Facelifted Volvo S80 gets reworked suspension and breathed on engines, giving the luxury car a new lease of life

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.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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drivenfromthere... 30 July 2009

Re: Volvo S80 2.4 D5

Dan McNeil wrote:
Dear Autocar - what have you done with all the comments that were posted yesterday?

Check out the Volvo S80 2.4D SE thread.

Timberwolf 30 July 2009

Re: Volvo S80 2.4 D5

For some reason, refreshing the data box at the bottom of the article seems to kill any attached discussion threads...