2007 Volvo S80 SedanPosted on November 16th, 2006
Volvo’s luxury flagship comes of age
By Nina Russin
The S80 is Volvo’s largest and most advanced luxury sedan. The original S80 was the first Volvo to make extensive use of multiplexing: using a common “bus” for several electrical signals, in order to reduce the amount of wiring in the car. That technology allowed engineers to increase the amount of electronic safety, comfort and performance features in the vehicle, without turning the engine bay into a jungle of wires.
The second-generation S80 borrows performance features such as the Four-C chassis from Volvo’s sporty R-cars, while introducing exciting new safety features such as a blind spot warning feature, collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and a personal communicator that can warn the driver if a would-be thief breaks into the vehicle. The sedan, that goes on sale the beginning of next year, will come in front- or all-wheel drive, with a choice of inline 6 or V-8 engines, both mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear choice.
It’s Vegas, baby!
I drove the new sedan at a recent program in Las Vegas. Since the area around the Strip has become a maze of construction sites, it was a good environment to test out the new safety features. The areas around Lake Mead and Valley of Fire were less congested, allowing me to open up the throttle, and test the handling finesse of the self-adjusting chassis.
I started out the day in an all-wheel drive V-8 that was fully loaded with available comfort and convenience features. The eight-cylinder engine is the same block that Volvo uses in its XC90 sport-utility vehicle: a compact design that delivers an impressive 311 horsepower, and 325 foot-pounds of torque.
Within half a mile of the hotel, the driver next to me made a quick lane change and slammed on the brakes. The S80 responded by illuminating a collision warning light on the dash, followed by an audible signal. The collision warning system works in tandem with the brakes: the pads move next to the rotors to stop the car faster in an emergency.
Continuing to weave through traffic, the BLIS (blind spot information system) illuminated lights on the A-pillars when cars passed through the blind spots on either side of the car. The system appears similar to the warning system on the Audi Q7 sport-utility vehicle.
However the Volvo technology utilizes cameras behind the side-view mirrors, rather than radar. It’s an especially handy feature for those who commute in urban areas, where cars tend to dart in and out of lanes in order to make headway through traffic. While navigating through traffic is never fun, the Volvo’s safety technology eliminates some of the anxiety that drivers typically experience. We snaked our way down the strip to the south end of town, and onto the 15-freeway towards Lake Mead with a minimum of inconvenience.
The four-C chassis changes the suspension damping automatically in response to road conditions. Drivers choose one of three settings, comfort, sport and advanced, depending on the driving conditions. The car does the rest. It’s a particularly nice feature on winding rural roads, because it allows the driver to maintain a firm suspension for good steering response, without getting beat up in the process.
The roads that wind through Valley of Fire are a good example: the suspension keeps the car flat going over dips and around blind turns, while doing a good job of damping the occasional frost heaves or potholes. All S80 models come equipped with standard dynamic stability control to prevent rollovers, traction control, and antilock brakes.
A speed-sensitive steering system provides more power assistance at low speeds in order to make parking easier. At high speeds there is more steering effort, to keep the car stable during emergency lane changes, and maintain a good on-center feel.
The seats inside the car seem to get better with each new generation of Volvo. Previous S40 models utilized aggressive side bolsters to keep the driver and front passenger in place. While they did their job, they were torture for those of us who have sensitive pressure points on the hips.
The front seats on the S80 are much more comfortable, with a good adjustable lower lumbar feature. Engineers revised the whiplash protection system to use the entire seatback, rather than the headrest, offering more effective injury prevention. Buyers can opt to add ventilated leather to keep the seats cool in the summer, and/or heated seats with three settings.
Scandinavian living room on wheels
The Volvo designers sought to mimic a Scandinavian home with the S80 interior. The European-spec cars are trimmed in stainless, while the North American cars have wood inlays. Designers describe the interior as having a “smart human touch,” and “taking away what’s not needed. The instrument panel is supposed to mimic a snow-covered meadow in winter.
Having lived in Chicago where snow covers potholes rather than meadows, and Phoenix where the meadows don’t see snow, I can’t quite relate. But the interior does seem light, attractive and uncluttered. Instrument panel controls are easy to figure out and access. There are redundant steering wheel controls so the driver doesn’t get distracted adjusting the climate control or radio.
The center console has cupholders large enough to hold water bottles, and well-designed storage bins for holding PDAs, cell phones and MP3 players.
An available premium sound system features Dolby surround-sound with 12 speakers, MP3 format, and Bluetooth compatibility.
Security system that’s sensitive to a heartbeat
The Personal Car Communicator that debuts on the S80 is a remote keyless entry system with theft-detection devices. The driver can check to see what state of lock or unlock he left the car in, no matter how far away he is from the car. At a distance of 330 feet or less, sensors will also tell the driver if an intruder has entered the vehicle. The sensors can detect a heartbeat to determine if the intruder is still hiding in the vehicle. The sensors only work if an intruder has entered a locked vehicle in which the alarm is set. In other words, if your dog jumps into the car, it won’t set off the alarm, or so the engineers claim.
Good power from the inline 6
In the afternoon, I jumped in a 6-cylinder car to compare its power and performance to the 8. The 235 horsepower 6-cylinder doesn’t have the hard acceleration of the 8, but it certainly doesn’t seem underpowered. Drivers looking to step up to Volvo luxury at a friendlier price should give it serious consideration. It’s a smooth, seamless engine with plenty of low and high-end power for accelerating out of tollbooths, or merging into high-speed traffic.
The 6-speed automatic transmission optimizes power and fuel economy, by closely matching gears to the vehicle’s power and performance needs. I had the chance to weave through more urban traffic, approaching the Las Vegas Strip late in the day: same construction, and same crazy drivers. Adding in a dose of fatigue, it was nice to have a nimble, well-balanced chassis under my seat. The European-spec mirrors on the test cars have a wider view on the driver’s side which was a nice perc. It’s a shame that they aren’t legal here in the states.
Pricing from under $40,000
Pricing for the 6-cylinder front-wheel drive S40 begins at $38,705. The V-8 with standard All-wheel drive begins at $47,350. All-wheel drive is available as an option on six-cylinder models. The new S-80 rolls in dealerships February 1.
Likes: Classic Scandinavian design inside and out with segment-leading safety features. Thanks to the R-cars, Volvo’s new generations of luxury sedans have sporty performance in the true European tradition.
Dislikes: None. But I would like to see Volvo certify its D5 turbo-diesel, available in Europe, for sale here in the states. With the availability of clean diesel, it would give Volvo buyers the opportunity to extend their vehicle’s fuel economy in an environmentally friendly package.
Base price: $38,705
Price as tested: $47,350*
Horsepower: 311 Hp @ 5,950 r.p.m.
Torque: 325 lbs-ft. @ 3,950 r.p.m.
0 to 60: 6.5 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: N/A
Comments: * Pricing does not include $695 destination/handling charge.
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