From £24,890
In six-cylinder guise, the S80 delivers a great drive and a glimpse into Jaguar's future.

What's new? A large, six-cylinder Volvo doesn't often arouse great curiosity, but the considerable weight of expectation surrounding the first press of this S80's starter button is borne of wider knowledge - this car has the engine that will power the next generation of six-cylinder Jaguars.The new unit is all-alloy and notable for its compact dimensions - it's only 3mm longer than the five-cylinder D5 in the diesel version of the car. As it's mounted transversely here - to the benefit of front impact protection for the cabin - that's very helpful, and partly why ancilliaries such as the power steering and air conditioning compressors are run off the rear end of the crankshaft and located above the gearbox.In the S80, the unit produces 235bhp and 236lb ft of torque, assisted by a raft of technology. There's variable valve timing, a variable air intake system with two throttle flap valves and new 'cam profile switching' on the inlet side of the engine. This allows two different valve openings depending on engine load and revs, similar to Honda's VTEC set-up.What's it like? At low speeds, the new unit is very refined, with only a murmur making its way into the cabin. Put your right foot down further and the growl is pleasingly sonorous. It's clear that within a new S-type the powerplant will be far superior to the V6 that's currently under the Jaguar's bonnet.Should I buy one? But that's the last mention of the English concern here, because the new S80 is a very nice home for the straight six. It provides ample motion for the Volvo, which doesn't feel that much slower than the heavier V8 machine. We noted in last week's first drive of the V8 S80 that this is a comfortable and refined car, and the six suits its character. Despite being front driven it feels controlled and precise, if rather sterile. If you do become bored, there's always the interior to admire.The 3.2 may just be the best S80, which considering the competency of this latest Volvo is praise indeed.Adam Towler

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