BY ANDY ENRIGHT
I'm struggling to think of a car with a more convoluted model history than the S80. This second generation model as launched in 2006 and since then has had no fewer than eighteen different engine available, a whole variety of trim changes, equipment variations and tweaks to the styling and options packs. In other words, it's virtually a statistical impossibility to find two ostensibly identical S80s.
The second generation car was launched in February 2006 at the Geneva Auto Salon to a largely underwhelmed media who were expecting something all-new and instead got a car that looked very much like its predecessor, albeit in a smoother and better finished manner. Three petrol engines were available, a 198bhp 2.5T, a 236bhp 3.2 and an all-wheel drive 312bhp 4.4-litres were available as well as a pair of diesels; the 162bhp 2.4D and the 184bhp D5. February 2007 saw a trim realignment with the S model deleted and the SE trim upgraded and in May 2007 the 2.4 D5 was made available with all-wheel drive.
2008 didn't pass by without Volvo fiddling with the S80 range with April seeing the S80 Executive trim getting better quality interior materials and some very agreeable massaging and ventilated front seats. The following month the S80 Lux was tweaked with upgraded chronograph-style dials and heated washer nozzles.
The S80 enjoyed a facelift in 2009 with some additional chrome on the exterior, revised instruments, a more imposing corporate grille, an upgraded steering wheel, and brightwork on the centre console's floating stack. A number of revisions were made to the engine line up with the upgraded 175bhp 2.4 diesel made Euro4 compliant, the twin-turbo 205bhp 2.4D was introduced and an entry level low emission 1.6 DRIVe diesel model was quietly unveiled. A lowered dynamic chassis and a comfort chassis option was also offered and the 2.5T engine was upgraded from 200 to 229bhp.
Fast forward to 2010 and the S80 got the economical 160bhp D3 2.0-litre diesel engine and the 179bhp T4 2.0-litre petrol powerplant.
What You Get
First impressions are deceiving with this car. It's only when you get the Mk1 S80 next to the current generation model that you'll see quite how far it has evolved. OK, so many of the primary design cues are still much the same - the distinctive shoulders that run all the way back to the tail lights, the arched roofline and the rather bluff front grille up front. Look beyond them though and you can see some significant changes to the vehicle's stance and its fine detailing. The old S80 was a bit of a frumpy thing. This one has smartened up nicely and the most recent models feature a more distinctive front featuring a larger badge, plus extra chrome detailing on the air intakes, the lower part of the doors and under the tail lamps.
Inside, well, it's all rather refreshing. Instead of trying to copy their German rivals, Volvo have gone their own way. The Swedes claim that their 'design language' radiates a simpler, more stylish and modern feel by combining aesthetics and technology in a more inviting and intelligent way. I'm not sure that I buy into that completely but there's certainly a nice blend of no-nonsense Scandinavian style thanks to nice touches like the slim 'floating' centre stack (with its smarter 'Silk Metal' frame) in the centre of the dashboard, quality materials for upholsteries and a thoughtful choice of inlays and colour schemes that blend smoothly together. As before, there's comfortable room for five adults and a huge 422-litre boot.
What to Look For
You're probably expecting the Volvo S80 to be a paragon of peerless reliability but it's not a car without some issues. With care the diesel models will clock up huge mileages so don't be put off by a higher mileage oil burner if it comes with a fully stamped up service book. It's worth visting the website at www.vosa.go.uk and checking the number of recalls the S80 has quietly been subject to and ensure that the example you're looking at has complied. One particular issue affects S80 models fitted with automatic gearboxes. The oil cooler is mounted very low and if the car has been driven over speed humps rather enthusiastically it can become damaged and leak.
60,000 miles is the key mileage to look for on D5 models as thi sis when timing belts , pulley and water pump need replacing. The tensioner is a scheduled swap out at 96,000 miles or eight years but have been known to fail before this age. Inlet swirl flaps have also been known to fail on the D5 engine. On 5 cylinder petrol engines, misfires can be caused by perishing of the distributor and camshaft end seal which fires an aerosol of oil into the distributor, leading to pre-ignition.
(approx based on a 2007 3.2 SE) Volvo spares are a few degrees cheaper than the German prestige brands and dealer servicing rates are a little more reasonable too. A clutch assembly is around £190, whilst an exhaust system is in the region of £400. Thin front brake pads will require the thick end of £75, whilst rears are £40 a pair. A new alternator will require alternate plans for £180, but a new starter motor is a fairly reasonable £140. A replacement headlamp is £240.
On the Road
You won't be expecting this Volvo to handle like a BMW 5 Series - which is just as well because it doesn't, even if you specify the optional 'Lowered Dynamic Chassis'. But then, no other executive saloon in the sector handles like a 5 Series either and few of them compensate by being such a relaxing long distance companion as the S80. Those that do are either much more expensive - or they depreciate like a stone. Better to go for the 'Comfort' chassis specification and enjoy this car for what it is.
The engine line-up is a lot more exciting than you'll be expecting with plenty of headlines. A V8 petrol 311bhp flagship with four wheel drive is just the start of it. If you fancy something a little more modest that still drinks from the green pump, there's a 228bhp 2.5T petrol unit. Both of the S80's petrol options serve up lively performance with even the 2.5T launching itself to 60mph in 6.9s. For more sedate and economical progress, you'll need a diesel.
The antithesis of the fiery petrol contingent is the 1.6 DRIVe diesel engine. It musters just 108bhp which is pitiful in an executive saloon but economy is its overriding focus. 0-60mph takes a leisurely 11.7s but there's 240Nm or torque from 1,750rpm which helps avoid the car feeling too laboured in everyday driving. The 2.0-litre five-cylinder D3 engine holds much greater appeal for the keen driver. 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds is good enough but 400Nm or torque between 1,400 and 2,850rpm is better. This engine has the muscle to make the S80 feel like an executive car. At the top of the diesel line is the D5 with a 2.4-litre capacity, 202bhp but only 20Nm more torque than the D3. Unless you're really pressing on, it won't feel that much quicker but going all out, it can hit 60mph in 8.0s.
The second generation Volvo S80 hasn't enjoyed quite the same reputation for reliability as its predecessor but choose one that has been serviced properly and it'll be a very rewarding and likeable vehicle. The 2.4-litre diesel models are by far the most popular, as all petrol engines bar the latest T4 are rather thirsty. There's no shortage of choice available and this is a buyer's market so take your time, look at a few and don't be afraid to haggle hard.