Full 2008 Volvo S80 Review
What's New for 2008
Volvo adds a turbocharged six-cylinder engine to the S80 lineup for 2008. Rated for 281 horsepower, the "T6" power plant is offered exclusively with all-wheel drive. The company's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) keyless startup and security system is now standard on the S80 V8 model, as is premium-grade leather upholstery. On the exterior, the V8 model gains brushed aluminum door moldings. Heated rear seats are a new addition to the S80's optional Climate Package.
If you're looking at the 2008 Volvo S80, you're probably a little more wrapped up in practical considerations than most luxury sedan buyers. The midsize S80, you see, can be equipped with all manner of leading-edge safety equipment, everything from dual-chamber side airbags to a security system with a heartbeat sensor. It can illuminate warning lights when another motorist enters your blind spot or sound an audible call-to-action if it senses you're about to rear-end the car in front of you. In short, the Volvo S80 has your back. It is undoubtedly one of the safest cars on the market -- and likely among the most morally virtuous as well.
Of course, there's more to Volvo's flagship than peace of mind. A redesign last year left it with attractively curvy bodywork atop a more robust frame, the latter of which yielded improved ride and handling capabilities. Just about every high-end amenity found on German- and Japanese-brand competitors is available on the S80, and all versions are furnished with plush seating and the requisite amounts of leather and wood.
The Volvo S80 also has an interesting trio of engines. With only 235 hp, the base 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder doesn't really get the juices flowing. However, for 2008, the company has created a turbocharged version of that engine called the T6. At 3.0 liters of displacement, the T6 is a bit smaller than the base 3.2, but it's capable of 281 horsepower. Equipped with standard all-wheel drive, the S80 T6 model slots into the middle of the lineup and feels nearly as quick as the 311-hp S80 V8 model. If you put a timer to it, the T6 will run to 60 mph in the mid-6-second range, while the V8 model needs all of 6 seconds to reach 60.
That's an impressive level of hustle for a 2-ton luxury sedan, but ultimately, the main reason to consider the Volvo S80 is its arsenal of safety technology, which is unmatched by most cars in this price range. Bear in mind, however, that most of the S80's premium-brand competitors are more involving to drive. This group includes the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS, Infiniti M35/M45, Lexus GS 350/430 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Several of them, particularly the German entries, have more upscale and refined interior treatments as well. Still, with its relatively low price tag, the 2008 Volvo S80 remains a very sensible luxury sedan purchase.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A midsize luxury sedan, the 2008 Volvo S80 comes in three versions -- 3.2, T6 and V8. The front-wheel-drive S80 3.2 starts you out with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, leather upholstery, wood interior 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. In addition to a more powerful engine and all-wheel drive, the midgrade S80 T6 adds an electronic parking brake and upgraded instrumentation. Step up to the S80 V8 and you'll get a wider set of 17-inch wheels and tires, higher-grade leather upholstery, additional wood trim, an interior air quality system and Volvo's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) system. PCC combines keyless startup with a security system that uses two-way radio technology to monitor the car's security status.
All 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 Dynaudio Package adds a 12-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II sound system and satellite radio, while the Climate Package provides heated front and rear 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 front and rear parking sensors. Run-flat tires are optional on the 3.2 and T6 models.
Powertrains and Performance
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. The new S80 T6 model has a 3.0-liter, turbocharged version of the six-cylinder that provides 281 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the lineup is the S80 V8; its 4.4-liter V8 is rated for 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. All versions of the S80 use a six-speed automatic transmission. This transmission drives only the front wheels on base 3.2 models. On the T6 and V8 models, power goes to all four wheels via a standard all-wheel-drive system. We've timed the S80 V8 at 5.9 seconds for the 0-60-mph run, while the T6 took 6.6 seconds. Fuel economy ratings on the 2008 Volvo S80 are 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway on the base 3.2 and 15/23 mpg on the S80 T6 and V8.
Every 2008 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 and pre-tensioning seatbelts in all five positions. In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Volvo S80 earned the top rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side collision protection.
The optional BLIS uses cameras to monitor traffic to either side of the S80 and illuminates warning lamps mounted near the side mirrors when the S80's blind spots are occupied. Standard on the V8 model and optional on other S80s, the PCC security system includes 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. 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.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, 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. However, the Volvo S80's cabin lacks the richness of other luxury-sedan interiors, and it doesn't quite reflect the exacting quality standards you'll find in Audi, BMW and Lexus offerings. 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.
Thanks to the smooth power delivery from its normally aspirated six-cylinder engine, the S80 3.2 provides adequate, if not thrilling performance. Our choice would be the T6 or V8, however, as these engines' performance capabilities are more in line with the 2008 Volvo S80's premium price tag. The V8 in particular offers vigorous response in any situation. You can look forward to a smooth, quiet ride in any of the S80 models, but don't expect to get excited about the car's handling dynamics even if you order the Sport Package: The S80 feels competent and balanced through the corners, but it doesn't involve its driver as intimately as most competitors in this class do.