For 2006, the S80, Volvo’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan, drops to a single model. The T6 is no longer available; the S80 is now exclusively the 2.5-litre turbocharged model, with all-wheel-drive. The AWD system now includes Instant Traction, which allows faster torque distributor to the rear wheels. Option choices have been narrowed from two packages to one, a $3,900 Luxury Package.

The S80 uses a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine with low-pressure turbocharging and a five-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system, developed by Haldex of Sweden, is front-wheel biased until it requires traction to the rear. The new Instant Traction uses a non-return valve that prevents the system from draining completely, and a “pre-charge” of 59 lb-ft of torque is available when starting from standstill, for faster engagement of the rear wheels when necessary.

Standard features include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution, dynamic chassis, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors with puddle lights, power sunroof, front and rear foglights, headlight washers, heated leather seats, power driver’s seat with memory, fold-flat passenger seat, 60/40 folding rear seat, tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, dual-zone electronic climate control, Homelink garage door opener, power windows with front auto up/down, and six-CD player with Dolby Pro Logic II 5.1 system.

The Luxury Package includes stability control, 17-inch alloy wheels, bi-Xenon headlights, upgraded leather upholstery, power passenger seat, leather handbrake lever, wood steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain sensor, and premium Dolby Pro Logic II 5.1 sound system. A navigation system is also available.

The S80 is packed with luxury features and quality workmanship for the price, although its ride is a bit firmer than expected in a high-end vehicle. Volvo says its decision to go with exclusive all-wheel-drive is due to market demand in higher-end vehicles, but a little more horsepower wouldn’t hurt: Volvo’s high-end sedan makes only seven horses more than Mercedes’ smallest C-Class.

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