What is it?
Volvo faces a problem here. It desperately wants to compete with the clichéd troupe of 5-Series, A6 and E-Class saloons, but people buy Volvos because they build good estate cars. Not because they build good saloons. As such, no one has really ever fallen in love with the S80. It looks OK, goes OK, has OK amounts of room, but does nothing to distinguish itself. The trouble is that Volvo, whose image isn’t quite up there with Audi and BMW, needs the S80 to be more than OK to steal sales off the Germans.
This is the S80’s weak spot, as it neither wafts as well as something like the Lexus, nor handles as well as something like the BMW. The enormous armchair seats do their best to isolate you from the chattering ride, but the S80 still picks out too many imperfections in the road surface. Try to press on, and the front tyres on all but the four-wheel-drive model scrabble for grip. Better to try to relax.
There’s certainly enough engines to choose from. There are four diesels, ranging from a 1.6-litre eco model to the 213bhp D5 with 309lb ft. All these are front-wheel drive, but a four-wheel-drive model is offered on the loony T6 petrol, which, thanks to 300bhp and 324lb ft, does 0–62mph in 6.7 seconds. Those after a more sensible petrol choice can opt for the T4 or T5,
but we think you’d be mad to get an S80 as a petrol. The diesels are the way forward, even if they
can be a bit rumbly when you rev them hard.
On the inside
Very Swedish in here, so lots of clean lines and minimalist buttons. It’s good to see that Volvo hasn’t tried to take on Audi head-on here, but instead focused on giving the S80 its own identity. There’s no iDrive trickery in order to get rid of loads of buttons, but somehow it still feels nicely spartan. Build quality is spot-on, and the usual raft of Volvo safety tricks surrounds you. The seats are vast and armchair-like, so you’ll never struggle for comfort. If only the nav could be a bit more up to date – it looks daft stuck on top of the dash.
There shouldn’t be too many worries here. The Volvo warranty isn’t as extensive as some, but the engines and transmissions are well-proven by now. Just be wary of tyre wear – the torque on the high-powered, front-wheel-drive models tends to come in a bit of a surge, so you’ll need to be gentle so as not to burn through loads of front rubber. Company-car drivers will be well-covered – the DRIVe model produces only 119g/km and averages 62.8mpg. But with only 114bhp, you’ll struggle a bit if you’re in a hurry: 0–62mph takes 11.5 secs.