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Car Review: 2003 Volvo S80 T6

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SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide



MODEL: Volvo S80 T6
ENGINE: 2.9-liter turbocharged DOHC inline 6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 268 hp @ 5200 rpm/280 lb-ft @ 1800-5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 109.9 in.
LENGTH x HEIGHT: 189.8 x 57.2 in.

Christmas always proves to be a difficult time in the Heilig family. Neither my wife nor children has the Scrooge gene that inhabits my body - fortunately - and they buy gifts galore for everyone. Even choosing names, so that we only have to buy for one person, doesn't help, because they are all such good shoppers.

So when my wife came home from work and noticed that there was a Volvo sedan in the driveway for our trip to Virginia and Christmas celebrations, she was worried. "There's no way we'll get all the presents in that car, plus our luggage," she lamented.

But she didn't count on the Volvo's extraordinary ability to expand to fit what must be carried. By the time we had finished packing all the children's gifts, the grandchildren's gifts, our gifts to each other, and Christmas dinner, there was still room to spare. The large trunk more than doubled in size from its listed 14.4 cubic feet to 39.8 cubic feet by folding down the rear seat backs. The rear shelf provided a convenient "stop" point for objects that were packed higher. We were even able to safely pack wine bottles in the folded seats themselves, along with other flat objects.

While we're on the topic of folding the rear seat backs, this is accomplished by unlatching them using a handle in the trunk itself, conveniently located on the sides of the chassis (one for each side of the rear seat). This is an advantage, and eliminates the problem of having to walk around the car unlatching seats and folding them from the rear doors.

The S80 is Volvo's biggest sedan available in the United States. It is classified by the EPA as a mid-size car, but after Christmas we'd call it giant size.

The Volvo is powered by a 2.9-liter 6-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers to deliver 268 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque. The nice feature about the turbocharging in the S80 is that there is none of the turbo rush that you get with many boosted engines. Nor is there the tendency for "torque steer," which pulls the car to one side when the turbo kicks in. The engine feels more like a larger engine, with all the benefits. One "non-benefit" we didn't get was lower fuel economy. We averaged more than 25 mpg on our trip from a car that is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway.

The engine is hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission with an "Auto-stick" that allows the driver to operate the gearbox as a manual without a clutch pedal. We used the S80 with the manual a couple of times, primarily to get the right gear for hard acceleration to pass, but in general we felt it wasn't necessary, as the straight automatic did such a good job.

If you remember, Christmas week in the Northeast was accompanied by severe weather. We encountered rain until we hit the Washington DC area for a rest stop, when it turned to wet snow. Heading further south, we had rain all the way. But our S80 had Stability Traction Control (STC) and Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC), so there was never and problem with loss of traction or weather-related handling problems. On the ride back north it was clear, but we had thick ice in our driveway, which turned out to be the biggest problem of all.

Volvo says the S80 competes with the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Cadillac Seville, and that's about right. The car definitely belongs in that class. As a luxury car it had leather seating, heated seats, an excellent sound system and HVAC system (once we figured it out). It offered comfort, performance and exceedingly good utility that I'm sure the designers never expected.

With a bottom line of $46,670, the S80 isn't cheap, but it offers a lot.
That price comes from:
Base price of $43,395,
$450 for metallic paint,
$625 for a climate package that included the heated seats,
$1,000 for a 4-CD in-dash sound system
$660 destination charge.

You can have some fun with this car and really enjoy the ride.

© 2003 The Auto Page Syndicate