The Volvo S80 excels ergonomically. The cabin feels light, airy and uncluttered, with plenty of room for front and rear passengers. The seating and driving position both feel instantly comfortable and, this being a Volvo, stalks and switches engage with a reassuringly secure ‘thunk’ or ‘click’.
On the other hand, the layout of the centre console controls is fiddly and doesn’t feel particularly intuitive. For example, setting the front windscreen heater to ‘full’ demands a longer look down at the rectangular array of buttons than is desirable when you’re focused on the road.
Under the bonnet there’s a hearty 2.4-litre five-pot that possesses plenty of low and mid-range punch, although if you accelerate too aggressively, the thrum cuts through the cabin tranquility like a sneeze in a library. When you get the S80 up to motorway cruising speed there’s nary a murmur, however.
Our test car featured Volvo’s active chassis (a £1000 option), which provides three damper settings. In Comfort mode, the S80’s ride provides pliant absorption of road imperfections. There’s a hint of body roll during cornering. The other settings, Sport and Advanced, offer incremental increases in dynamism, but don’t turn cruiser into full-blooded charger, something that’s not assisted by a lack of steering feel.
The six-speed automatic transmission accentuates the chilled-out ambience with its languid ratio-swapping, although can be specified with paddle shifters (a £150 option) if you want to chivvy it along. For more involvement, there’s a six-speed manual gearbox, which is £1485 cheaper.