Last year's Volvo S80 - the Swedish auto manufacturer's flagship - received a substantial redesign. Included in this redesign was a vastly more sleek and sporty exterior and an all-new V8 was added. Not surprisingly, a list of new safety technology longer than 50 Cent's rap sheet was also added. Each of these changes were very positive, and, considering this Volvo's stiff competition, none more so than the V-8. A third trim package has been added to the mix for 2008, an AWD turbo-charged inline six cylinder. Other than this, the 2008 remains unchanged.
Last year, my tester came equipped with the 4.4-liter V8. I am never one to complain about a V8, but frankly its 311 horsepower seemed pretty anemic compared to much of the S80’s competition. This year, I got the new turbo 3.0-liter inline six. I must admit, I’m perplexed at this offering from Volvo. There is exactly 30 more horsepower in the V8, which is really not that big a difference in terms of what the average driver is going to feel in the seat of the pants. So, the smaller displacement turbo must get better gas mileage, right? No, it’s exactly the same as the V8.
The S80 is capable of slicing through corners with relative ease. I’m guessing it did it with ease. I'm not certain, though, as there is something of a disconnect between driver, car, and road. When pushed too hard, the heavy S80 tends to lose front grip first. Although, its all-wheel-drive system makes for a relatively neutral ride. The Volvo’s real strength is its supple ride quality. Among the competitors I’ve driven, the S80 is the champ on rough city streets, hands down. If you are the type that views a few fleeting moments on a curvy country by-way as your opportunity to play Juan Fangio, the S80 is not going to be nearly as rewarding as the BMWs, Mercedes-Benz’, Lexus’ competing in this class. However, if comfort is more your cup of tea, the S80 won’t disappoint.
On one hand, the redesigned S80 is far more attractive than its predecessor. However, while it is vastly improved, the styling department seems to be an area where Volvo and I don’t see eye to eye. Believe me, I understand that Volvo doesn’t market to the same buyers that BMW targets. I get that. And this is an area where that difference is most noticeable. Not only will the S80 tell you if there is somebody in your blind spot with its Blind Spot Indicator System (BLIS), it will also tell you if there is a serial killer lurking in or around your car by way of its available Safe Approach and Home Safe Perimeter Lighting System. I don’t make this stuff up. Still wonder where Volvo’s priorities lie?
The S80, while more mainstream now than ever before, is more about it catering to its niche than conquering the mainstream luxury sedan market.