What is the Volvo S80?
People don’t really buy big saloons any more unless they’re either German or Jaguars, but if they wanted a large Volvo then the S80 is the car. Launched in 2006 and quietly forgotten since then, the S80 looked much like the previous version but with two instead of three windows per side and a stubbier bonnet.
At its height the range had the distinction of offering a more diverse range of engine sizes than practically anything else, ranging from a 1.6-litre turbodiesel to a 4.4-litre, Yamaha-built V8. That big engine is absent from today’s UK S80 range, so maximum fireworks come from the 3.2-litre, turbocharged straight-six with 320bhp and four-wheel drive. Otherwise it’s front-drive diesels, that 1.6 making 115bhp, the 2.0-litre, five-cylinder units producing either 134 or 161bhp, and the 2.5-litre version liberating 212bhp.
Under its very Volvoid skin the S80 uses many components adapted from Ford’s Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Prices range from £29,070 to £42,585, obvious rivals are the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series — both much newer designs.
On the face of it, the 1.6 turbodiesel D2 seems a tiny engine for a big car, especially matched to the automatic-only transmission, but a turbodiesel’s ample pulling ability should be able to cope — and 119g/km CO2 is a remarkable figure for a big car. Not as remarkable as the D3 134bhp, 2.0-litre diesel’s 114g/km, though, and that engine’s off-beat five-cylinder throb is a characterful sound. The 161bhp D4 version is more muscular, however, and with the manual gearbox option it’s quite a spirited drive while, amazingly, also scoring 114g/km. It’s the best all-round buy if not as overtly punchy as the 2.5 D5 turbodiesel.
The petrol 3.2 T6, unusual in being a straight-six mounted transversely, is extremely smooth and pulls creamily across a broad speed range, but with a 231g/km CO2 figure no one’s going to buy it. The diesels handle well with their front-wheel drive, but without the keen edge found in its Ford relatives; the S80 is more of a gentle cruiser designed to soothe its occupants away from the cares of the world. Higher-spec versions have adaptive dampers and the facility to alter the steering’s heft. In max sportiness they feel meatier but you can tell they’re not really happy in the role. Best leave them in “advanced” for the suspension (that is, leave it to its own automatic devices) and the middle steering setting.
It’s not quite up to the best German standards here, with doors that shut too noisily, stalks that feel cheaply hollow and basic graphics on the information screen. The horizontal and vertical etching on the aluminium trim garnishes looks worryingly like scratches, too; the matt wood alternative is preferable, and very Scandinavian. The backless, “floating” centre console is typical Volvo.
The cabin is roomy and very comfortable, and gadgetry includes an active radar cruise control and a collision-mitigation system that applies the brakes if you haven’t. You can also have a clever keyless-entry system that tells you if you’ve locked your car or if it has been spirited away provided it is (or was) within 100 yards. Perfect for obsessive-compulsives.
What to look out for when buying used
One of the biggest issues with the S80 is premature tyre wear, and new boots aren’t cheap, so see how much tread is left. Also make sure none of the dashboard warning lights stays illuminated once you’re driving; electrical glitches can lead to the dash lighting up like a Christmas tree, even when there’s nothing wrong.
The fact that the S80 has been recalled 25 times should be enough to horrify you, but Volvo issues a recall where rivals get their dealers to fix minor glitches at service time. Also, many of the recalls were for just a handful of cars, but it’s still worrying that second-generation S80 owners have had to contend with a multitude of problems affecting their car’s electrics, cooling system, engine, wheels, safety systems, transmission and brakes.
The One to Buy
Volvo S80 D4
- £30,320 (correct at first publication)
- 1984cc, 5-cylinder turbodiesel
- 161bhp @ 3500rpm
- 295 lb ft @ 1500rpm
- 6-speed manual (automatic available)
- 0-62mph in 9.2sec
- Top Speed:
- 65.7mpg combined
- Road Tax Band:
- L 4851mm, W 1861mm, H 1493mm
Volvo S80 used car rivals for similar money