Editors at TheCarConnection.com find that the 2009 Volvo S80 performs well overall. There is a big difference in engines, however, so if it really matters to you, go for one of the upgrades.
According to ConsumerGuide, the 2009 Volvo S80 comes in three trims: "the front-wheel drive 3.2; the new-for-2009 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." Automotive.com is "very impressed with the overall behavior of the V8 engine, which sounds quite a lot like a Corvette V8 when first fired up in the morning, then settles down to a nice, smooth idle." 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." Car and Driver, however, reports 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."
ConsumerGuide notes 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." Edmunds isn't a fan of the smallest engine, saying it "doesn't really get the juices flowing" and "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." 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."
The 2009 Volvo S80 has just a single transmission option, which Cars.com reports is a "six-speed automatic...with Geartronic sequential shifting." ForbesAutos notes that it "allows manual gear selection."
Fuel economy isn't fabulous in the 2009 Volvo S80. Official EPA estimates, as cited by Kelley Blue Book, are just 16 mpg city, 24 highway for the 3.2-liter and 15/23 mpg for the both the T6 and the V-8. Car and Driver reports 13-15 mpg in the city and 23-24 mpg on the open road—not outstanding by any means.
Cars.com praises the smooth steering of the 2009 Volvo S80, 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."
Most reviewers are fans of how well the 2009 Volvo S80 rides, though it’s clear that some crisp handling responses are sacrificed in the process. 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." ConsumerGuide praises the brake system for being "worry-free" but reports that their test model "suffered from a slightly mushy pedal." This source also discloses that in terms of handling, the Volvo S80 "never feels sporty, but handles with controlled competence."