Volvo's S80 has always been a bit of an underdog in the luxury car segment, where it faces tough competition from cars such as the Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Yes, it is a bigger car than these two rivals but it falls in the same price bracket - and the S80 doesn't quite have the same presence (or price tag) of an S-Class or BMW 7 Series.
However, despite its dull image, Volvo's flagship shouldn't be discarded as it does offer decent build quality, a classy design and good value for money.
Now the refreshed S80, which was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year, is available in South Africa. The Swedish carmaker has boosted the S80 with a number of updates, which include some minor styling changes, a tweaked chassis and a revitalised engine line-up.
Though it's hard to spot the design changes to S80, the car's nose has been ironed out with a new bonnet and bigger grille while the headlights have been positioned lower too. Furthermore, Volvo has given the doors a more convex shape and lifted the shoulder line, making it wider.
At the rear the taillights have a "slimmer" profile, according to Volvo. There is also some new chrome detailing, for example around the air intakes and below the taillights.
On the inside the changes are even less obvious and include a new steering wheel design. A host of standard features such as Volvo’s High Performance or Premium audio systems with a USB port for iPod and MP3 connection are available.
Volvo is also quite proud about its Interior Air Quality System (IAQS) that aims to reduce the amount of particles, pollen, gases and certain unpleasant odours in the air that enters the cabin. This system can be boosted with the carmaker's Clean Zone Interior Package, which improves the air quality inside the passenger compartment.
Other new features on the S80 are active bending headlights and a personal car communicator (PCC). PCC is an advanced control centre in pocket format with which the driver, if he has been away from his S80 for some time, can find out whether the car is locked or unlocked, the alarm has been activated, the alarm has been set off and someone is inside the car.
Naturally the S80 is still a showcase of safety with all the right protection credentials, in case of an accident.
Better engines, consumption
Like most other manufacturers Volvo is also cleaning up its engine act and two of the three engines available in the S80 offer better fuel consumption and C02 figures than before.
Probably the biggest news with the S80 is the introduction of a new D5 engine that offers an impressive 151kW and 420 Nm of torque. This engine, which is smoother and much more willing than before, has improved fuel consumption too, which is 6.2 l/100 km (combined) while Volvo claims a low C02 figure of 164g/km too.
The 2.5T engine has also been upgraded and now offers 170 kW and 340 Nm of torque. As before, the range-topping S80 gets the carmaker's 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line aluminium engine. This model also comes standard with all-wheel drive.
A soft-sprung comfort chassis is offered as standard but S80 buyers can now also spec their car with a sport chassis - though it won't instantly turn this Swede in a sport sedan.
Though utterly comfortable and offering a perfect luxury ambience, the S80 feels more like a car which you would want to be chauffeured in. Essentially, the S80 is competent and a pleasant luxury sedan to float about in.
S80 2.5T: R421 200
S80 D5: R461 800
S80 3.0T: R545 000