The Flagship. The most enviable position in any car company’s line up. It is the pinnacle of what you have to offer. The best of the best. Right? The Volvo S80 is the car that sits at the absolute top of the totem pole, yet it seems to sit there very quietly. No buzz, no ‘ooh or ahh’ factor. For a flagship car, the S80 leads what appears to be a low key existence. For 2014, Volvo gave the S80 a very mild refresh-so subtle it would take a Volvo fanatic to notice the slight exterior changes. It’s worth noting that this is actually the current S80’s second refresh. The current, second generation S80 has been around since 2006, and with a car that old, it is of little surprise it has dropped off the radar of luxury car buyers.
For such an old design, the S80 still looks great. Our test car arrived in a deep dark blue metallic that positively dripped with class and elegance. Styling is clean, and after two refreshes, looks timeless. If anything, Volvo has proven once again that a great design to start with can stand the test of time. In the luxury car class, the S80 is understated, exuding a cool Swede charm in contrast to its more brash German competitors. For some, that is the appeal of the S80; for others more intent on trying impress others, the subtle demeanor of the S80 would be a turn-off for the guy trying to fuel his ego.
Stepping inside the S80, the car does show its age against the competition. Groups of tiny buttons and a navigation system that seems hopelessly trapped in the past are clear indicators the S80 is no spring chicken. But, it is a great cabin in spite of its age. The vertical gauges flanking the tach are LCD but offer a clear nod to Volvo’s of yore, and no other manufacturer offers anything like it. I love the back lit transmission selector, and I don’t know why other car companies have not followed in Volvo’s foot steps. The seats are supremely comfortable. I appreciated the warm luster of wood accents and highly polished metal decorating the interior. But again, the S80’s age is tough to ignore. For some. Sure, I could get another car with a more up to date interior, but after spending a week with the S80, I concluded this car was so comfortable I put it on my short list of cars I could drive across the US in.
The S80 is available in two flavors. The base model is front wheel drive with a 3.2 inline six rated at 240hp. Our test car was the S80 T6, equipped with a 3.0L turbocharged inline six rated at 300hp, with all-wheel drive. Both models share a six-speed automatic. The EPA pages fuel economy at 18/25 MPG city/highway, hardly stellar figures despite being an all-wheel drive luxury car. The Volvo provided plenty of power when needed, and positively excels in cruise mode. This is not a sports sedan however-everything has been tuned to comfort and isolation. No, it’s not exciting to drive, but what it lacks in driving excitement, it makes up for in complete comfort.
A base S80 starts at a modest $39,900USD. Step up to our T6 AWD, and the starting prices is raised to a still reasonable $43,950. Standard equipment includes an eight speaker stereo with satellite radio, Bluetooth, power moonroof, leather interior, power front seats and walnut wood inlays. Our heavily optioned test car added the Platinum Package (Navigation, Premium sound, rear view camera), Climate Package (heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel), Inscription Package (Sovereign Hide leather, ventilated front seats, leather covered dash),Technology Package (Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with full auto brake, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection with auto brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert, Lane Departure Warning), and active xenon headlights. All in, including destination charges, our S80 stickers at $55,765. It’s hardly inexpensive, but compared to the competition, the Volvo is priced far below similarly equipped cars.
The S80 reminds me of how Volvo once used to be. You crank out a solid, well designed car, and make modest updates over time, like the iconic 240. The Volvo of yore was never a slave to fads or fashion, and their buyers appreciated that, and repaid that mentality with a fierce loyalty. Unfortunately in today’s luxury car market, that mentality is overlooked. While the competition is grabbing headlines and the attention of the media and buyers alike, the S80 quietly soldiers on with little or no fanfare at all. And that is a shame, because Volvo has built a fundamentally excellent luxury car. Yes, she is showing her age, but the greatest compliment I can pay the S80 is that it would be the perfect cross-country cruiser.