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by Grant Yoxon
When the S80 arrived in 1999, Volvo said goodbye to its boxy image. The new S80 offered two powertrains and advanced safety technology wrapped in an attractive package.
Base engine was and still is a 2.9-litre inline six-cylinder producing 194 horsepower. For buyers looking for a more sporting attitude from the top-of-the-line S80, an optional twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre produces 268 hp.
For 2004, Volvo has introduced all-wheel-drive to the S80 backed by a 208 hp 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine, the same setup found in the Volvo S60 AWD, V70 2.5T AWD and XC70 Cross Country wagons, and the base 2.5T XC90 sport utility vehicle.
This all-wheel-drive system is electronically controlled, operates completely automatically and activates almost instantaneously. It is not all-wheel-drive in the sense of all the wheels being driven all the time. It is front-wheel-drive that gets a rear-wheel-drive assist whenever the need arises – that is, whenever the front wheels lose traction.
Created by Haldex of Sweden, the electronic AWD uses a mechanical pump and ‘wet’ multi-plate clutch to distribute the power to the rear wheels. Oil is forced to the wet clutch plates housed in the rear differential, pushing the plates together, whenever a difference in rotational speed between the front and rear wheels is detected. A small electric pump is used to pre-pressurize the system so that the power transfer occurs almost instantaneously.
The S80 AWD was priced in 2004 at just $100 more than the S80 2.9. Considering that the 2.5-litre with light pressure turbocharging adds 14 horsepower and, more significantly, almost 30 pound-feet of torque (236 lb.-ft. at 1,500 r.p.m vs. 207 lb.-ft. at 3,900 r.p.m.) – not to mention all-wheel-drive – and it’s hard to understand why anyone would opt for the base S80 just to save $100 on a car with a list price of $54,995. However, the S80 2.9 came with a few features standard that are optional on the S80 AWD, including an 8-way power adjustable passenger seat and auto-dimming rear view mirror that were part of an $800 premium option package on the S80 AWD.
Still, a more robust engine and all-wheel-drive was a good deal for $900, such a good deal that Volvo was moved to drop the base model from the line-up for 2005.
For 2005, only two S80 models are available – the S80 AWD and the S80 T6 with a turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 producing 268 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque.
Curiously, Volvo has adjusted the fuel consumption rating for the S80 AWD between 2004 and 2005 – city driving is rated at 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres (22.9 mpg) vs. 11.9 (23.7 mpg) in 2004, while highway consumption has gone up from 7.9 L/100 km (35.8 mpg) to 8.3 (34 mpg).
S80 interior styling is refined, but tradional. It should be noted that the comfort of the S80’s power-adjustable seats is unparalleled. It is the one thing I look forward to in testing a Volvo and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Rear seat comfort is also good, with adequate leg and head room for tall passengers and room for three across. The rear seat splits and folds 60/40. As well, there is a passthrough from the trunk behind the centre arm rest. The trunk will hold 402 litres (14.2 cu.ft.) of cargo. With comfortable seating and plenty of luggage space, the S80 is ideal for long trips as well as around town driving.
Disappointing though were the front seat cupholders – a single cupholder built into the front of the arm rest is adequate. A second cupholder pops out of the console, a curious little contraption that my children likened to an arm chair for leprechauns, but an unstable platform for any size cup. Use at your own risk.
As well, the gauge cluster in the S80, although quite readable, looks dated compared to the bright, luminescent gauge clusters available in many competitive and even less expensive cars.
Our tester also included an optional Touring package ($1,800) with 17″ alloy wheels, speed sensitive steering, Bi-Xenon headlights with automatic level adjuster and front fog lights – options which on many competitors in this price class are now standard equipment. Standard wheels on the S80 are 16-inch alloys, while headlights are halogen.
However, most comfort and convenience features have kept up with the competition. Driver and passenger power windows are auto up and down with anti-trap feature. Windshield wipers have an automatic rain sensor. Audio and cruise controls are mounted on the steering wheel. The leather upholstery is soft and the front seats are heated. The driver’s seat has a three position memory operated from buttons on the seat or the remote key fob. The sound system is excellent.
The S80 is also a comfortable driving car, with a softly sprung suspension that coddles passengers inside. Although stable and predictable, steering is somewhat heavy and dull. All-wheel-drive helps cure the big sedan’s tendency to lean in the corners, but pushed to the limit, all four wheels move to the outside of the curve. But the S80 is not a sport sedan – it’s strength is in providing a refined ride, comfortable and quiet atmosphere and above average safety.
Power from the 2.5-litre, inline five-cylinder engine is more than adequate for most purposes, but it is not as smooth or powerful as modern V-6s and under acceleration will make its presence known within the cabin.
Volvo’s reputation for safety is a major attraction to consumers and the S80 lives up to its billing. The S80 pioneered safety features like whiplash protection seats and side impact inflatable curtains. Other safety features include dual threshold front driver and passenger airbags, front seat side impact airbags, five 3-point seatbelts with pyrotechnic pretensioners, and electronically folding outboard rear head restraints. Security features include keyless remote entry with panic button, and security system with siren, backup battery, and mass movement and level sensors.
Despite its emphasis on safety, it is surprising that Volvo has not offered the Haldex all-wheel-drive system in the S80 until now. All-wheel-drive has been available on the Cross Country since 2001, the S60 sedan since 2002 and the XC90 since its inception in 2003. All are based on Volvo’s large car platform introduced with the S80 in 1999.
But now that it is here – and at a bargain price compared to the base front-wheel-drive sedan – it is a feature no buyer seriously considering the S80 should overlook.
Technical Data: 2004 Volvo S80 AWD
|Options||$2,600 (Touring package ($1,800): 17″ alloy wheels, speed sensitive steering, Bi-Xenon headlights with automatic level adjuster, front fog lights; Premium package ($800): power passenger seat, auto dimming rear view mirror, leather covered hand brake lever|
|Price as tested||$58,570|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger luxury sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine, all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||5-cylinder, light pressure turbo, 20-valve, DOHC|
|Horsepower||208 hp at 5,000 r.p.m.|
|Torque||236 lb.-ft. at 1,500 r.p.m.|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic with winter mode|
|AWD system||electronically controlled Haldex limited slip coupling|
|Tires||225/50R17 H, Michelin MXM4 (A/S) Tires|
|Curb weight||1,584 kg (3,492 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2,791 mm (109.9 in.)|
|Length||4,822 mm (189.8 in.)|
|Width||1,832 mm (72.1 in.)|
|Height||1,452 mm (57.2 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||402 litres (14.2 cu.ft.), 765 litres (27 cu. ft. with rear seats down)|
|Fuel consumption||City – 11.9 L/100 km (23.7 mpg Imperial)|
|highway – 7.9 L/100 km (35.8 mpg Imperial)|
|Warranty||48 months/80,000 km|