What's New for 2000
The 2.9 and T-6 models go unchanged, save a few new colors and options.
Last year's new S80 ushered the moldy S90/V90 design out to pasture. Volvo public-relations types bragged about the engineering "firsts" that the 1999 S80 showcased, but what really matters to consumers is the way the car looks, drives, coddles and protects.The S80 certainly represents a departure for Volvo in terms of styling. See that strong character line running up both sides of the hood and forming the lower boundary of the greenhouse? It flows into the rear deck, creating sheetmetal shoulders above the wheels and an interesting ridge in the taillights. The result is a sleeker, more modern-looking vehicle.For 2000, Volvo carries over the smooth 2.9-liter, 204-horsepower, inline six-cylinder engine in the base trim level. The high-performance version of the S80, called the T-6, has twin-turbochargers tacked onto a 2.8-liter inline six. Horsepower is rated at 268. Available with the world's smallest manual or an automatic transmission, the latter type adapts to the driving style of the driver and includes a winter mode to make acceleration on icy surfaces more surefooted. The S80 T6, when equipped with an automatic, also provides a Geartronic feature, allowing for manual shifting if the driver desires. The car drives like a dream, whether on an ice-covered road or a smooth stretch of highway. While satisfyingly speedy, the S80 is also a handful when the accelerator is mashed to the floor, thanks to prodigious amounts of torque steer that tries to pull the S80 into the curb.
Additions for the millennium include a warm weather package, new Venetian Red Metallic exterior paint color, and a new interior color called Light Sand Beige. The sunroof/leather packages for both trim levels now share a $1,200 price, the full soft leather on the T-6 has been discontinued, and the Blue/Green paint color is no longer available. Comfort is a Volvo hallmark, and the S80 boasts one of the best interiors we've encountered. It offers excellent climate systems with heat and A/C vents in the B-pillar for rear passengers, cushy seats with thick headrests and an astounding Dolby Pro Logic sound system available with RDS technology. On the down side, we had difficulty sorting out some ergonomic features without the assistance of the owner's manual and the cruise-control activation button is located too close to the horn pad. Three rear-seat head restraints can be folded down to improve visibility. They fold forward instead of rearward, however, which means that a rear-seat rider must employ them if he expects to be comfortable. Many things might occur in the roomy back seat of an S80, but whiplash isn't one of them. Front-seat occupants are also protected from whiplash, thanks to Volvo's Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS). If some cretin plows into the trunk of the S80 while the car is stopped in traffic, WHIPS allows the backrest and headrest to move backwards in a parallel movement with the passenger's body, thus cushioning the head and upper torso in a more delicate fashion. Also on the S80 is an Inflatable Curtain (IC), part of the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) common on Volvos. The IC is essentially an airbag for the head, and it pops out of the headliner to cushion the craniums of both front- and rear-seat riders. Other safety items on the S80 include seatbelt pre-tensioners for all five seating positions and front airbags that measure the force with which they deploy based upon crash severity and whether the seatbelt is in use or not.There are many other S80 innovations that continue to please, including laminated side-window glass, a multiplex electrical system and a phenomenal full-range traction and stability-control system that all but makes it impossible for the car to careen out of control. Let's just say that the S80 is an incredible automobile that emphasizes safety, style and performance like nothing else on the road.