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The 2011 Volvo S80 is a sensible alternative to flashier luxury sedans, but its anonymous looks and forgettable driving experience dull the car's desirability.
Well equipped; impressive safety features; comfortable ride and seats; stylish and functional interior layout.
Unimpressive base engine; forgettable driving experience; awkward navigation-system interface.
Available S80 Models
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For 2011, the Volvo S80 lineup loses the V8 AWD model, gains more power and sees a shuffling of standard and optional equipment.
Despite best efforts, the 2011 Volvo S80 still reminds us somewhat of Volvos of old. Make no mistake, this flagship sedan boasts all the latest high-tech luxury and safety features expected in this class. But the S80 just doesn't have the sophisticated character of its rivals among luxury sedans.
The S80 provides what long-time Volvo fans expect: a comforting feeling of being protected from potential harm. The S80 seems to have been designed specifically with the safety-obsessed consumer in mind, and that's probably not a bad philosophy given the increasing numbers of "distracted" drivers on the roads nowadays. Available safety features run the gamut from a blind-spot monitoring system to driver-fatigue and lane-departure warning systems.
Under the S80's familiar-looking sheet metal, there are a handful of changes for 2011. Volvo has discontinued the 311-horsepower 4.4-liter V8, but compensation comes in the form of more power for both the standard inline-6 (an increase of 5 hp) and the turbocharged inline-6 (an increase of 19 hp). The turbocharged engine is our pick, as even with the extra 5 hp, the base engine is underwhelming for this class of car.
As expected, there are plenty of good choices in the luxury-sedan segment. Traditional favorites include the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus GS 430; they all offer higher-quality cabins, better handling, more power and more prestige. But they also have considerably higher price tags. The Acura RL and Hyundai Genesis are perhaps the S80's closest competitors. The Genesis is our favorite here, but it's hard to go wrong should you pick any one of them. If ensuring the safety of your occupants while coddling them in an attractively styled cabin is your top priority, the 2011 Volvo S80 should suit you well.
The 2011 Volvo S80 is available in 3.2 and T6 AWD trim levels.
The 3.2 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and HD radio. To this the T6 AWD adds a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, all-wheel drive and a sunroof (optional on 3.2).
Most options are bundled into packages that are available on either trim. The Climate package includes heated front and rear seats, heated windshield-washer nozzles, headlight washers and automatic wipers. The Multimedia package includes a DVD-based navigation system (with traffic reporting), a rearview camera and a 12-speaker Dynaudio surround-sound system with rear seat headphone jacks and controls.
The Technology package includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning alert, distance alert, driver-fatigue alert and lane-departure warning. The Inscription package includes upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and real wood accents throughout the cabin, including on the steering wheel and gear selector. Available only on the T6 is the Dynamic package that includes different 18-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.
Stand-alone options include adaptive xenon headlights, a dual-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a blind-spot warning system, front/rear parking sensors and the Personal Car Communicator (includes keyless ignition/entry).
The front-wheel-drive 2011 Volvo S80 3.2 is powered by a 3.2-liter inline-6 that produces 240 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. Matched with a six-speed automatic, fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The AWD S80 T6 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 producing 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Matched with a six-speed automatic, fuel economy is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The 2011 Volvo S80 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags (featuring separate chambers for chest and hip protection), side curtain airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints and seatbelt pre-tensioners in all five positions.
Additional safety features are available, such as a blind-spot monitor as well as the aforementioned Technology package that adds adaptive cruise control, collision warning with "Auto Brake" (which reduces brake reaction time by snugging the brake pads up against the brake discs), a driver-fatigue warning (monitors a variety of factors including the driver's face to determine whether he or she is dozing off) and a lane-departure warning.
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. In brake testing, the last S80 Edmunds tested (the now-discontinued V8 model) came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, which is an above-average result for this class.
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 clean but a bit dull compared to the similar designs found in Volvo's S40 and XC60. The controls are generally intuitive, but the available navigation system has a quirky interface that's controlled with either two buttons and a joystick mounted behind the steering wheel spokes or a handheld remote control. It can be irksome to use.
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 2011 Volvo S80 3.2 provides decent power for most situations, though it sounds a bit coarse. We'd recommend opting for the T6, as the 3.2 just doesn't have the premium character we expect in a midsize luxury sedan. The T6 offers snappy turbocharged thrust that gives the car plenty of power for swift freeway passing and merging. The S80's ride is appropriately supple and isolated, but handling is rather ponderous unless you opt for the sport-tuned suspension.
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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Volvo S80 Sedan in WA is: