2007 Volvo S80
A High Water Mark Of Scandinavian LuxuryVolvos have always seemed something of an anomaly in the European market. That's not necessarily a bad thing. While other European manufacturers (the Germans) have become embroiled in a seemingly endless struggle to offer ever more mind-blowing and comparatively ridiculous levels of convenience and performance, Volvo has quietly remained true to its philosophy of restrained comfort, utility, and, most importantly, unmatched levels of protection for its occupants.
At the new S80's press conference, there were, of course, the requisite inane queries, such as:"How much money, by percentage, does Volvo spend on safety in each of its cars?"
After receiving a quizzical look from the safety engineer and, apparently, an answer that wasn't quite to his liking, the journalist proceeded to ask the same question five different ways.
He never got the answer. That is, how much money is budgeted to each car in order to dial in its stringent safety parameters. But to most of us the answer was obvious: a lot. After all, it's the company's core value.
The all-new Volvo S80 is no different in this respect to any other Volvo that has gone before. It's not so far-fetched to say this is one of the safest Volvos yet. Available safety measures include BLIS, which alerts the driver to obstacles within his or her blind spot; available active bi-xenon headlamps; Adaptive Cruise Control, which monitors the distance between the S80 and vehicles on the road ahead; a standard Side Impact Protection System and inflatable curtain airbags for maximum occupant protection in the event of a side-impact collision or rollover; the proprietary WHIPS head and neck protection system; and a Personal Car Communicator (PCC) option, wherein the key fob monitors the car's locked or unlocked status, whether the alarm has been activated, and whether there is someone inside the car via an integrated heartbeat monitor. Cool stuff.
The new S80 has also been assembled to be one of the most luxurious Volvos to date, but not to a fault. Project director Silvia Gllsdorf states that
creating a premium sedan for Volvo is not about "filling the car with as many technical gadgets as possible." It's an interesting point when you consider the ridiculous state of technology in many high-end Japanese and European marques. How many bells and whistles can you fit in a car, and how many of them actually make sense? Rather than try and impress or confound the consumer with an all-out technological blitz, Volvo aims to outfit its cars with just the right amount of amenities for comfort. Its aim is presenting the driver with a "living room experience," surroundings that are as comfortable and as engaging as possible without being intimidating. User-friendliness is the key here.
For America, two new engines are available: a compact 4.4-liter V8 and a 3.2-liter in-line six. Both engines are mounted transversely, allowing for suitable engine compartment deformation in a front-end collision, as well as increasing interior space. For each, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard; it's the only option. All-wheel drive is supplied as standard on the V8 and available as an option on the six-potter. Existing driver support systems have also been enhanced, including next-generation Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) on all-wheel-drive models and optional Four-C technology, where the chassis actively adjusts to suit the current situation, improve driving dynamics or comfort.
Driving the S80 is a nice experience. The V8 engine is strong, but not overpowering. The car is heavy-this much is evident in bends-but the three-stage Four-C chassis settings (Comfort, Sport, Advanced) allow for a reasonable distinction between relaxed cruising and more spirited driving. The six-cylinder, predictably, produces less urgent acceleration, but has a fairly smooth torque delivery. A revised front suspension enables front-driven vehicles to make good use of those 236 equine units galloping through the front wheels; torque steer is generally not an issue.
Volvo's new interior schemes are some of the most intuitively planned on the market; the 'tasteful restraint' philosophy is evident. The clean, slim vertical center dash element is ergonomically perfect and visually appealing. Volvo's overall dash layout is probably the finest around in terms of simplicity and functionality. And Volvo's premium stereos are still some of the best in the business.
The new S80 is a nice package many will find appealing, not only according to Volvo's aim at unparalleled safety and operational simplicity, but also because its price should position it competitively in its target segment, populated by cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Acura RL and Infiniti M series. Volvo marketing suits speculate a well-equipped six-cylinder model will be available for under $40,000; a well-equipped V8 will run a little bit more.
Volvo's New Deal
Overall length remains the same, but wheelbase and track have both been lengthened to add visual dynamism and increase overall chassis stability in all driving situations
New exterior design cues include softer rounded edges, a raised bonnet profile, lowered headlamps, and a higher, broader shoulder line that creates a visually lower center of gravity and a more stable appearance
A new interior design incorporates Volvo's signature 'super-slim' center dash console like those introduced in the medium-segment models; extends all the way to the back seat
The optional next-generation Four-C active chassis system affords the driver three modes of driving dynamism in place of the previous two: Comfort, Sport, and Advanced
Speed-dependent active steering is available as an option, providing greater assistance at low speeds and less at highway speeds; assistance can also be manually adjusted by the driver
Your choice of two all-new powerplants: a 4.4-liter, 311 bhp V8 or a 3.2-liter in-line six, both mounted transversely to allow suitable engine compartment deformation in the event of a front-end collision
S80 V8 AWD
Transverse front engine,all-wheel drive
4.4-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Front spring-strut MacPherson design, multilink rear, anti-roll bars, DSTC, optional Four-C active chassis
Ventilated rotors, ABS, EBD
Length x Width x Height (in.):190.9 x 73.2 x 58.6
Wheelbase: 11.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3839 lb
Peak Power: 311 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.5 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)
Why we love it: Tastefully restrained Scandinavian design and luxury-everything you really need, nothing you don't
Whey we don't: No R version is planned for the foreseeable future
The Price Tag $47,350