2008 Volvo S80 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 13, 2008

The 2008 Volvo S80 is one of the safety luxury sedans on the planet, and in V-8 form it’s an enthusiastic performer.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read a wide range of road tests and have condensed them in this definitive review of the 2008 Volvo S80. TheCarConnection.com's luxury-car experts also drove the 2008 Volvo S80 to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Volvo S80 is a conservatively styled flagship sedan, with a hint of soul from a powerful V-8 engine and an overwhelming package of standard and optional safety features.

The Volvo S80 appeared new in the 2007 model year, with the same staid style it brings for the latest model year. Even though the platform is extensively different and about the same size as the last version, the new car looks a bit smaller and pretty familiar. While there aren't many dramatic changes outside, the Volvo S80's interior borrows the center stack from the smaller S40--it looks like a high-end audio system, and behind the thin panel of audio and climate controls, there's storage for smaller items.

The ultimate power, for now, in the 2008 Volvo S80 is a 311-horsepower V-8. With it and a six-speed automatic, the 2008 Volvo S80 accelerates to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds and treats your ears with a rip-roaring growl. The base Volvo S80 is powered by a 235-hp, 3.2-liter six-cylinder model with front-wheel drive. It's peppy, with plenty of power and a nice, slightly sporty sound, but it's not the jolt of java that the V-8 is. Later in 2008, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine will push out 285 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. The existing six-cylinder gets 16/24 mpg; the V-8, 15/23 mpg.

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An all-wheel-drive system is standard on the 2008 Volvo S80 V-8 and available with the six-cylinder engine. It sends nearly all torque to the front wheels during normal driving but can reapportion up to 50 percent to the rear wheels as needed. There's also available variable-assist power steering, which ranges from light to firm steering, and a Four-C active-suspension system that continually adjusts the S80's shocks from Comfort, Sport, and Advanced. Even in Advanced mode, the Volvo S80 could use tighter suspension.

Seating is still a strong point. The front seats have been reapportioned, with perforated, heated and cooled, fan-driven ventilated upholstery now optional. The nicely contoured backseat is large enough for three petite folks or two American-sized adults, and the climate-control system has vents built into the B-pillars for better comfort in back.

Safety is outstanding. Front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control, are standard. The 2008 Volvo S80 gets "good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and is named a Top Safety Pick. Among the options, a new system primes the brakes before an accident; blind-spot detectors send audible alerts; and a keyfob connected to an in-car sensor lets the driver know if the security system has been breached--and if it senses a heartbeat in the car.

Other features include run-flat tires, a navigation system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a Dynaudio sound system.

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2008 Volvo S80

Styling

The 2008 Volvo S80 is relatively easy on the eye with its rounded, aerodynamic profile.

TheCarConnection.com notes some mixed reviews on the styling of the 2008 Volvo S80, but most lean toward the positive.

According to Edmunds, the "2007 model year brought a full redesign for the S80," but it "didn't change drastically in size or appearance" of the four-door sedan. Cars.com concurs, saying that although with the S80 "Volvo has shaken the boxy look it made famous, the S80 is still unmistakably Volvo." Another reviewer there says the "sculpted body mimics other recently redesigned Volvos," while pointing out that the current model "uses the technique to its best effect to date," thanks to more angled headlights. They were less impressed with the rear of this 2008 Volvo model, however, describing it as "dull as a doornail." Kelley Blue Book, on the other hand, praises the outside appearance of the Volvo S80, reporting that the "subtle wedge shape is effectively reinforced by a sweeping roofline and prominent shoulder ridges."

While Edmunds has little to say about the exterior of the Volvo S80, it holds the opinion that the interior lines are "clean...and the understated wood trim has the look of paneling versus the usual shiny veneer." This is more or less in agreement with Kelley Blue Book's assessment of the 2008 Volvo's "well-appointed cabin," which "reflects a Swedish-modern mentality." They and other reviewers consulted by TheCarConnection.com especially like the Volvo S80's "elegant slim-line center stack that houses the audio and climate control switchgear." In discussing the redesigned interior the S80 received last year, Automobile gives kudos for "artful detailing and logically grouped controls that create a clean look without gimmicky hideaway panels."

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2008 Volvo S80

Performance

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.

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."

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2008 Volvo S80

Comfort & Quality

Those seeking a comfortable and even luxurious ride will have little to complain about with the 2008 Volvo S80.

TheCarConnection.com read few complaints when it comes to comfort levels on board the 2008 Volvo S80.

ForbesAutos reports that the 2008 Volvo S80 has an abundance of interior room: "the cabin is spacious and comfortable." Cars.com says that "it could have a bit more room in the backseat, but the space isn't what you'd call confining;" Kelley Blue Book reports the Volvo S80's "60/40 split-folding rear bench has sufficient head and leg room to take on a pair of average-sized adults or a trio of kids."

Storage in the Volvo S80 is another issue; Cars.com found that "the small trunk was a bit of a surprise," noting that "it's not exactly deep or tall, so large suitcases have to be wedged in tightly." According to Kelley Blue Book, however, "the somewhat modestly-scaled 14.9 cubic-foot trunk" can be expanded by dropping the backseats, providing a pass-through opening.

Several sources heap high praise on the quality of the 2008 Volvo's interior. Cars.com sums it up pretty well: "The materials are all soft to the touch, the leather is plush and the seats are ultra comfortable. What's left to want?" ForbesAutos especially likes the "slim center console and easily operated controls." Edmunds is a bit more critical of this 2008 Volvo model, however. While acknowledging that the Volvo S80 interior has the auto industry's "most supportive seats [and] its cabin has all the expected amenities, it lacks the unrestrained elegance and exacting quality of competitors' interiors." ConsumerGuide is also somewhat disappointed in the fit and finish, saying that most "materials aren't especially rich for a premium car," but even they admit the "cabin is decently appointed overall." They also report that noise levels aboard the Volvo S80 are "subdued, but not as quiet as many luxury-class competitors...both 6-cylinder engines growl under acceleration."

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2008 Volvo S80

Safety

The list of available safety features on the 2008 Volvo S80 would fill a short novel. If safety is your No. 1 priority, you won't do better than this 2008 Volvo.

The 2008 Volvo S80 is one of those rare vehicles to which TheCarConnection.com awards a solid 10 for safety.

Of course, safety has been a high priority with Volvo since it started building automobiles. Cars.com reports that the Volvo S80 continues this tradition with "breakthrough safety gizmos we hadn't seen until very recently." This year's Volvo S80 received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick, scoring the highest ratings in front, side, and rear crash tests, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives this 2008 Volvo five stars in every crash test. Cars.com points out that "no other luxury cars in the segment managed that feat."

Kelley Blue Book reports, as standard safety features, the Volvo S80 has "anti-whiplash (WHIPS) and side-impact protection (SIPS) systems, Dynamic Traction and Stability Control, anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Assistance and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags." ConsumerGuide is impressed by the optional adaptive cruise control with radar assist that "can ready maximum braking force if a collision is imminent." In addition to pointing out a full complement of airbags, J.D. Power notes that the 2008 Volvo S80 offers additional protection for occupants in the event of a collision with "a transversely mounted inline-6 powerplant -- an uncommon engine arrangement, but a necessary contributor to the high safety ratings the S80 earned."

Edmunds praises the 2008 Volvo's optional Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which "uses warning lights mounted on the A-pillars to alert the driver when another vehicle pulls up in the S80's blind spot."

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2008 Volvo S80

Features

If you want a lot of high-tech gadgets and user-friendly controls, the 2008 Volvo S80 is definitely your car.

Despite their complex and even intimidating appearance, the 2008 Volvo S80's features are plentiful, practical, and user-friendly--earning it the unusual distinction of a perfect score of 10 in this area from TheCarConnection.com.

In terms of standard features, Kelley Blue Book reports that the Volvo S80 has a lengthy list, including "numerous power assists, including eight-way adjustment for the front seats, a tilt and telescopic steering column, dual-zone climate control, 160-watt/eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary input and MP3 capability, [and] power sunroof." Edmunds notes that buyers of the 2008 Volvo's V-8 trim "get a wider set of 17-inch wheels and tires, higher-grade leather upholstery, additional wood trim, an interior air quality system and Volvo's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) system," which "combines keyless startup with a security system that uses two-way radio technology to monitor the car's security status."

Kelley Blue Book reports that the Volvo S80's optional Climate Package includes "heated front and rear seats" as well as a Dynaudio Package, which adds "650-watt/12-speaker Dolby Surround Sound system with six-disc CD changer, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and rear-seat audio controls." Edmunds is enthusiastic about the 2008 Volvo's seats and sound system as well: "Dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash CD changer and an MP3 player jack, Bluetooth and one-touch power windows are also included."

Other options available for this year's Volvo S80, according to J.D. Power, include heated windshield wash nozzles, rain-sensor wipers, and headlamp cleaning, along with a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system.

Those who have experienced the rather complicated features of similar Audi and BMW vehicles will appreciate the simplicity of the 2008 Volvo S80. When first confronted by the various devices that are available on the Volvo S80, Cars.com reports that you'll notice "buttons...lots of them." However, these "allow you to turn on the air, stereo, safety features and more with a simple push; there are no complicated menus for simple tasks, just buttons." ConsumerGuide reassures prospective buyers for this 2008 Volvo that "the gauges are easy to read. While the abundance of buttons can seem complicated, the controls are actually very easy to use."

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8.8
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 10
Features 10
Fuel Economy N/A
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