This week comes news from Gothenburg that a new performance saloon from Volvo, as mooted by Autocar back in February 2007, could be in the product plan for sometime in the next two years.
At a low-key preview held in advance of the Frankfurt motor show last week, the Swedish car maker gave the motoring press its first look at a concept car bound not for the halls of the Frankfurt Messe, but for the SEMA tuning show due to be held in Las Vegas, USA, in October. That glittering concept car is called the S80 High Performance Concept, pictured in our gallery for the first time. And, as Autocar can exclusively reveal, if the reception is positive enough, Volvo could be persuaded to put the cut-price, environmentally friendly, all-wheel-drive rival for the Audi S6 into production.
Briefed in Sweden, built in Germany
Although it’s a Volvo, the S80 HPC is the actually the work of German Volvo dealer and motor sport specialist Heico Sportiv, which conceived, designed and engineered it completely off its own back.
“We wanted to explore how far we could take a special high-performance version of the S80, and Heico’s impressive track record in motor sports and Volvo tuning made them the perfect partner for the job,” explained Volvo product boss Lex Kerssemakers.
It’s not the first time Volvo has gone to an outside entity for help in producing a performance show car, either; last year Volvo tuner IPD made a nutty 400bhp C30 concept for the SEMA show.
An S80 with more than 350bhp, that runs on biofuel…
Although it looks as if they forgot to paint it, the S80 HPC actually wears seven layers of metal-effect paint that took two weeks to apply.
And while you might expect a highly-strung version of Volvo’s Yamaha-built 4.4-litre V8 engine, under the bonnet of the S80 HPC there’s actually a more fiercely blown version of the 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbocharged petrol mill.
The turbo motor was favoured by Heico for its compatibility with E85 fuel; a turbocharged six responds better to the higher octane rating of bioethanol than a normally aspirated V8 and, although currently rated at 350bhp, Heico Sportiv is confident that the T6’s output can be increased to close to 400bhp once its development is complete.
Just as it does in the current S80 V8 model, power finds its way roadwards via all four wheels, with the 0-62mph dash taking just 5.8 seconds. And in order to complete its transformation to a proper performance saloon, Heico has lowered the car’s ride height by 40mm, upgraded its braking system, and fitted special 20in forged alloys with 255-profile Continental tyres.
… and it looks the part too
Once you’ve stopped staring at the paint job, you’ll notice some sports styling changes that look impressive enough to make production.
The S80 HPC’s body kit consists of redesigned front and rear bumpers, wide side skirts, spoilers front and rear, three larger air ducts in the front bumper, integrated LED daytime running lights (thanks to Ingolstadt for that idea) and a new sports grille.
Inside, the car is upholstered in blue leather throughout, with matching blue stitching. In the rear, the normal S80’s three-seat bench has been replaced with two bucket-style seats and an extended centre console which mirrors the car’s floating console up front.
There’s a sports steering wheel for the keener driver to get to grips with, and a leather-trimmed gear lever.
But will they build it?
The future of the S80 HPC will depend on how keenly it’s received in Las Vegas next month. The brand would benefit greatly from tapping into the US market for hot saloons, but it can ill afford to repeat the critical and sales flops its last hot models proved.
The move has got precedent. Back in 2005, Volvo previewed the S60 R with the Volvo Performance Concept. It’ll be keen not to revisit the failure that car represented; the S60 R’s lack of success contributed significantly to the firm’s decision to discontinue production of its R-line of models recently.
However, Volvo spokesperson Per-Ake Froberg told Autocar that “if there’s clear customer demand, we are open to reconsider that decision.”
Fans of fast Volvos shouldn’t give up hope, then; provided the Yanks like it, a near-400bhp, all-wheel-drive new S80 could come to a showroom near you soon.