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Tested: Volvo's stately S80

2007-05-07 07:04

Hailey Philander

An S80 and a hosepipe-playing musician could hardly be regarded as the ideal combination, but our flagship Volvo did lead an interesting life dodging boring suits and polished brogues...

The somber S80 seems a fitting flagship for a range of sensible cars like the Volvos. There's nothing particularly exciting or awe-inspiring about it, but then again, that's not the Scandinavian way, right?

What's it about?

Meant to appeal to the tastes of the well-heeled, who generally have high expectations, Volvo's brand of luxury, as one would expect, is rather different. Sombre finishes, clean lines and practicality are high on its list of priorities.

The second-generation is nothing on the eye really. Styling is nondescript, with the flagship model at first glance appearing to be nothing more than an S60 with a sweet tooth.

Of course, it is on the inside, and from the back bench in particular, that the S80's real appeal lies.


However, befitting its status as a flagship model, it can be expected that the S80 is equipped with all the modern conveniences one would expect and this model complies, just stopping short of serving espressos in those cute little cups.

As with most current Volvos the cabin's confines are very unimposing, though I did get the feeling that this is the car one needs to be chauffeured about in to be appreciated. This was, of course, exactly the qualities enjoyed by all the gleeful passengers I found myself carting about.

That the car came equipped with adaptive cruise control with collision warning, bi-xenon lights with cornering functions, Volvo's Personal Car Communication allowing keyless entry and keyless start that also tells you whether the alarm has been activated and whether there is someone crouching in the dark recesses behind the seats, not that any of the passengers would have been bothered to understand this.

The Dynaudio sound system is amazingly clear, though the cabin?s quietness can definitely be appreciated when the volume is turned down.

Despite the cavernous cabin, ergonomics remains good (as is typical for Volvo) with most controls within the centre console and along the door panels being within easy reach. The elegantly sloping centre armrest/console with sliding cover is a nice touch. So too is the very tastefully assembled centre stack with easy to navigate air conditioning, radio and suspension settings.

Under the bonnet

The new 3.2-litre normally aspirated all-aluminium unit produces 175 kW at 6 300 r/min and peak torque of 320 Nm at 3 500 r/min. The compact engine, according to Volvo, is only 3 mm longer than the current turbocharged five-cylinder powerplant.

However, for the full-on flash effect, nothing beats the 4.4 V8. The V8-powered version - using the engine that debuted in the XC90 SUV last year - comes with all-wheel drive and the option of Volvo's Active Four-C chassis that automatically adjusts the chassis settings to suit the driving conditions.

The V8 has outputs of 232 kW and 440 Nm and is fitted with four catalytic converters to ensure what Volvo claims is one of the cleanest V8s on the road.

Driving it

The all-new 3.2 inline six-cylinder was really impressive. Smooth and understated, this unit proved very capable of hauling the S80's mass around. Perfectly at ease on the road, this engine also suitably loaned itself to Volvo's claims of its flagship having one of the quietest cabins on the road.

Testing this theory, our test unit for one afternoon became the mobile recording studio for eccentric folk singer and performer, Syd Kitchen. View the video here to see Syd's views on music, life and how he would put the S80 to good use.

But where the six-cylinder wafts, the V8 leaps and where the 3.2-litre purrs, the V8 growls. Fitted with the 4.4 V8, the S80 becomes a machine with the soul of a sports car. Very entertaining, and it could appeal to the cut-and-dried suit with the occasional sense of humour.


Unflappable demeanour
Gracious bearing


Your gran will love it


Though just a bit too reserved for my liking, Volvo's S80 - like the Lexus LS460 - makes a valid claim for offering something different in the ultra-luxury large saloon.

And with prices mostly under R400 000 (only the V8 costs R510 000), owning a "flagship" model could even be more attainable to some.

  • View the video of the Syd Kitchen interview, here

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