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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
all the flavor of Wasa crisp bread
Car and Driver
delivers smooth power
provides adequate power but lacks punch
While overall reviewers are pleased with the 2008 Volvo S80's performance traits, the exact kind of performance you'll get depends on the choice of engine.
According to ConsumerGuide, the Volvo S80 comes in three trims for 2008: "the front-wheel drive 3.2; the new-for-2008 all-wheel drive T6; and the AWD V8." In terms of powerplants, the base model has "a 235-hp 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine," the T6 offers "a turbocharged 281-hp 3.0-liter inline six," and the top-of-the-line V-8 sports a "311-hp 4.4-liter engine." Kelley Blue Book is satisfied with the standard engines, which it reports are "fully capable of dealing with daily commutes and cross-country cruises," but points out that both the "T6 AWD and V8 AWD [are] demonstrably quicker, more responsive and far more engaging."
Edmunds, however, isn't as kind to the smaller engine, saying it "doesn't really get the juices flowing" and that "acceleration was modest with either of the lesser engines"; they suggest that "buyers seeking a more authentic luxury experience will undoubtedly prefer either the midrange S80 T6 or the high-line S80 V8." Otherwise, "the Volvo S80 comes across as tepid for a luxury sedan in this class...[and] does little to engage its driver." ConsumerGuide agrees, noting that "the 3.2's smooth 6-cylinder provides adequate power but lacks punch compared to V6-powered class rivals and even cars costing thousands less." When it comes to the turbocharged inline-six and V-8 trims, these "are a bit docile from a start but deliver willing power appropriate for the class." However, according to Cars.com, "from a driving-thrills standpoint, there's no reason for anyone to move up to the V-8...not only is the T6 $7,000 less than the V-8, it's just a better driving car."
A single transmission option, which Cars.com reports is a "six-speed automatic...with Geartronic sequential shifting," is installed in all three trims. ForbesAutos notes that it "allows manual gear selection...across the line."
When it comes to fuel economy, this 2008 Volvo isn't the greatest; Car and Driver reports 13-15 mpg in the city and 23-24 mpg on the open road--not outstanding by any means, but still respectable for a vehicle weighing over two tons. Official EPA estimates, as cited by Kelley Blue Book, are 16/24 mpg for the 3.2-liter and 15/23 mpg for the both the T6 and the V-8.
Cars.com says that the T6 trim of the 2008 Volvo "is the best buy of the lineup, providing as many or more driving thrills than the more-expensive V-8." It praises the smooth steering, saying that while it's "not as pinpoint precise as a BMW's," it is "a safe car that can pass on demand and has a comfortable ride. The S80 delivers an almost perfect blend of comfort and performance." One of the few naysayers was the reviewer at Car and Driver, who writes that even when "equipped in its most expensive guise with the sculptural and guttural Yamaha-built 311-hp, 4.4-liter V-8," the Volvo S80 has "all the flavor of Wasa crisp bread, which is like eating particle board."
In general, however, reviewers consulted by TheCarConnection.com gave the S80 high marks for providing a good driving experience. ConsumerGuide praises the brake system as being "worry-free" but reports that their test model "suffered from a slightly mushy pedal." This source also reports that in terms of handling, the Volvo S80 "never feels sporty, but handles with controlled competence." Kelley Blue Book points out that the Volvo S80's "emphasis leans more towards ride comfort than sheer agility. The...three-way adjustable shock absorbers, speed-sensitive power steering and a more aggressive wheel and tire pairing...won't transform an S80 into an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series, but it will enhance both ride and handling at the touch of a button."
The 2008 Volvo S80 may attract you with its stellar safety features, but that doesn't mean it's boring to drive, especially if you choose the turbocharged T6 or the 311-hp V-8.