each with incrementally more features for incrementally more money.

Heated rear seats, dual active xenon headlamps, and a dynamic suspension system are among the features offered in other major packages--Climate (heated front and rear seats, heated headlamp washers, rain-sensor wipers), Inscription (leather, ventilated seats, walnut trim), and Technology (adaptive cruise, collision warning with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, and Lane Departure Warning).

A power sunroof, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), and upgraded wheels are among the few stand-alone options.

Fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, cruise, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, Bluetooth, and Sirius Satellite Radio are all included even in the base model. And as of last year, it adds Keyless Drive, the Personal Car Communicator, headlight washers, rain-sensor wipers, Tunnel Detection, and a new shift knob.

Premier Plus models add just a few more extras, like a garage-door opener, while it's Platinum models that pile on the luxury and tech, with premium sound (650-watt), iPod/USB inputs, HD Radio, navigation with real-time traffic, rear park assist, dual xenon HID headlamps with Active Bending Light are now a standalone option. A new Volvo Sensus screen-based system is newly standard, too, across the model line. As of last year, Volvo has improved the functionality of the steering-wheel scroll controller, for this system that can be controlled with either that or the touch screen.

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2014 Volvo S80

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage looks mediocre when compared to other large near-luxury sedans.

The 2014 Volvo S80 isn't a bad choice for mpg-minded shoppers, pending they stick to the front-wheel-drive model. And even then, we think it does the job pretty well considering the car's mission for convenience, safety and creature comforts.

Last year Volvo managed to eke a little more mileage out of its six-cylinder engine; front-wheel-drive S80 models now get 20 mpg city, 29 highway, which isn't bad for such a large sedan.

You give up a lot for the all-wheel-drive model—2 mpg in the city, and 3 mpg on the highway—and we're not sure it's worth it unless you truly need the snow-driving security.

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8.2
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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