For shoppers looking for a used luxury sedan, the Volvo S80 is something of an alternative choice. Through two generations, Volvo's largest sedan spurned outright luxury and performance in favor of cutting-edge safety features and in-cabin technology. And in a class dominated by rear-wheel-drive sedans, Volvo continued to tout the virtues of front-wheel drive and offered all-wheel drive as an option.
Used Volvo S80 Models
The second-generation Volvo S80 was produced for the 2007-2016 model years. Although it didn't change drastically in size or appearance compared to the first-generation model, this newer S80 gained new engines and safety and luxury features.
The second-generation S80 received a dizzying number of changes over its 10-year production run. The 2007 S80 was offered in 3.2 and V8 models; the former had a 235-hp six-cylinder engine driving the front wheels, and the latter a 4.4-liter V8 that delivered 311 hp to all four wheels. An optional Sport package included Volvo's sport-tuned Four-C adaptive suspension, speed-sensitive power steering and ventilated front seats. A new S80 T6 model debuted the following year with a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that provided 281 hp.
Bluetooth and xenon headlamps were added for 2009, and a mild face-lift took place for 2010. For 2011, Volvo discontinued the V8 and changed the name of the S80 3.2 to T5. Its engine gained a 5-hp increase to 240 hp, while the T6 picked up 19 hp for an even 300.
The S80 remained relatively unchanged until 2014, when it received styling updates inside and out, a driver-configurable instrument panel, and new package features. For 2015, the T5 model got a new engine, swapping its 3.2-liter six for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivered the same 240 hp but with better fuel economy. Volvo made a few content changes, and then added more standard and optional equipment mid-year. These cars were considered 2015.5 models. For 2016, the S80's final year, the T6 model was dropped, and the T5 was divided into two models called Premier and Platinum.
Though feature offerings changed quite a bit throughout the second-gen Volvo S80's production run, all were generally well-equipped, with leather, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, and a comprehensive sound system as standard equipment. Most options were grouped into packages, allowing even base model S80s to be lavishly equipped.
Though safety was a strong point for the S80, interior and driving dynamics were not. Despite the comfortable front seats, the S80's interior was showing its age toward the end of the model run. Power and fuel economy from the non-turbocharged six in 3.2 and early T5 models were not great, though the four-cylinder T5 sold in '15 and '16 did get very good gas mileage considering the S80's size. T6 and V8 models were quick, if thirsty. We liked the S80's smooth, compliant ride, but in terms of handling, it was a real snoozer. The overly light steering felt vague and slow to respond, and though the handling options offered on T6 and V8 models improved things a bit, the S80 fell behind when compared to its more athletic European rivals.
Volvo sold the first-generation S80 from 1999 to 2006. This car was similar in dimensions and focus to the second-generation car, and it heralded a new styling direction for Volvo's sedans with curvy body lines that were a dramatic break from the company's boxy cars of the '80s and '90s. Even today, the original S80 has a Scandinavian coolness that keeps it from looking dated. However, significant concerns about reliability have driven down its resale value — good for bargain hunters, but not so much for owners.
Volvo offered the first-generation S80 with three different engines, two of them turbocharged. The most interesting was the T6, a twin-turbo inline six-cylinder rated for 268 horsepower. (Initially, the T6 displaced 2.8 liters; in 2002, Volvo enlarged it to 2.9 liters with no change in output.) Volvo said the S80 T6 made the dash from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. But even with a standard four-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels, the car felt quicker than that. Serious torque steer was the major knock against the T6 model. Volvo discontinued it after 2005.
From 1999 to 2004, a non-turbocharged 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder good for 197 hp motivated the base Volvo S80. It, too, was available only with a four-speed automatic and only with front-wheel drive. In 2004, a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder known as the 2.5T joined the lineup. Rated for 208 hp, it offered significantly more torque than the 2.9-liter and engaged the services of a more sophisticated five-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5T was the only engine that could be had with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. And in '06, it was the only engine you could get on the S80.
Acceleration was modest with either of the lesser engines, but otherwise the driving experience was agreeable in the S80, with a comfortable ride and sure-footed handling. Those seeking added control should look for an S80 with the Four-C adaptive suspension, which was offered as an option on 2004 and later models. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a CD audio system and a telescoping steering wheel were standard throughout the run. Options ran the gamut in the first-gen Volvo S80. In addition to expected items such as a navigation system (DVD-based from '02 onward), a high-quality Dolby sound system and xenon headlamps ('02 and up), Volvo offered a rear-seat refrigerator, a dual-screen entertainment system and even a fax machine ('01 only) in certain high-line T6 models, which were called Executive, Elite or Premier depending on the model year.
Still, the best reason to consider buying a used Volvo S80 is its high level of safety. It earned five stars in all government-administered front- and side-impact crash tests, as well as a Good rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Additionally, a full menu of side airbags and dynamic front head restraints were standard throughout its eight-year run. The one feature to pay attention to is stability control: It was standard on T6 models but optional on all other S80s.