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2007 Volvo S80 Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

New Flagship for Volvo
By Steve Purdy
The Auto
Detroit Bureau

By February you’ll be able to drop in to your local Volvo dealer, plop down 45-grand (or so) and go home with one of the sweetest new luxury sedans on the planet, the fresh new S80. We had a close look and some wheel time on the desert roads with it last week and came away considerably impressed.

CLICK HERE to watch a video featurette about the new S80.

2007 Volvo S80(select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volvo S80
The cars we tested were European spec versions but we’re assured that they are virtually identical to what we’ll get here. The most noticeable difference is the outside rear-view mirrors which have enough wide-angle distortion to nearly give me a headache. By the end of the drive I was enough used to them that I no longer cringed when checking behind, and barely noticed the difference. The other major differences are the powertrain combinations. European customers will have an available diesel engine, a manual transmission and combinations we won’t have. Lastly, we won’t get the really cool etched aluminum dash trim. Bummer.

On this side of the pond we have only an all-wheel-drive V8 with six-speed automatic transmission or a front-wheel-drive Inline 6-cylinder with the same transmission. Both are smooth, competent and entirely befitting an upscale luxury sedan from Europe.

We drove both and found the quad-cam, 32-valve V8, which displaces 4.4-liters and makes 311 horsepower, quite exciting, and perhaps the better choice, depending on one’s priorities. The Swedish engineers (or perhaps their Ford colleagues, I know not who) have tuned the V8’s exhaust to give a nice throaty rumble from inside - particularly on full throttle - and a crisp, but subdued, crackle from the outside. All this is finished off with chrome-tipped dual exhausts dressing up the rear nicely.

The 3.2-liter, 235 horsepower I6, while considerable less exciting, is certainly competent. Enthusiastic drivers will be satisfied – perhaps not entirely satiated – by keeping the revs up and accelerating through winding roads managing the gears in manual mode. Fortunately, this new six-speed automatic gearbox has a manual mode. Shifts are remarkable smooth, though not real quick. Remember, this is a luxury sedan not a sport sedan.

2007 Volvo S80 (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volvo S80
Now here’s a missed opportunity. The I6 also has dual exhaust, but we can barely tell. Under the rear bumper we can see just normal, turned-down tail pipes, barely visible. Why would a manufacturer not take advantage of the resources spent on the dual exhaust system and literally hide it rather than spend a couple of extra bucks on showing it off? Go figure.

Zero-to-60-mph times are 6.5 seconds on the V8 and 8.0 for the I6. Redline shows 6,500 rpm on the V8’s tach but the transmission won’t allow us past 6,300 before shifting. We never got to test the rev limiter. Dang! Observed gas mileage, according to the cars’ information systems, were 19.4 for the V8 and 21.5 for the I6. Of course, that’s with some pretty spirited driving by a bunch of overzealous journalists.

Styling is evolutionary and, at least in my subjective opinion, very attractive. The new S80 retains the Volvo, high-shouldered, shapely profile and keeps the same overall length. Width, height and track are all increased incrementally giving it a touch more modern flare and a slightly more athletic look. To me Volvo’s current styling language conveys confidence, competence and Scandinavian attractiveness, like a pretty blonde doctor with a Swedish accent.

2007 Volvo S80 (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volvo S80
Inside, we’re treated to a distinctly pleasant environment. Volvo has a touch for aesthetics evident in the shapely, organic and flowing design of the interior. The dash and door panels on our test car are trimmed with horizontal strips of aluminum etched with both vertical and horizontal lines giving a sense of art deco. Sadly, this is another detail that will be available only in Europe. Here in the US market we’ll get a typical wood-grain strip inside. I love the functional graphic in the center of the climate controls that we use to adjust the direction of airflow - touch the little stylized head for a breeze in your face and windshield, its little legs for air down below and the stylized torso for both. Controls, trim and overall design inside the cabin fit the stated theme of “Scandinavian luxury,” which to me hints at the simplicity of function and aesthetic qualities we associate with Scandinavian furniture.

Rear seat accommodations appear generous. Though like most big sedans today, including Rolls Royce, one wouldn’t want to spend much time in the middle seat position which makes a bit of a ridge between the seats.

We have also come to expect from the Scandinavians a leading edge level of safety, and we’re not disappointed with the new S80. Active whiplash mitigation system, lots of advanced air bags, a blind spot warning device, an intricately designed energy absorbing substructure, swiveling headlights that allow us to see into the turn, a personal safety system that includes heartbeat sensors inside the car to warn of miscreants hiding within, adaptive cruise control and an impending collision warning system, along with all the expected systems, make this Volvo second to none in thoughtful safety systems.

The new S80 will be trickling in to dealers shortly before the February 1st introduction date. The I6 front-wheel-drive starts at $38,700 and the V8 AWD at $47,300. When we compare the Volvo with equivalent cars from the other Euro makers - the 5-Series BMW, Audi S6 and Mercedes E-Class - the Volvo costs a bit less. If we lined them all up in a row and poured over them critically I’m not sure we’d find any one dominating the others in desirability.