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2007 Volvo S80 Review

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2007 Volvo S80

Scandinavian Elegance
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Detroit Bureau

Volvo’s flagship sedan, the S80 was recently redesigned, updated and freshened. We had a sneak peek last fall in Las Vegas. Well, it wasn’t all that sneaky since they had invited dozens of journalists out for a look and a drive in the desert. Now we have one for an extended test.

At first glance it doesn’t look much different than the previous model. It presents the same broad-shouldered Swedish good looks that has characterized Volvo styling since they abandoned the sharp-edged box look. The new S80 has a slightly longer wheel base, is one inch taller and just a tad wider than its predecessor. The overall effect is a slightly more athletic stance, but still not aggressive. The Gothenburg, Sweden-built S80 has more of a genteel character in a classically Swedish sort of way.

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The front end looks to be able to cut the air efficiently in spite of lots of overhang. When you take a look from the front three-quarter position you’ll see more overhang in the center than expected. In fact we have quite a bit of overhang both front and rear. The steeply raked windshield and the flowing lines make the pretty “Shimmer Gold Metallic” S80 appear to be aerodynamically efficient. Though I have not seen coefficient of drag numbers I wouldn’t be surprised to find it at 0.30 or below. The roofline slopes rearward gracefully culminating not much more than a foot from the tail end. That makes for a rather narrow opening to the cavernous (14.9 cu.-ft.) trunk. The standard 17-inch tires with 15-spoke alloy wheels set the looks off nicely.

Always a bastion of safety technology Volvo has added a couple of new gadgets with this one. A crash avoidance system warns the driver with ugly, attention-getting noises and flashing lights across the base of the windshield when it senses unsafe closing speeds between it and the car ahead. Ours only went off a couple times this week when a car ahead was turning into a driveway and slowed without being entirely out of our path. Even better is an industry-first blind spot indicator that flashes noticeably but unobtrusively on the rearview mirrors when a vehicle is in our blind spot on either side of the car.

One other cool safety feature is touted by Volvo – a heartbeat sensor. That’s not a gadget to tell you how your heart is doing, rather it senses the heartbeat of any miscreant hiding in your car.

Of course, in terms of safety Volvo has all the air bags, structural enhancements, sophisticated restraints and chassis controls we now expect in premium sedans. We felt pretty safe in our S80.

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Our test car this week is the new in-line, six-cylinder version. While most manufacturers have gone to a V6 configuration, Volvo has stuck to the traditional in-line engine. This new one is just a few millimeters longer than the in-line five it replaced. They did that by driving the alternator, power steering pump and other accessories with internal gears rather than the usual external serpentine belt. The new 3.2-liter I6 makes 235 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Dual overhead cams, variable valve timing, variable intake system and cam profile switching make for an efficient package. Zero-to 60-mph takes about 8 seconds – not bad, but nothing special. I never felt like I needed much more (though wants are much different than needs) partly because I could downshift the Japanese-made 6-speed Geartronic (manual mode automatic) transmission myself to get just the rpm range I was after for passing or climbing hills. That transmission also has shift logic and a winter mode.

This S80 is rated at 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway. We averaged 24.3 according to the car’s computer. I think that’s fairly accurate, though I wouldn’t put much stock in the “miles to empty” function on the computer. When the car arrived with a full tank it said “500 miles to empty.” After my first 8-mile trip to town it said “430 miles to empty.” It did a considerable amount of jumping around. With an 18.5-gallon tank we have more than a 400-mile range. This powertrain has earned California’s ultra-low emissions rating.

Handling is competent but unremarkable - smooth, quiet and luxurious. There was a time when Volvos had a distinctive feel to them - but no more. While this one feels as good as most mid-luxury sedans on the market there is nothing particularly distinctive about it. I miss those distinctions between makes that were so evident in the old days. Independent strut front suspension with anti-dive geometry and an anti-roll bar combine with a fully independent rear multi-link setup to make for a conventional, European-style ride – that is firm enough and compliant.

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The classy interior is where the “Scandinavian Elegance” tag line comes from. The soft colors, smooth lines and simple controls combine to provide a comfortable, relaxing space in which to ride and drive. The gauge brow shows two surfaces swooping organically across the dash with just the gauges inset. The center stack features a stylized human shape with three sections to indicate direction of climate control system airflow. The dual cup holder has a door that when closed integrates that space into the center console that flows gracefully into the center dash. The leather seats are just firm enough without being hard like some of the German products. All the materials appear top quality and put together with care.

Standard audio equipment includes an in-dash 6-CD changer, AM/FM stereo radio with active sound control, scan, Autostore, 4X40-watt amplifier and 8 speakers. Volume and mode controls are on the steering wheel along with cruise control functions. An auxiliary input for MP3 and WMA players is also standard.

Base price on the S80 3.2 (six-cylinder) is $38,705. That includes all the great stuff noted above and a few other, sometimes optional, features like: power glass sunroof, wood inlays inside, 8-way power seats with memory and lumbar supports for both fronts, dual-zone climate controls, keyless entry, heated outside mirrors. You’ll find this Volvo well-equipped. The only options on our test car are: metallic paint, adaptive cruise control, and personal car communicator. Along with the $695 destination charge our bottom line shows $41,865.

The other S80 with4.4-liter V8 (co designed by Yamaha as was the Taurus SHO V8) makes lots more horsepower, 311 to be precise, does zero-to-60-mph in just 6.2 seconds, gets nearly the same fuel mileage (17/25), comes standard with all-wheel-drive and lists for just less than 10-grand more.

Warranty coverage is an admirable 48-month/50,000-mile plan.

As a mid-luxury car, competing with the 5-Series Bimmer, Audi A6, E-Class Mercedes and lots of Japanese entrants in this race, the Volvo S80 holds up well in comparison.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved.