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.