Just launched the new Volvo S80 has to be Volvo’s finest car ever, it looks and is very swish, it has all and more of the safety features which Volvo are famous for, loads the technology in with a giant ladle, every gadget known to modern man included down to a satellite navigation system and more airbags than Richard Branson has crashed and will doubtless hold it’s own in what is becoming a fiercely contested class because it will be selling against the new S Type Jaguar, the BMW 5 series and the Rover 75, tough competition but it’s a tough competitor.
It’s the first car for a very long time that Volvo has built only as a saloon reflecting the sudden rise in interest in 3 box saloons after years of withering sales, a trend in the market place most notable in the executive car sector where 5 door hatches are less desirable and the market for estate cars seems in decline although that last is certainly not true for other market sectors where load luggers are still a growth business.
The S80 is built on an entirely new platform and boasts many new safety features including anti-whiplash seats, more airbags than ever and all of the current features one expects from Swedish legend Volvo, a company who have built much of their reputation on safety. The new 5 car range has engines from either a 140 bhp or 170 bhp straight 5 or one of two new transverse, in line, sixes, a 204 bhp, 2.9 litre or the more sporting, 2.8 litre, twin turbo, 272 bhp, T6 with, for the cost conscious, a 2.5 Turbo diesel all with prices from £22,155.
I spent a few sybaritic hours in the company of the near top of range 2.9 a £27,630 cossetting environment which separates the driver from the outside world and bathes him or her in luxury. The smooth lines of the S80 carry real road presence, it looks a luxury car, oozes class, makes a big but discreet statement about the owner. Inside, the luxurious cabin is spectacularly comfortable, loads of room in all directions, huge electrically controlled - and heated - seats, more technology on the dashboard than the space shuttle and airbags everywhere although all hope they won’t be seen... ever.
Just running through parts of a long list the S80 has even more acronyms than most, ABS, STC and EBD - they all keep the S80 on the road - aircon, remote locking, immobiliser, alarm, dual, roof and side airbags, a whiplash protection system, power windows, an amazing stereo, the list goes on and on.
On the road the powerful 2.9 litre engine allied to a slick autobox provides tremendous punch from it’s 204 bhp, great acceleration, good overtaking capability with loads of power in the mid-range, 8.9 seconds for the 0-60 dash and onto a 140 mph top speed yet it’s all so incredibly quiet, I even thought a couple of times I’d stalled the car at the lights so quiet was it and there’s a cathedral like hush at 70 mph just the rush of the air you’re cutting through.
For a big car the S80 is amazingly nimble, Volvo have learned a lot about suspension technology from their highly succesful British Touring Car efforts, it barely rolls and holds the road very well when hustled, tribute to that technology as well.
In a competive market sector the S80 is a tough competitor, it’ll do well.
First Published 1998 - Article © Graham Benge 2007