Volvo S80

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Volvo S80 V8 AWD SE LUX Car Review | October 26, 2006

Driven October 2006

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Slicing through the midnight fug, the Volvo S80 slips quietly from its waiting place, dropping down the exit ramp, intent on the outside lane.

Other road users' eyes flick at rearview mirrors, watching for the black ties and flouro jackets, waiting for the sirens. The law has a new and powerful weapon to hand.

The S80, the undercover police interceptor of choice, has subtly grown an air of menace. The stance of this second-generation car is more rakish, the surfaces have gained extra tension. The exterior still resists shouting too loudly about any hidden intentions, however. That's left to what can be found lurking beneath the bonnet...

This top version has, for the first time in the S80's existence, a V8 engine. That's a fat 4.4-litre lump, with variable-valve timing for added efficiency and counter-rotating balancer shafts to promise extra smoothness.

311bhp and 324lb ft feed through a six-speed Geartronic auto transmission and four-wheel drive, providing 0-60 in a brisk six seconds flat and a top speed that would go way beyond 155mph, were it not for the intervention of an electronic limiter. We're dealing with a car that's far faster than it looks.

Hit the right pedal and there's a brief hesitation as the gearbox hunts for a lower ratio, kicking down to unleash a level of surge that no car this visually unassuming should be able to produce.

Somehow devoid of the deep-throated character of the finest V8s produced by Merc's AMG or Audi's quattro GmbH divisions, or the utter silence of a Lexus, Volvo's V8 instead lets rip with a gruff howl as it shoves you off in pursuit of felons or, should you prefer it, the distant horizon.

This all seems so incongruous. High performance, in the update of a car once chosen by Sven Göran-Eriksson as the stealth chariot of choice when heading off to bang his mistress.

Still, let's sit back and appreciate the S80's more obvious charms. Like crisply designed, intuitively laid out controls. The aural satisfaction of the optional, £1,000 Dynaudio sound system, complete with 12 speakers, 650 watts of amplication and a plug for an iPod.

Or just simply the pleasure of watching lines of cars parting like the Red Sea as you approach, the faces of their drivers wracked with guilt and apprehension.

Peter Grunert

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