What's New for 2009
The 2009 Volvo S80 features standard Bluetooth connectivity and active bi-xenon headlights across the lineup. The top-of-the-line S80 AWD also gains a number of luxurious accoutrements as standard. A few new options packages round out the significant changes for 2009.
There was a time when luxury sedans were more about substance than style. Take a spin in any Mercedes-Benz sedan from the 1970s, for example, and you'll get the idea. The "bling" factor is virtually nonexistent and the handling won't conjure up images of sports cars -- but you and your passengers will revel in the car's tank-like solidity and the reassuring sense of security that comes with it. The 2009 Volvo S80 is a modern-day application of this hallowed formula.
Boasting a dizzying array of cutting-edge safety technology, the S80's primary purpose is to make its passengers feel protected from the vagaries of chance. Dual-chamber side airbags? Check. Blind-spot warning system? Available on all S80s. An audible alert if you're about to rear-end the car you're following? Comes with the optional adaptive cruise control. A security system with a heartbeat sensor that senses whether some nefarious character is hiding in the car? It's yours with the available Personal Car Communicator (PCC) system. The S80 seems to have been purpose-built for the obsessively safety-minded consumer. If there were a "Peace of Mind" award in the midsize luxury sedan segment, this Volvo would win it, hands down.
Like those big Benzes of yore, the S80 isn't the most eye-catching sedan on the market, though it's a good bit more curvaceous than the boxes on wheels Volvo used to churn out with regularity. It's also not a leader in performance -- while both the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 (T6) and the naturally aspirated 4.4-liter V8 provide rapid acceleration, the base 3.2-liter inline-6 struggles to keep up with other sedans in this class. Moreover, though the S80 happily gobbles up miles on the interstate, handling in the twisties is unremarkable. If you try to hustle the S80 along a country road, you'll find that its dynamics come up short relative to other cars in this segment.
But terrorizing back roads is hardly the 2009 Volvo S80's raison d'etre. Rather, it's about ensuring the safety of its occupants while coddling them in its luxurious and attractively styled cabin -- and outside of the top-of-the-line V8 model, the S80 is actually quite reasonably priced. For some buyers, these traditional virtues could outweigh the S80's somewhat subpar performance and conservative outward appearance. The competition is stiff, however, and we'd recommend taking a close look at the S80's many rivals as well, including the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS, Infiniti M35/M45, Lexus GS 350/430 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Volvo S80 midsize luxury sedan is available in three trim levels -- 3.2, T6 and V8. The front-wheel-drive S80 3.2 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, active bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a sunroof, leather upholstery, wood interior trim, eight-way power front seats with driver memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash CD changer and an auxiliary input jack. The midlevel all-wheel-drive S80 T6 adds a turbocharged engine, an electronic parking brake and upgraded instrumentation. The AWD S80 V8 ups the ante with 18-inch wheels, headlight washers, front and rear park assist, satellite radio, massaging ventilated front seats, heated seats front and rear, an analog clock, an interior air quality system and the abovementioned PCC, which combines keyless ignition with the heartbeat-sensing security system.
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) and ventilated front seats. The new Convenience Package adds a 12-speaker Dynaudio sound system and satellite radio to 3.2 and T6 models, while the Climate Package provides heated front and rear seats and headlight washers. The new Executive Package for the T6 tacks on special 17-inch alloy wheels, wood cabin accents, massaging ventilated front seats, upgraded leather and an analog clock. Other options to consider include various 18-inch alloy wheels, a navigation system, a dual-screen rear entertainment system, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and -- for V8 models only -- a rear-seat refrigerator.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2009 Volvo S80 3.2 is powered by a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine generating 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The AWD S80 T6 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that cranks out 281 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The AWD S80 V8 features a Yamaha-designed 4.4-liter V8 that boasts 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. All versions of the S80 use a six-speed automatic transmission.
In performance testing, we've clocked the S80 V8 at 5.9 seconds from zero to 60 mph, while the T6 required 6.6 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings for the S80 3.2 stand at 16 mpg city/25 highway and 20 combined, while the T6 manages 15/23/18 and the V8 a nearly identical 15/22/18.
The 2009 Volvo S80 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags featuring separate chambers for chest and hip protection, full-length side curtain airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints and seatbelt pre-tensioners 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.
Additional safety features are available. The optional BLIS, for example, uses cameras to monitor traffic on both sides of the S80 and illuminates warning lamps mounted near the side mirrors if the S80's blind spots are occupied. The Collision Avoidance Package adds adaptive cruise control, collision warning with "Auto Brake" (which reduces brake reaction time by snugging the brake pads up against the brake discs) and lane-departure warning. The available adaptive cruise control system includes all those features, less the lane-departure warning function.
Interior Design and Special Features
The S80's interior layout features Volvo's trademark "floating panel" center stack, a slim control panel suspended between the center console and the dashboard. The styling is at once cutting-edge and clean, while the controls themselves are mostly intuitive. The front seats are typical Volvo -- supportive enough to impress a chiropractor and comfortable for miles on end. However, the Volvo S80's cabin doesn't feel quite as upscale as some competitors', and its build quality similarly falls a bit short. On the bright side, the rear seat offers ample room for two adults, and the rear seatback folds down to increase cargo capacity, as does the front passenger seat. The S80's trunk capacity stands at 14.9 cubic feet.
The 2009 Volvo S80 3.2 provides adequate power for most situations, though it sounds a bit coarse. We'd recommend opting for the T6 or V8, as the 3.2 just doesn't have the premium character we expect in a midsize luxury sedan. The T6 offers snappy turbocharged thrust, while the V8 is impressively smooth and powerful. The S80's ride is appropriately supple and isolated, but handling is rather ponderous. This voluminous Volvo's natural habitat is the interstate, not the winding back road.