Volvo S80 V8 AWD
EIGHT TO THE POINT
Top End Volvo S80s Were Always Punchy Performers. With A V8 Engine, The Latest Model Really Has Wings. Andy Enright Reports
Of all the ways that Volvo could have improved the S80, fitting a big V8 engine wouldn’t necessarily have been the one that most commentators would have come up with. Sharpen the styling, make the suspension and steering a little more involving maybe, even offer a little more in the way of rear legroom, but don’t chase the big boys like Jaguar, Audi and BMW. Yet with the S80 V8 AWD models, that’s exactly what the Swedish company seem to be doing. Hit, miss or maybe?
Volvo have undoubtedly done the right thing in not trying to channel all 311bhp of this V8 engine’s power through the front wheels alone. That would have been a recipe for huge wheelspin and torque steer the like of which had never before been witnessed. Instead, the S80 uses a clever four wheel drive system to deliver power to whichever wheel can best handle it. In normal driving conditions, this means that most of the drive will be directed as usual to the front wheels, but accelerate hard or encounter slippery surfaces and the differential instantaneously directs torque to the rears to share the load.
If you really want to test the system, drop Volvo’s six-speed Geartronic into Drive, hold one foot firmly on the brake and then gently rev the engine until you feel the car straining against the brakes. When all looks clear, sidestep the brake pedal and drive the accelerator into the carpet. Six seconds later, you’ll have 60mph on the clock with no drama at all, just a smooth surge of acceleration, accompanied by a purposeful roar from the 4.4-litre engine. If you have the right conditions, this car will keep going to an electronically limited 155mph maximum. Drive a little less manically and you may well replicate Volvo’s 23.7mpg combined figure. With emissions of 284g/km, the S80 is thirstier and emits more carbon dioxide than either the Audi A6 4.2 V8 Quattro SE, the BMW 550i SE or the Jaguar S-TYPE 4.2 V8 SE. This outlines the size of this car’s task.
"The S80 V8 AWD swims with some very big fish. It’ll need to work hard not to be gobbled up"
It’s helped by the fact that it offers competitive value for money. The range opens at £37,100 in SE trim, with the SE Sport at £39,950 and the SE LUX occupying the centre ground at £39,850. The range-topping model is the fully-loaded Executive at £48,100. Perhaps its closest rival is the Jaguar, another car that offers keen value for money and appeals to a mature audience. Those of you who keep tabs on the global automotive industry will know that both Volvo and Jaguar are part of Ford’s Premier Auto Group, so these two cars are, in effect, rivals from a common stable.
The two cars feel rather different to drive. Whereas the Jaguar will be the enthusiast’s choice, the Volvo focuses on refinement at speed. The Servotronic power steering system allows for three different levels of steering weight in the menu system and there are likewise three different suspension settings but the S80 always feels at its most comfortable with the middle setting on the steering assistance and the most comfortable suspension mode. That way it floats nicely over the worst surfaces yet is still easy to place through a corner.
Safety technology for the S80 includes a unique Personal Car Communicator (PCC) and new active safety systems – Collision Warning and Brake Support – with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), active Bi-Xenon headlights and a patented body structure developed at the Volvo Safety Centre. The S80 includes an optional key fob offering 'keyless drive' and incorporating a world first innovation – the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) which features intelligent technology to remotely check if the car is locked or not, alert you if the alarm has been activated, and a heartbeat sensor which warns if there is anyone in the car.
Another interesting technology is the Collision Warning system which alerts the driver, via a 'heads-up' warning display on the windscreen plus audible buzzer, if the gap to the car in front closes so fast that a collision is likely, while the Brake Support system boosts the braking force to ensure braking is as effective as possible. The active Bi-Xenon headlights turn the beam of the headlights in the direction the steering wheel is being turned, allowing better visibility deeper into corners at night and also helping to highlight the immediate verge where a pedestrian, cyclist or parked vehicle could be obscured.
It’s only when you get the old S80 next to the latest car that you’ll see quite how far it has evolved. Yes, many of the primary design cues are still much the same. The car retains the distinctive shoulders that run all the way back to the tail lights that look like a piece of ornate marquetry. The roofline is still arched in an almost coupe-like manner and there’s still a rather bluff grille up front. Where the biggest changes have been made is in the vehicle’s stance and its fine detailing. Compared to the latest model, the old car looks notably less athletic. It seems to ride higher and the front and rear overhangs are longer.
The interior design offers a blend of no-nonsense Scandinavian style with a slim 'floating' centre stack, quality materials for upholsteries and a choice of inlays and colour schemes that blend smoothly together. As ever, Volvo is highly committed to providing safety leadership in its class.
As engaging as the S80 V8 AWD is, it’s hard to see Volvo shifting too much stock here in the UK. At this price point, there are just too many competing attractions of the Volvo to make its case coherently. In a couple of years this will make a cracking used buy. Those willing to step forward and take the depreciation hit from new will need to be very committed to the cause.