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Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux

Click to view picture gallery“While you could be forgiven for
  thinking that much of the world
  has gone crossover crazy, there
s
  still a vast number of motorists
  (and passengers) who prefer to
 
travel in a proper saloon...


AND IF YOU'RE ONE OF THEM, Volvo's S80 could be right up your street. Looks-wise it's a 'proper' car with seating for five and a traditional boot. Like similar prestige saloons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the S80 occupies more or less the same amount of road space as their mid-range saloon cars.

Looks-wise the S80 can hold its own against the other upmarket front-runners — its handsome lines, fronted by a wide, bold grille and a thrusting nose plus some classy chrome body detailing add up to a strong road presence. Our test model, finished in lustrous Crystal White, looked especially well-dressed.

“If you thought the S80
was a budget alternative
to an Audi, BMW
or Mercedes-Benz then
think again.
Alternative: Yes.
Budget:
Absolutely not!
Of course, it's the inside that really counts; not just for the driver but for the passengers too. Alongside its reputation for safety Volvo is also renowned for its seats, widely acknowledged as some of the best around. The S80's chairs confirm this the moment you sit in them. There's also plenty of room in the front in all directions; up, down and sideways.

If you thought that the S80 was a budget alternative to the prestige German brands then the S80's 'clean' Scandinavian design, quality of materials, fit and finish, and equipment will force you to think again. Alternative: Yes. Budget: Absolutely not.

Economy is not something readily associated with big cars but with an official combined fuel consumption of 65.7mpg the S80 challenges the status quo. And that's with the eight-speed Geartronic autobox — go for the six-speed manual and the average mpg goes up to 70.6CHK with a mere 104g/km of CO2 emissions compared to the auto's still tax-friendly 113g/km.

Before you break out the bubbly, note that a week's serious driving in our test S80 recorded an average of 47.6mpg — still commendably decent for a large five-seater saloon. Less pressed drivers will probably break through the 50mpg ceiling without seriously compromising their A-B progress.

While it does a great job of ferrying passengers about, the driver's seat is not just for chauffeurs but for owner-drivers: and for sure they'll like the feel of the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and appreciate the first-rate driving position.

Both power-operated front seats have adjustable lumbar and are designed to protect your neck and head in a whiplash situation; the seatbacks themselves provide excellent support, particularly for your lower back and shoulders, and the wide central armrest-cum-storage bin separating the driver from the front passenger has a padded lid that's kind on elbows. Three memory settings come in useful if you regularly share the driving with your 'significant other'.

You'll find all the essential equipment, and more, fitted as standard: auto 2Zone climate control, four one-shot up/down windows, frameless rearview mirror, no-hassle fascia-mounted electric parking brake, powerfold self-parking door mirrors, leather upholstery, parking sensors and rear-view camera, SatNav, etc.

“A weeks serious driving
in our S80 recorded an
average of 47.6mpg —
commendably decent for
a large five-seater saloon.
Less pressed drivers
will probably
break through the 50mpg
ceiling without
seriously compromising
AB progress...
Fitted pro-active safety kit includes LED headlamps (with automatic switching between high and low beam triggered by oncoming traffic), Volvo's City Safety system that brakes for you (at speeds of up to 30mph) if you're not paying attention, Driver Alert (Big Brother is watching — but benignly — and sounds an alert if you've driving seems erratic), and also a Lane Departure Warning system which helps keep you safely on course between the white lines.

The cabin itself is unashamedly Nordic with a well-considered mix of satin chrome finishing offset by traditional dark wood veneers. An individually cowled 7-inch screen sits top dead centre of the near-minimalist main dash and serves all the infotainment functions.

It's also conveniently in-line with the easy-to-read digital TFT instrument cluster behind the multi-function wheel — so a sideways flick of your eyes is all that's required to take in exactly what information you need with minimal distraction. And the SatNav's 3D mapping is made even better by timely spoken directions.

The TFT cluster also lets the driver choose between three switchable themes: Performance, Elegance, and Eco. Blue-toned Elegance follows a classic layout, with a central speedo; green-hued Eco shows all things 'eco' (replacing the rev-counter with and 'eco-meter'); red-tinted Performance substitutes a central rev-counter for the speedometer and shows your road speed in large digits — by far the nicest choice.

Running down from the minimalist fascia, the 'floating' centre stack houses all the core switchgear for the infotainment system (SatNav, DAB radio, media, telephone, Internet, etc) along with knurled rotary knobs for the climate control as well as the feeding slot for CDs and DVDs.

If you want more, then upping the spec is as easy as ticking the options boxes. Our test car came fitted with a number of advantageous extras, starting with the 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission and Start/Stop (1,550).

Other good stuff includes Volvo's Active Four-C Chassis with its three driver-selectable ride settings (1,000), Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Harmon Kardon (audiophiles won't begrudge the extra 500), heated steering wheel (200 and well worth it), and wheel-mounted paddle-shifters (150).

You can't quibble with just 350 for the Winter pack that adds heated front seats, a heated windscreen, Active Bending Xenon headlights with Corner Light Function and a headlight cleaning system. A Security pack that includes Keyless Entry and Keyless Start, a Personal Car Communicator, laminated windows and water-repellent front side windows is 750.

“The S80s cabin has
a Zen-like ability to melt
away your tension even
when you
re fighting
your corner in school-run
traffic. So don
t take it
personally when your
passengers drift off...
Also fitted to our press car was the 1,900 Driver Support pack that includes Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and Distance Alert, Queue Assist, Lane Departure Warning, DAC (Driver Alert Control) with Active High Beam, Road Sign Information Display, and BLIS (Blind Spot Information System).

Under the bonnet Volvo's new 181PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant serves up flexible performance courtesy of its 400Nm of smooth torque. Partnered by an 8-speed Geartronic autobox it makes for stress-free driveability, whether you're easing away from the kerb or cruising along at the legal limit (top speed, incidentally, is 140mph).

It's also nicely refined, keeping the cabin ambiance relaxingly hushed — helped by the fact that eight ratios mean the revs rarely need to top 1,600rpm. Gear changes are equally smooth; even when you're pressing on some, up and down shifts higher up the rev-band remain gentlemanly with just a hint of a growl from the exhaust, which is nice.

In fact the cabin atmosphere has a Zen-like ability to melt away your tension even when you're fighting your corner in school-run traffic. So don't take it personally when your passengers drift off — the cabin's unruffled ambiance and comfortable seating is like a magic recipe for relaxation; you can't stay stressed even if you try .

Five adults into an S80 will surely go — but four will travel first class. Long side windows keep the cabin light and airy and those travelling in the back enjoy a fist of headroom and a backrest angle that's perfect for lounging. Legs can be stretched, feet parked comfortably and there's a wide centre armrest with built-in cupholders complemented by long padded outer armrests.

Door pockets hold large bottles, there are magazine pouches and dedicated rear air vents. And when you reach your destination, the wide-opening doors make exiting the S80 very easy — in particular, ladies wearing skirts will appreciate being able to get out elegantly.

With four or even five adults aboard, you need a decent size boot — the S80 has one. At 480-litres it's more than big enough and the boot lid opens high for easy access.

“The 4C chassis ensures
reassuringly flat
cornering plus it more
than neutralises the
second class blacktop
that covers most of
Britain
s roads...
More good news — there's a load-through hatch behind the armrest and for bulkier long items you can fold down the backrest of the front passenger seat. Handy, too, is the flip-up boot divider that creates two clearly defined boot areas.

On the open road, with three modes to choose from there's one for every driving occasion be it Comfort, Sport, or your personally configured settings in Advanced.

Big car it may be but you can move it along when the mood takes you. Better still, and ably aided by comfort-biased 225/50 profile Michelin rubber, the ride is unfailingly compliant.

The 4C chassis ensures reassuringly flat cornering plus the ability to more than neutralise the second class blacktop covering most of Britain's roads. Brakes are of the 'kingmaker' kind — powerful and they operate efficiently without drawing attention to themselves.

The new D4 engine is just the job, marrying economy with all the power you really need for today's real-life driving. It further enhances the S80's cabin refinement and together they endow the S80 with the ability to provide a svelte and comfortable haven from the outside world. — MotorBar

Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux
| 33,720
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds | Test Average: 47.6mpg
Power: 181ps bhp | Torque: 400nm lb ft | CO2 113g/km