Used 2002 Volvo S80 Review

With its distinctive styling, luxurious interior and excellent reputation for safety, the often overlooked S80 deserves consideration.




what's new

As a follow-up to the S80 T6 Executive, Volvo has released the T6 Elite, which combines the increased rear legroom, wider rear door openings and interior luxuries of the Executive with the convenience of a rear bench seat, thus providing room for five. Additionally, all S80s will get Emergency Brake Assistance (EBA), enhanced traction control performance and improved throttle management, resulting in quicker response in everyday driving situations. Other improvements include color-coordinated exterior trim (rather than the usual black moldings), an emergency release trunk release handle and the availability of a DVD-based navigation system and xenon headlamps. New exterior color choices are Pearl White and Black Sapphire. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of its first car, Volvo heightens comfort levels for rear-seat passengers with a special trim level. The car's wheelbase is the same, but special door hinges allow for a wider door opening in order to access a roomier rear seat. Executive leather upholstery and a sunshade are standard. A rear-seat entertainment system with dual 7-inch screens can play DVD, television or a video game. Another option is a refrigerator in the rear center armrest. The Special Edition S80 can be distinguished by the body-colored bumpers and moldings.

vehicle overview

Are you looking to buy a well-appointed luxury sedan with enough horsepower to humble most of today's sporty coupes? Volvo's flagship sedan, the S80, might just be your car.

Volvo offers the S80 in four trim levels -- the S80 2.9, the S80 T6, the S80 T6 Executive, and starting in 2002, the S80 T6 Elite. The base 2.9 is equipped with a 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine that generates a respectable 197 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. For the T6 models, Volvo takes the 2.9's engine and bolts on two small turbochargers. Even with slightly less displacement (2.8 liters), the T6's engine belts out 268 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and a prodigious 280 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

As you might expect, the T6's acceleration is very impressive, but the front-wheel-drive layout often creates a lot of torque steer (that is, the tendency of the front wheels to tug right or left under hard acceleration). Both engines are mated to four-speed automatic transmissions. Additionally, the T6 provides a Geartronic feature that allows for manual shifting if the driver desires.

Overall, the S80 handles adequately for a front-wheel-drive car. A MacPherson strut suspension handles duties up front, while a fully independent multilink setup keeps the rear planted. Front and rear antiroll bars help the S80 maintain a flat attitude in corners, though the suspension's limits quickly become apparent when the car is pushed on curvy roads. Volvo's stability and traction control (STC) system is standard, while the more deluxe Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) system is optional. Other active safety features include electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assistance.

Comfort is a Volvo hallmark, and the S80 boasts one of the better interiors we've encountered. The rear seat is exceptionally roomy, and there are heating and air conditioning vents in the B-pillars to keep the rear passengers at the perfect temperature. For ultimate luxury, order the four-passenger T6 Executive or five-passenger T6 Elite. These models add 2 extra inches of legroom by pushing the rear seat farther back into the rear deck and by removing the folding seat mechanism. They also feature wider rear door openings, heated rear seats, extra padding in the rear seatback and bottom cushion, an electric rear-window sun shade, a small refrigerator and a DVD player connected to a video screen mounted in the rear console; a wireless fax/copier is optional. A 75th Anniversary Edition includes all of the above, as well as dual television screens on each of the front seatbacks, body-colored moldings and bumpers.

Control layout in the S80 is decent, though deciphering some of the markings will require the assistance of the owner's manual. An astounding Dolby ProLogic sound system is offered as optional equipment, as is a DVD-based navigation system. As with all Volvos, safety is paramount; every S80 is replete with side airbags for front passengers, head curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, whiplash-reducing headrests and ISO-FIX child seat attachment points.

There is little wrong with the S80. This isn't the car to get if you are looking for a driver's car or a value leader. But as a luxury car with cutting-edge safety and technology, the S80 is tough to match.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.