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.
Should I buy one?
It’s probable that the sweet spot in the S80 range lies elsewhere. The high specification of our test car nudges the price of the S80 up to £43,355. That could make it a challenge for Volvo to lure some buyers away from, say, a similarly priced BMW 5-series, since this S80 never invites the same level of driver engagement as Munich’s offering.
For drivers who rate security and comfort over sporting prowess, however, it does provide a benign and very luxurious alternative. The characteristics of the engine and the sumptuousness of the interior suggest it is a strong choice for long motorway tours.
Prospective buyers would do well to test drive S80s equipped with the Comfort Chassis and the active Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) version to assess whether they really need to pay out for the latter. Similarly, those who don’t mind stirring their own gears could lop another significant figure off the price.
Volvo S80 D5 SE Lux
Price £36,355; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 46.3mpg; CO2 159g/km; Kerb weight 1688kg; Engine 5-cylinder, 2400cc, diesel; Power 212bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 325lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic