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If you want a sanely priced midsize luxury sedan loaded with high-tech safety features, the all-new 2007 Volvo S80 is an obvious choice. For something that's engaging on a back road, though, you should look to one of its sharper-handling competitors.
Impressive array of safety technology, ergonomic interior design, exceptional seat comfort, quick acceleration with the V8, reasonable price.
Handling dynamics still don't inspire.
Available S80 Models
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The 2007 Volvo S80 is completely redesigned. Although it's about the same size as before, Volvo's top luxury sedan now offers V8 power and an even more extensive list of safety and luxury features.
The Volvo S80 has always occupied an awkward position in the luxury sedan world. It's Volvo's flagship, yet it's only midsize in dimensions and thus lacks the expansive quarters found in other executive sedans. And while it's certainly a luxurious car -- an impression aided by its fabulously comfortable, orthopedically correct front seats -- it lacks the over-the-top elegance present in most other premium midsize and full-size sedans. For 2007, the S80 benefits from a full redesign but retains its somewhat oddball personality. A new V8 engine gives it more punch than before, however, and this Volvo now offers every single one of the high-end safety features (and then some) found in more elite sedans from the Japanese and German brands.
Although there's a new, more rigid platform underneath the '07 S80, the bodywork isn't radically different from the first-generation car. Lines are softer, bulges are more pronounced and the door handles are pull-style, but otherwise the design language is intact. Interior room is on par with the '06 model as well, save for another inch of legroom in the backseat and a little extra trunk space. Bigger changes can be found under the hood, where last year's underachieving five-cylinder gives way to either a 235-horsepower 3.2-liter inline-6 or a 311-hp 4.4-liter V8. Six-cylinder Volvo S80s are front-wheel-drive, but all-wheel drive is standard with the V8.
This power infusion will undoubtedly improve the S80's standing among midsize luxury cars, but as in the past, the main reason to consider this sedan is its arsenal of safety technology. Highlights include seat-mounted side airbags with separate chambers to protect occupants' chest and hips; a security system with a heartbeat sensor that lets you know if someone is inside the car; and Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which monitors cars to either side of the S80 using cameras mounted near the exterior mirrors.
If you're looking at midsize luxury sedans in the $40,000-$50,000 price range, you won't find many that offer this kind of technology. If safety is number one on your list, the 2007 Volvo S80 deserves serious consideration. Bear in mind, however, that most of its competitors, which include the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS, Infiniti M35/M45, Lexus GS 350/430 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, are more involving to drive. A few of them, particularly the Audi, offer more upscale interior treatments as well. Still, with a lower price tag than any of these cars, the new S80 remains a sensible choice for consumers who don't want to blow everything on a luxury sedan purchase.
A midsize luxury sedan, the 2007 Volvo S80 comes in 3.2 and V8 trim levels. The S80 3.2 starts you out with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, leather upholstery, wood trim and eight-way power front seats with memory for the driver. Dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash CD changer and an MP3 player jack, Bluetooth and one-touch power windows are also included. Step up to the S80 V8 and you'll get a wider set of 17-inch wheels and tires, an electronic parking brake, upgraded instrumentation and an interior air quality system (which monitors incoming air for contaminants and switches to recirculate as necessary).
Both trim levels are eligible for the Sport Package, which provides 18-inch wheels, Volvo's Four-C adaptive suspension (with three driver-selectable modes), speed-sensitive power steering (with driver-adjustable assist levels), adaptive bi-xenon headlights and ventilated front seats. The Audio Package adds a 12-speaker Dynaudio sound system and satellite radio, while the Climate Package provides heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, and headlamp washers. Other options to consider include a navigation system, adaptive cruise control, a dual-screen rear entertainment system, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and the Personal Car Communicator (PCC), which combines keyless startup with a security system that uses two-way radio technology to let you know the car's security status.
The Volvo S80 3.2 comes with a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated for 235 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front wheels. The S80 V8 offers considerably more power in the form of a 4.4-liter V8 rated for 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It, too, uses a six-speed automatic, but in this case, power goes to all four wheels via an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. The 3.2 model will reach 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, says Volvo, while the V8 will do the feat in 6 seconds flat.
Every 2007 Volvo S80 comes with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags (with separate chambers for chest and hip protection), full-length side curtain airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints, pre-tensioning seatbelts in all five positions and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Run-flat tires and front and rear parking sensors are optional. The optional Blind Spot Information System uses cameras to monitor traffic to either side of the S80 and illuminates warning lamps mounted near the side mirrors. Volvo S80s with the optional Personal Car Communicator are equipped with a heartbeat sensor that lets you know if someone is still in the car after the alarm has been activated. The adaptive cruise control system includes a collision warning that alerts the S80 driver if he is too close to the vehicle in front of him. If collision risk increases, a brake support feature snugs the brake pads against the brake discs in anticipation of a panic stop. During hard braking, the rear foglights illuminate to warn approaching motorists.
Volvo succeeded in transferring the essence of Scandinavian luxury to the '07 S80's interior. Lines are clean, controls are intuitive and the understated wood trim has the look of paneling versus the usual shiny veneer. Settle back into the highly supportive front seats and you'll find the cabin peaceful bordering on serene. The rear seat is roomy enough to accommodate a pair of adults, and both it and the front passenger seat fold in the event the S80's 14.9-cubic-foot trunk can't meet your hauling needs.
With a smooth power delivery from its inline-6, the S80 3.2 provides adequate, if not thrilling performance for this price range. Our choice would likely be the V8, however, which offers vigorous response in any situation. You can look forward to a smooth, quiet ride with either of the 2007 Volvo S80 models, but don't expect to get excited about the car's handling dynamics even if you order the Sport Package: The new S80 feels more competent through the corners than its predecessor, but still doesn't involve its driver as intimately as most competitors in this class do.
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