For most people, the S80 seems the most conservative choice in an already unadventurous Volvo range. Despite this, it appeals to me on several levels. Mostly because I prefer the proportions of saloon cars, but also because I love the high equipment levels offered on executive motors. Helpfully, the lack of demand in the second hand market keeps prices right down for nearly new, low mileage examples. After owning a 2001 V70 in the past, I was keen to get back into a Phase II Volvo, but didn't need the estate of the V70, which left me with a choice between the smaller, sportier S60 and the behemoth S80.
For me it was an easy choice, the S80 just oozes class and style. The interior feels a little more special than the S60 and comes better equipped.
Of more importance, the S80 has a better seating position, more rear legroom and a bigger boot. Not that the boot is especially large, just bigger than the S60s!
On the toys count, there isn't much to wish for really. The long equipment list includes: rain sensor wipers, 6 CD changer with Dolby pro-logic sound, Dual Zone climate, built-in DVD colour sat nav, integrated dual-band mobile phone, heated electric memory seats and mirrors, bi-xenons, etc. Some of these features were standard, other options on what was once a dealer demonstrator.
Inside, the cabin is a very special place to be. The basic design dates back to the late 90s, but still feels ergonomically perfect. All the controls are exactly the right size, shape and position. The best way of summing up the ambience is as a well decorated lounge that you can drive places with you. It's comfortable beyond words. My first journey in the car was a 750 mile round trip to visit relatives, the car effortlessly soaked it up like a trip round the block.
However, this is no drivers car. The sheer width of the car plus uncertain steering doesn't encourage back road blasts. Also, if the car encounters ruts in the road at speed it tends to jump worryingly over them, giving a feeling of losing all grip.
For motorway driving it has got it nailed however. Only a slight amount of wind noise faults it at all.
Whether around town or changing lanes at speed, the combination of the torquey 5 cylinder diesel engine (officially 163bhp, but known to produce more like 176bhp) and the smooth 5 speed autobox makes life easy.
Nonetheless, this is an older generation diesel now and it does show. The amount of vibration and noise at idle is not ideal. It's far from intolerable, but not anywhere near as good as the latest diesels, even 4 cylinder ones.
Don't expect to be beating much off the lights, this is not lightening quick, just adequate. Official 0-60 is a fraction below 10 seconds. In gear performance is very satisfying though.
Fuel economy is good for such a large car with an autobox. I'm averaging around 38-40mpg, with long runs achieving up to 45mpg. A colleague with the 2.9 petrol S80 spends most of the time getting low 20s economy, so I'm very happy with mine.
The biggest problem I have with this car is the image. Being in my early 30s, it's just not seen as the norm to be driving a big saloon car like this. However, to my eyes the S80 looks great and it's the most stress free means of getting from A-B I've ever had.
And for that, I'm more than happy to put up with the quizzed expressions when I tell people I drive such a barge!
I've also taken advantage of the Volvo's clever extendible audio system to add a fully integrated iPod solution. It works really well, with the iPod fully controlled by the stereo and steering wheel controls and track information on screen. I went for the iMIV solution and would recommend it to others.
Now all I need to do is get rid of the doggy smell left by the previous owner and their unrestrained mutts (dog hair everywhere) and all will be well! I like dogs, but don't much like my car smelling like a dog that needs a bath. A bit of Oust and the passing of time should cure it soon enough.