The true test of a luxury car is not in twenty-minute around-town errand running but rather the multi-state day-long-plus-overtime bum-numbing excursions that are tests human stamina and vehicular efficiency. At least that was our excuse for borrowing a 2007 Volvo S80 V8 AWD for a trip from Pennsylvania to Georgia that had to be accomplished within one solar traverse of the firmament.
It wasn’t a bad choice. The Volvo S80 isn’t an in-your-face luxury car, and indeed without a scorecard, most people won’t know an S80 from an S60. Volvo has mastered the art of family resemblance and it’s certain with the S80 that the milkman wasn’t stopping for anything but to leave milk. The implementation of the upright classic Volvo grille across the range, plus the distinctive shoulder line and taillight shape clearly identify any Volvo, though it takes a Volvo owner—such as the S60 driver whose eyes got THIS BIG when he saw the “V8” badge on our test S80.
While that close family resemblance may give pause to some Euro car shoppers who shop more for the badge than the car under it, we encourage them to look inside. Audi is a master of interior quality and Saab has perfected the cockpit ambiance, but only Volvo has managed to stuff an entire IKEA showroom inside a sedan.
Actually, IKEA should have it so good. The leather is soft and the moving bits firm, the sliding cover for the cupholders a perfect example. There’s little doubt it will still be sliding when a Volvo S80 is on its fourth or fifth enthusiastic Volvo owner. The cover of the bin under the armrest feels solid as bank door. The wood trim is real and looks it.
The Volvo S80 has the “floating” center stack also used on other Volvo models, and remarkably for Volvo the various buttons and knobs intuitive. The interior contours are softly organic, as if Volvo farms them somewhere in the Swedish country side. Volvo reduced the real estate needed on the dash for controls and displays by utilizing the centers of the tachometer and speedometer dials for driver information screens. The needles traverse around the perimeter of the dials rather than from a center hub outwards. But of course.
The front seats are comfy and good long distance chairs, with good thigh support, a nice bum pocket and lateral support of the upper torso. Our test Volvo had the optional “Sport/ZUBRA Package” that includes ventilated front seats that, with the Climate Package’s heated front seats, can have your derriere warmed and air freshened at the same time. The rear seats have even deeper pockets but still generous leg room that’s increased by spacious toe room under the front seats.
Trunk volume is a smidge shy of 15 cubic feet, which is quite reasonable for a family of four (or two with a lot of extra stuff to carry), but the stylish semi-fastback roofline means a smallish trunk opening that requires larger suitcases to be inserted as if into a giant mail slot.
Advice: Look under hood of the S80 V8, even if you aren’t mechanically inclined or a motorhead, because it’s darn pretty in there. Those curvy things are the intake manifold and it’s a work of art. Unfortunately Volvo has covered the actual cylinder heads, rather than make them pretty, too, but the presentation is tidy, with enough room around the transversely-mounted V-8 that it doesn’t look crowded. Call it manifold attraction.
The V8 is what gives the S80 the healthiest rumble to come from a Volvo since some hotrodder noticed that a Ford V-8 would fit under the hood of an old Volvo 240. For the 2008 model year, the S80 will add a turbocharged inline-six to the lineup, complementing the naturally-aspirated 3.2. With the turbo engine the S80 is dubbed the T6 AWD, because—naturally enough—it has a turbocharged six-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive. The 3.0-liter turbo six is rated at 281 horsepower, compared to the front-wheel drive-only 3.2-liter six 3.2, which is named that because, well, you figure it out.
The S80 V8 has the goodness of 311 herring-fed horsepower and 325 lb-feet of torque. That’s not ballistics caliber power in a 4,100 lb vehicle, but it motors more than smartly, thank you, and cruises effortless at speeds that put a twinkle in a Virginia state trooper’s eye. The Old Dominion is the only state where radar detectors are illegal, and troopers pace miscreants in unmarked patrol cars. Drive at reasonable velocities if you must. Just be alert to your surroundings.
Volvo, as noted above, added a mid-level turbo-six powered model to the S80 lineup for 2008. This compares, incidentally, to the previous generation Volvo S80 that was powered by either a 208-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged dohc inline-5 or 268-hp 2.9-liter dohc twin-turbocharged inline-6. That latter engine is not the same engine as the current turbo six which has not two turbochargers but rather a single twin-scroll turbo which, without going into a lot of technojargon, does the work of two turbos by providing boost at lower and higher rpm by virtue of its design. ‘Nuf said.
BLIS is not ignorance. Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System—BLIS—watches over the drivers shoulder because ignorance isn’t bliss. A vehicle at the BLIS-equipped S80’s rear flank lights a small and unobtrusive orange lamp at the base of the rear-view mirror. Though this is the first application of the technology since the invention of the chariot and mankind has not gone extinct in the interim without it, BLIS is still a nice thing to have. One may reconsider, however, in consideration of its $595 price as a stand-alone option.
Volvo’s adaptive cruise control, which paces the car to that ahead, is one of the less obtrusive of its kind and allows some degree of driver discretion, and doesn’t slam on the brakes at every curve of the Interstate when there’s another vehicle in the general proximity. At $1,550 as a stand-alone option, it should darn well ask a slower car ahead to move one lane to the right.
Cruise control is standard on the Volvo S80 V8. Its control buttons are on the left spoke of the steering wheel and annoyingly tips speed up and down to the next divisible-by-five speed. Why not one mph? Sometimes want to tip from 67 to 68 mph, and not to 70 mph. “Intermediate” speeds can be set only by turning the cruise off, then setting the speed while traveling at the desired rate. Please, Volvo, we can touch a button five times if we want to gain five miles per hour, thank you.