2015 Volvo S80 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
May 14, 2015

The 2015 Volvo S80 puts safety and comfort first, making it one of the most family-friendly full-size luxury sedans.

Stately yet curvaceous, the 2015 Volvo S80 is the brand’s flagship sedan, updated for 2015 with a host of changes to the interior, drivetrain, and more.

The exterior of the 2015 S80 remains largely unchanged, though a new wider chrome trim molding on the trunk lid adds some shine to the S80 T5 Drive-E model, which also gets new optional 18-inch “Magni” alloy wheels, and a new Bright Silver Metallic color option. The S80 T6 AWD gets the trunk chrome, wheels, and exterior paint, too, plus a new available Inscription package that adds dark walnut wood inlays to the cabin.

Still distinctively Volvo from the exterior, especially the front, the S80’s rakish, slick lines are far more current than the brand’s boxy heritage, but beside the even sleeker S60, the S80 begins to betray its age. Inside, the story is one of daring and cool Swedish simplicity. Contrasting materials, a “floated” center stack housing the climate controls and high-end audio system interface—it all combines to form an impression of refined, curated elegance.

Features abound in the S80, with all of the offerings you’d expect for comfort, convenience, and entertainment, but it’s safety where the S80 really shines. With the optional Technology Package, the S80 offers both radar- and camera-based safety systems, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert, and Lane Departure Warning System. Last year, the Road Sign Information system was also included, as well as rain-sensor wipers and headlight washers. The standard Personal Car Communicator key fob system can even remotely report on the S80’s security status, and is even capable of detecting an intruder in the vehicle.

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New to the S80 range for 2015 is the S80 T5 Drive-E, which pairs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with front-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission, start/stop technology, and an ECO+ driving mode that offers ECO-coast and ECO-Climate functions. Rated at 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the T5 Drive-E’s power output isn’t far off the larger turbocharged six-cylinder in the S80 T6.

The S80 T6’s 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder is more performance oriented than the economy-focused T5 Drive-E, however, and is capable of moving the large S80 quickly. That said, the S80 is still a hefty sedan, and despite its rapid acceleration, it feels most at home on the highway. The previously offered base T6 six-cylinder with front-wheel drive is no longer offered for 2015, replaced by the T5 Drive-E.

Sitting inside the 2015 Volvo S80, one of the most immediately noticeable things is the comfort of the seats: they’re simply amazing. No matter your height or size, the S80’s front seats are just about the pinnacle of automotive comfort. The rear seats are nice, too, easily fitting adults thanks to intelligently contoured backs. Smaller passengers can even fit three across in the rear. Throughout the cabin, the leather upholstery feels rich and durable, while real wood finishes, metallic accents, and tasteful contrasting color schemes combine to make a unique but decidedly luxurious experience.

Despite the plush seats, the ride quality of the 2015 Volvo S80 is firm, and perhaps firmer than some would expect. That firmness turns into a stable, solid feeling out on the highway where the S80 is most at home, however, completely avoiding the rolling, floating feel of some other full-size luxury sedans.

At the pump, the new S80 T5 Drive-E is a refreshingly light drinker for a full-size luxury sedan, rating 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined in EPA testing. The S80 T6’s more powerful engine and all-wheel drive result in 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined EPA ratings.

The S80 hasn't been tested recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the 2015 Volvo S80 a Top Safety Pick+ (TSP Plus) designation, scoring top marks in all test categories and “superior” in front crash prevention, based on standard safety equipment.

The 2015 Volvo S80 starts at $40,500 plus $925 in destination fees for the S80 T5 Drive-E Premier model, and ranges up to a base price of $48,150 plus destination for the S80 T6 AWD Platinum.

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2015 Volvo S80

Styling

A sober exterior is offset by the 2015 Volvo S80's fantastic Scandinavian-inspired interior.

Conservative, classy, and understated, the 2015 Volvo S80's exterior look won't turn heads, but its interior wows.

Volvo hasn't updated the S80's shape in years, although new trim elements and minor tweaks to the grille and exhaust outlets have helped keep it current. Unmistakable Volvo cues dominate the front end, and the profile is handsome, but from some angles, the S80's exterior is beginning to age a bit, and compared to the American and German alternatives--or even Volvo's own S60--it's definitely less than exciting.

The S80's cabin is a complete 180 from the staid exterior, however. Simple, elegant Scandinavian tastes dictate sleek surfaces, fine finishes, and contrasting light and dark tones that wrap the cabin and its occupants in a sophisticated sense of luxury that carries off high-end without resorting to flashy baubles. The 'floating' center stack is a prime example: A thin panel houses the high-end audio system's controls, yet offers storage behind, blending form with function in seamless harmony.

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2015 Volvo S80

Performance

Comfortable and stable, the 2015 Volvo S80 is a competent--but never sporty--sedan.

The 2015 Volvo S80 T6 packs a 300-horsepower turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine shared with the sporty S60 sedan. While it feels somewhat more restrained in the larger S80, it’s enough pep to give it a fun edge.

For 2015, Volvo gets rid of the previous base model’s 240-horsepower in-line six, replacing it with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, called the S80 T5 Drive-E. All T5 Drive-E models are front-wheel drive.

The S80 T6 is all-wheel-drive only for 2015, enabling the car to deliver up to 50 percent of the engine’s output to the rear wheels when needed. As a result, it’s a system intended more for inclement weather and other low-grip driving conditions than as a performance enhancer.

Both engines can move the S80 rapidly down the road, but neither will feel truly thrilling—the S80 is not a sport sedan. Dull steering and the heft of a large sedan combine to keep the drive somewhat sedate. On T6 models, the active suspension system offers several modes, including Comfort, Sport, and Advanced. The active suspension ties into the variable-assist power steering, adjusting from firm to light depending on the setting—but despite this integrated driving mode system, the overall feel is artificial, and certainly not performance-oriented.

Where the S80 shines is the open road. A firm yet comfortable ride, quiet interior, and supremely comfortable seats makes for a composed long-haul touring sedan that compares favorably to the Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series and their ilk.

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2015 Volvo S80

Comfort & Quality

Fantastic seats and plenty of headroom make the 2015 Volvo S80 a great long-drive sedan.

A fantastic pair of front seats sits at the top of the 2015 Volvo S80’s list of luxury sedan strengths, offering good fit and support for a wide range of body sizes and types, a wide range of adjustability, and optional heating and cooling build into the seats, too.

With such a good start to a long road trip, the rest of the interior’s execution is icing on the cake. The leather upholstery catches a fine balance between durable and plush; real wood finishes and metallic accents convey solidity and quality; the whole comes together to form an environment that’s both special and substantial.

The rear seat is comfortable and fairly spacious, too. Adults fit easily, thanks in part to smartly contoured seating surfaces. Three passengers can ever ride side-by-side if they’re somewhat more compact. Rear-seat passengers also benefit from the B-pillar-mounted air conditioning vents.

With just 15 cubic feet of trunk space, the S80’s cargo capacity isn’t tremendous, but the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks make room for larger items when necessary.

Contrasting with the comfortable, plush seats, the S80’s ride quality is perhaps somewhat firmer than expected, but once cruising the highway at speed, that firmness translates into a comfortable sense of stability that completely avoids the floating, bouncy feel of softer luxury cars.

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2015 Volvo S80

Safety

The 2015 Volvo S80 is one of the safest cars you can buy.

Volvo has built its brand on a reputation for safety, and the 2015 S80 doesn’t disappoint in keeping up with that legacy—and even pushing it into new territory.

Standard safety equipment on the 2015 Volvo S80 includes a vast array of high tech gear: City Safety offers forward collision avoidance; the Personal Car Communicator (which can detect intruders and report on the security status of the car remotely); rain-sensing wipers and headlight washers keep the driver’s view unobstructed; and the headlights can automatically detect and adjust for tunnels.

Optional safety equipment included in the Technology Package takes the technology to a yet higher level, with radar- and camera-based systems including Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Sign Information system, Distance Alert, and a Lane Departure Warning system. A Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is also available.

The 2015 Volvo S80 hasn’t been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the structurally identical 2014 S80 scored a Top Safety Pick+ (TSP Plus) rating from the IIHS, its highest award. The S80 also demonstrated strong results in the small-overlap test. It’s one of the safest sedans on the market.

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2015 Volvo S80

Features

A long standard features list and enticing upgrade packages keep the 2015 Volvo S80 feature-packed and current.

Despite an aging design, the 2015 Volvo S80 offers a fully modern list of luxury and technology features. Three trim lines divide the offerings into tiers, each offering more features while costing more money.

Starting with the S80 T5 Drive-E model, at the Premier level, safety features like City Safety and daytime running lights are standard, as is an adaptive digital instrument display cluster, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, dual-zone electronic climate control, leather gearshift knob and steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, and a 7-inch color display. Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with audio streaming, a six-CD changer audio system with iPod/USB input, MP3 capability, eight speakers, and a 160-Watt amplifier are also standard.

The Premier Plus tier adds to the Premier’s features with a Homelink programmable garage door opener, front and rear parking assist system, rear-view mirror compass, a rear-view camera, and a quick-folding passenger seat.

Platinum models get all Premier Plus features plus standard accent lighting, an upgraded Volvo Premium Sound System with HD Radio, CD player, iPod/USB input, MP3 capability, Dolby Pro-Logic II surround sound, a 650-Watt amplifier, and 12 speakers. Navigation with voice control and real-time traffic is also included with Platinum models.

Opting for the S80 T6 AWD, the buyer will find the same three trim levels, but with slightly different feature configurations. S80 T6 AWD models come with a standard power glass sunroof (optional on T5 Drive-E models), and are also eligible for some package upgrades not found on the T5, including the Sport Chassis upgrade and dark walnut interior inlays among others.

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2015 Volvo S80

Fuel Economy

A new four-cylinder turbocharged model adds a much greener option to the 2015 Volvo S80 line.

The 2015 Volvo S80 isn't as green as some of the hybrid alternatives from other brands, but the new S80 T5 Drive-E model offers a much greener alternative to last year's base powertrain.

At an EPA-rated 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, the turbocharged four-cylinder 2015 Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E promises combined gas mileage of 29 mpg—a fair figure even for much smaller cars, and a fine number for a luxurious, feature-packed, roomy sedan.

The Drive-E replaces last year’s six-cylinder base model which scored just 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for 23 mpg combined, making the Drive-E a significant improvement in gas mileage and carbon footprint.  

The S80 T6 AWD suffers from its all-wheel drive system and more powerful turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine when it comes to gas mileage, rating 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined per the EPA.

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