The 2010 Volvo S80 is offered with three different powertrains, including a powerful V-8 and all-wheel drive, but none of the combinations deliver the adrenalin surge that serious enthusiasts might expect.
With a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the base 2010 Volvo S80 has plenty of power and a somewhat perky feel overall, and it sounds nice and refined. However, it's not nearly as exciting as the available 311-horsepower V-8, which comes with all-wheel drive and can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. In between there's a T6 model, also with AWD, plus a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine making 281 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel-drive system that comes in T6 and V-8 versions sends nearly all torque to the front wheels during normal driving but can reapportion up to 50 percent to the rear wheels as needed.
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." 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."
TheCarConnection.com's editors strongly prefer the V-8 version, which brings thrilling acceleration, but it’s hard to get excited about the S80’s handling, which feels safe but too disconnected for a sport sedan. Car and Driver emphasizes that the rest of the car doesn't match the engine. Even when "equipped in its most expensive guise with the sculptural and guttural Yamaha-built 311-hp, 4.4-liter V-8," Car and Driver says, the Volvo S80 has "all the flavor of Wasa crisp bread, which is like eating particle board." Automotive.com, however, 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."
Across the board, the S80’s powertrains are way too thirsty, and this is one of the S80’s chief failings. The base six-cylinder version gets an acceptable 18 mpg city, 37 highway, but both the turbo six and the V-8 will rarely break 20 mpg in real-world driving, with ratings of 16/24 mpg and 15/22 mpg, respectively. Car and Driver reports 13-15 mpg in the city and 23-24 mpg on the open road—not outstanding by any means.
With any of the versions, the six-speed automatic transmission is quick to respond and quite smooth-shifting. In T6 or V-8 trim, the Volvo S80 offers an active suspension system that continually adjusts the S80's shocks from Comfort, Sport, and Advanced to fit varied types of driving; it can also tie in with the variable-assist power steering, which ranges from light to firm.
Most reviewers appreciate 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."
ConsumerGuide asserts that Volvo S80 "never feels sporty, but handles with controlled competence." Otherwise, Edmunds says, "the 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." Cars.com praises the smooth steering, stating 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."