What's New for 2012
The 2012 Volvo S80 is a sensible alternative to flashier luxury sedans, but its anonymous looks and largely forgettable driving experience might dull the car's appeal for some.
If a sensible person were going to design a luxury car, we suspect it might end up looking a lot like the 2012 Volvo S80. This full-size four-door sedan has many of the qualities you'd expect in a luxury car, including a comfortable cabin done up in quality materials and an abundance of cutting-edge technology. What separates Volvo's flagship from the luxury-sedan pack, however, is its understated presence, which makes it ideal for those who aren't looking to draw attention.
Like every Volvo, the S80's real strength is the extra peace of mind that comes with knowing that you and your passengers are protected by the most advanced safety features on the road. These include the now-standard City Safety system that can detect impending collisions and then apply the brakes to minimize the severity of the impact or hopefully avoid them entirely via sensors that can detect and warn of driver fatigue.
Even with all this going for it, the S80 still has a couple of weaknesses. For starters, it just plain lacks the cachet of some of its competitors, so it's not the car to buy if you're out to impress people. The base model's 3.2-liter engine also seems a little underwhelming in a car this size, and the comfort-oriented suspension makes for humdrum handling.
With all this in mind, buyers might want to check out a few comparably priced luxury sedans, including the Acura TL, Cadillac CTS and Hyundai Genesis. The Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M and Mercedes-Benz E-Class all offer more power, better handling, greater prestige or some combination thereof, albeit with considerably higher price tags.
So ultimately the decision comes down to what you're really looking for in a luxury sedan. If it's comfort, safety and advanced technology in a more understated wrapper, we think you'll find the 2012 Volvo S80 a perfectly sensible choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volvo S80 is available in two trim levels: 3.2 and T6 AWD.
The 3.2 base model comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear foglights, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power front seats with driver memory settings, a split-folding rear seat with trunk pass-through, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, HD radio, an iPod/USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack. To this the T6 AWD adds all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof. The latter two features are optional for the 3.2.
The optional Premier Plus package includes front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry/ignition and Volvo's Personal Car Communicator. The Climate package adds heated front and rear seats, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers and heated windshield washer nozzles. The Technology package gets you adaptive cruise control, a collision-warning and pedestrian-detection system with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and Driver Alert. T6 models can also be had with a Dynamic package that contains unique 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned chassis, adaptive xenon headlights and unique aluminum interior trim.
From a luxury standpoint, the available Inscription package ups the ante with premium leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a leather-covered dashboard and center armrest and genuine wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob. The Platinum package adds the contents of the Premier Plus package with premium surround-sound audio, a voice-controlled navigation system and a rear back-up camera. A blind-spot monitoring system is a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2012 Volvo S80 3.2 is powered by a 3.2-liter inline-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, this engine returns EPA fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
The all-wheel drive S80 T6 gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 producing 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard here as well. EPA estimates for this powertrain are 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The 2012 Volvo S80 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags (featuring separate chambers for chest and hip protection), side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
There are a host of other safety-related features available, including a blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning. More novel safety technology here includes a collision and pedestrian warning system with "Auto Brake" and a driver-fatigue monitor that tracks a variety of factors including the driver's face to determine whether he or she is dozing off behind the wheel.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the 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.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2012 Volvo S80 might not be as flashy as some of its rivals, but it's a fine place to spend time just the same. Front seats are especially comfortable and the backseat, while not exactly spacious, can handle a couple of average-size adults with few complaints.
Gauges and buttons are logically placed and simple to use, especially Volvo's signature climate controls. One notable improvement is that last year's irritating navigation system interface has been replaced by a large, high-mounted 7-inch color display that also allows easy access to audio controls and settings.
The S80's trunk offers 14.9 cubic feet of cargo room. While this capacity is not huge, the fold-down rear seatbacks and trunk pass-through give it some additional flexibility when the need to carry longer items arises.
The 2012 Volvo S80's 3.2-liter base engine is perfectly serviceable, but its relative lack of refinement makes it hard to recommend. The turbocharged engine of the T6 is another matter entirely, as it delivers the kind of lively acceleration you'd expect from an upscale sedan.
When equipped with the standard suspension, the S80 has a plush ride quality, though its handling abilities leave something to be desired. Buyers looking for a sharper driving experience will find the firmer suspension that comes with the Dynamic package to be a worthwhile investment.