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2008 Volvo S80 T6 AWD Review

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2008 Volvo S80 Sedan

  • SEE ALSO: Volvo Specs, Pics and Prices - Volvo Buyers Guide

    2008 Volvo S80 T6 AWD Review

    Second-year changes to a new car are usually minor, limited to trim and option variations. And with the second-generation Volvo S80, there are the usual small interior and exterior changes. There is also a bit more. There is a completely new model, the S80 T6 AWD.

    As might be guessed from the name, the T6 AWD uses a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. In doing so, it slots neatly between the entry-level 3.2, with a naturally-aspirated six, and the premium V8 AWD. Like the V8, the T6 uses Volvo's all-wheel drive system. Its 281 horsepower is between the 3.2's 235 and the V8's 311.

    The T6 AWD's 3.0-liter engine is based on Volvo's existing 3.2-liter six. The slight displacement decrease is more than compensated by the two-stage twin-scroll turbocharger. The turbo also enables the engine to make its maximum torque, 295 lb-ft, between 1500 and 4800 rpm - meaning essentially flat, strong torque at all commonly-used engine speeds, for instant acceleration when needed or desired. Like the other S80 models, the T6 uses a six-speed automatic transmission with driver-adaptable control logic.

    Safety is designed into the S80, both in its strong unibody structure, interior design and construction, full complement of airbags, and the stability control, tire pressure monitoring, lighting, and anti-theft immobilizer systems that are standard fare in the 2008 S80 T6. Options to further enhance safety include the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and the Collision Avoidance Package, comprised of adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and a driver warning system which, like the adaptive cruise control, is radar-based and warns the driver by a flashing light and audible noise. It also moves the brake pads closer to the discs, for quicker braking response.

    I've just finished a week in an S80 T6 AWD. The S80 still embodies Volvo's "Swedish Modern" design philosophy, emphasizing visual and functional simplicity and ease of use. The car had both BLIS and the Collision Avoidance Package, and Volvo's sport package, which includes the 4C multi-mode adjustable shock absorber system along with sport-oriented wheel, tire, interior, and exterior upgrades. So equipped, the S80 is a fine alternative to perhaps overly-complex and over-styled mid-sized, mid-luxury sedans from some of its competitors. It's more "sporty" than "sports", with comfort emphasized over absolute handling prowess, but that's a good compromise for everyday use. And, if its size works against it as a pure sports sedan, it is an asset for comfort and people and cargo-carrying duty. The T6 can fill the bill not only for the committed Volvo enthusiast, but for anyone looking for a mid-luxury sedan with a rational mix of style, safety, comfort, and performance.

    APPEARANCE: The original S80 was a styling revolution for Volvo a decade ago, and its lines have worn well. If it's hard to tell the new from the old, a chance side-by-side positioning of the two will make the old one look almost as boxy as an old 960. Volvo's stylists are to be commended for refining the broad shoulders and smooth curves without adding any unnecessary filigree. The S80, and, really, all current Volvos, strike a fine balance between The Box (as exemplified by 70s through 90s Volvos)and The Blob (too much roundness).

    COMFORT: Even more than with its exterior, the S80's interior takes its cues from the Scandinavian high-end furniture and audio system design. It's visually simple, but not austere, harmonious, and intuitively functional. The wood trim is not "preserved" under layers of protective resin, so it looks and feels like real wood, not plastic. All of the interior control, information, and entertainment systems feature simple, intuitive interfaces. Inscrutable little knobs are nowhere to be found. The front seats are moderately firm and offer very good support, and rear seat room and comfort are first-rate. The rear seat fold with a 60/40 split, and a ski-passthrough offers more cargo flexibility. Trunk capacity is huge, and there is plenty of interior storage as well, highlighted by space behind the stylish but functional semi-detached center stack. Instrumentation is complete and readily visible. The standard audio system provides high-quality sound from AM or FM radio or a MP3-capable 6-CD changer and accepts input from external music players. The climate control system has excellent heating and cooling abilities. On a hot day, the AC is "instant Sweden".

    SAFETY: The S80s unibody structure is designed to protect passengers in a strong safety cell, with controlled deformation of outer areas. Its transversely-mounted, compact engines allow greater crush space between the front of the car and the passenger compartment than if wider engines or a longitudinal engine placement were used. Brakes are large ventilated discs on all four wheels, with ABS, EBD, and brake assist. Front and improved, dual-chamber side airbags and the WHIPS whiplash protection system are standard. Safety-related options on my test car included adaptive cruise control, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and the Collision Avoidance Package. Volvo's implementation of BLIS uses prominent but non-distracting orange lights on the A-pillars near the outside mirrors to warn the driver that something detected by small cameras in those mirrors is in the side blind spot. If you change lanes without using the appropriate turn signal, the lane departure system will warn you.

    RIDE AND HANDLING: The S80's improved chassis structure also has benefits for ride and handling. Increased structural rigidity and an enhanced strut front, multilink rear suspension give a comfortable, moderately-firm ride and sporty handling characteristics in standard trim. My test car had the optional sport package, with the latest iteration of Volvo's "Four-C" electronic/hydraulic active chassis control system, now with three different damping modes. In "comfort", it's soft but still controlled. In "sport", it's moderately firm, for minimal body motion during acceleration, deceleration, and cornering, but not at all harsh. "Advanced" is interesting. It changes damping according to speed and intensity of motion, so it can provide a soft ride on a smooth surface at low speeds, and appropriately firmer damping in more enthusiastic driving. The all-wheel drive system apportions torque front-to-rear as required, and eliminates any front-drive torque steer.

    PERFORMANCE: There is a 311-horsepower V8, so why have a 281-hp turbo six? In many ways, the six is a sportier powerplant than the V8. If it doesn't have the rumble and low-end torque of the eight, it makes up for that with its rev-happy personality and melodic six-cylinder exhaust note. Derived from the naturally-aspirated 235-horse engine in the S80 3.2, the 3.0-liter turbo has decreased bore and stroke dimensions for improved cooling and lower piston speeds. Power from the two-stage, twin-scroll turbo comes in early, with 295 lb-ft of torque available from 1500 through 4800 rpm for instant acceleration and a minimal need to for the excellent six-speed automatic transmission to downshift. In "D", the T6 is easy and pleasant to drive, and that torque plateau means that even the tightest of roads or steepest of grades will be no hinderance. And fuel economy is very reasonable for a car of its size and power - I got 20 mpg in mixed highway and city driving. But to meet the engine's real personality, move the shift lever over to manual mode and shift for yourself. There is a happy beast at the upper reaches of the rev range.

    CONCLUSIONS: With the introduction of the T6 AWD, Volvo has filled out the S80 lineup.

    2008 Volvo S80 T6

    Base Price			$ 42,045
    Price As Tested			$ 49,025
    Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 24-valve turbocharged 
    				inline 6-cylinder
    Engine Size			3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
    Horsepower			281 @ 5600 rpm
    Torque (lb-ft)			295 @ 1500-4800 rpm
    Transmission			6-speed automatic
    Wheelbase / Length		111.6 in. / 191.0 in.
    Curb Weight			4016 lbs.
    Pounds Per Horsepower		14.3
    Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
    Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
    Tires				P245/40 VR18 Pirelli P6 four seasons
    Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, HBA, OHB,
    				 RAB, FBS standard
    Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
    				  independent multilink
    Drivetrain			transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
    EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
        city / highway / observed		15 / 23 / 20
    0 to 60 mph				6.6  sec
    Towing Capacity				3300 lbs.
    Metallic paint						$  475
    Sport/ZUBRA package - includes:
      18" ZUBRA alloy wheels with 245/40 all-season tires,
      ventilated front seats with unique perforated leather
      seating surfaces, active bi-xenon headlights, speed-
      sensitive steering, 4C chassis with 3 settings	$ 2,495
    Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), includes
      power folding outside mirrors				$   695
    Climate Package - includes:
      heated front and rear seats, rain-sensor windshield
      wipers, high-pressure headlamp cleaning, heated
      windshield washer nozzles				$   875
    Collision Avoidance Package - includes:
      Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning,
      Collision warning with automatic brake distance 
      alert, Driver Alert Control				$ 1,695
    Destination charge					$   745