What is it?
The Volvo S80 D5 SE Lux is an updated version of the Swedish firm’s big saloon, which is a rival for the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and Audi A6.
There’s been a subtle restyle for this most recent iteration of a car that first came onto the market back in 2006, although it’s definitely a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ evolution. The front and rear bumpers have been tweaked to make the car look wider and lower, and there’s more chrome detailing to give the Volvo S80 a more premium feel. There are also new rectangular daytime running lights at the front.
This latest car also gets some kit upgrades, such as DAB radio as standard and the inclusion of the exceptionally clear TFT driver display first seen on the V40 and now standard equipment on SE Lux models such as the one we drove.
What's it like?
There’s something reassuring about the understated appeal of cars like this; the S80 exudes restrained charm and has a fuss-free way of covering long journeys while cocooning occupants in a beguilingly luxurious cabin.
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.
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.