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Reworked suspension and more power give S80 new lease of life

Our Verdict

Volvo S80
The S80 has appeal for drivers who spend their days on the motorway

The Volvo S80 is a comfortable way to cover long distances, but it fails to excite in a way the class best can

What is it?

It is an attempt by Volvo to move the S80 out of the “quirky alternative” category and closer to its mainstream German rivals. To achieve this the big Swede has been treated to a reworked suspension to make it a more engaging and sporting drive.

All versions, except the Executive, now get a “Lowered Dynamic Chassis”, with shortened coil springs (lowered 20 mm front, 15 mm rear) and higher spring rates. The shocks have an improved damping ability on both extension and compression, while the sub-frame mountings have harder bushes and the anti-roll bars have been strengthened.

To match the tweaked suspension Volvo has also introduced more powerful uprated engines, including the company’s new D5 diesel unit. Twin turbochargers of differing sizes (low and high pressure) replace a single blower on the old D5, increasing power by 20bhp, and giving 310lb ft of torque.

CO2 drops from 169g/km to 164g/km and ceramic glow plugs, which warm up to 1000deg C in a couple of seconds, improve start-ups and efficiency at low revs.

What’s it like?

The D5 makes an inspiring five-pot burble and is a punchy unit in the low and mid-range. There is a healthy plateau of torque between 1500-3250rpm, making for smooth effortless urge until the power starts to tail off around 4000rpm.

The chassis of the S80 has been transformed; gone is the wallow, replaced by a newfound poise and body control. It is easy to forget how big the S80 actually is, with a keener turn-in and much reduced body roll. It’s never going to match a rear-drive BMW for entertainment but the S80 is actually a relatively fun way to attack a B-road.

Sadly this newfound ability only serves to highlight the woefully artificial steering, with small inputs around the straight-ahead having no effect on the direction of the car.

The seats are also set too high, with insufficient thigh support, and although the gearshift is direct there is a rubbery nature to its feel. The honed suspension was always going to be harder and the S80 does get fidgety on bad roads.

Should I buy one?

Yes, but only if you still want a left field alternative to what BMW, Mercedes and Audi has to offer, despite the changes. The S80 D5 has been given a new lease of life, and thanks to the extra power and fettled chassis, it now has a whiff of Q car about it. It may not be in the mainstream yet but it’s not quite so far off.

Join the debate


29 July 2009

Hoorah! another article that damns a perfectly good car with faint praise.

I'm getting tired of all these cars that plainly designed to carry people up and down the motorway in comfort being marked down because you can't powerslide out of a roundabout like you can in a rearwheel bimmer.

I know journalists love to "see what she can do" but in the real world even drivers of evo VIII's and STI's spend vast amounts of time not going sideways.

Why does every car always have to be assessed as a sports car? In this article theres no mention of ride comfort, refinement, cabin ergonomics, seats, sound system - in fact any of the things that make long journeys less tiring and more enjoyable.

yes its lovely to find an empty road and have a blast - but for most people, most of the time, the fact your car is not quite as accurate or precise through a corner on a leading throttle is irrelevant.

Thats all. my next rant will be about run-flat tyres and "british roads" or rather why those things are seldom mentioned in a bmw review.

29 July 2009

[quote slackboy]Hoorah! another article that damns a perfectly good car with faint praise.[/quote]

I agree with your points, and you're right - not everybody wants a hard-riding pseudo sportscar that can also carry photocopiers. Problem is, it appears that Volvo themselves are gunning for this very image, by stiffening the car up. As partisan as Autocar sometimes is, you can't really blame them for assessing this car as a BMW wannabe, because it seems that being a BMW wannabe is what Volvo desires with this car.

I fear Volvo are shooting themselves in the foot here - this car would appear to be neither fish nor fowl. More uncomfortable than a proper comfort biased car like the rather excellent C5, yet having nowhere near the driving dynamics of something like the overrated 5 series.

Volvo's USPs used to be comfort, safety, ergonomics and robust build.

They've lost the first one and they've been equalled for years on the second. I don't see the remaining two USPs being enough to maintain sales, let alone increase them.

29 July 2009

[quote slackboy]Hoorah! another article that damns a perfectly good car with faint praise.[/quote]

The trouble is there are plenty of perfectly good cars out there. It's difficult to get excited about a car that does nothing exceptionally well.

Now fit an auto box, wait two years, then pick one up at a bargain price on the used market and I could probably live with it being simply a perfectly good car, well if the steering isn't as bad as the article makes out.

29 July 2009

BMW make good BMWs

Volvo don't make good BMWs.

BMW don't make good Volvos.

Volvo should make good Volvos.

Volvo did make good Volvos.

Volvo can make good Volvos.

Back to FWD Sad

30 July 2009

It would help if this was not a rerun of a test done about 2 months ago, it says in the title that its a test of an S80 2.4D, but then goes on about the S80 D5, two different models. The D5 is twin turbo 205ps, the 2.4D is a single turbo 175ps. Please get the facts right, how are people supposed to take this serious if you cant get the basics right, your figures in the data section are wrong, they contradict the figures given in the road test. Yet another lazy story, I really am getting bored with your mistakes which are beginning to become a lot more frequent.

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