2004 Volvo S80 2.5 AWD
Volvo S80 (2004 2.5 AWD model shown). Photo: G. Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

By Bob McHugh

Without a doubt, the best looking Volvo sedan ever, the S80 was a major styling shift for the Swedish auto maker. A luxury-class sports sedan the S80 is designed to compete with the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. And a canny car shopper can pick up a good used 1999 Volvo S80 for less than half its original price.

One of the safest cars on the road today, the flagship Volvo S80 replaced the S90, which was previously called and probably better known as the Volvo 940 or 960. Under the S80’s curvaceous new body, a transversely (sideways) mounted in-line six-cylinder engine is squeezed into the engine compartment and its power goes to the front wheels. (A 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder engine was also made available with a new all-wheel-drive version of the S80 in 2004.)

The normally aspirated 2.9-litre all-aluminum power plant is a double overhead cam design with 24-valves and continuously variable valve timing, which produces 197 horsepower. And it also helps the S80 to qualify for LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) status and fuel consumption is reasonable at 12.1 L/100 km in the city and 8.1 L/100 km on the highway.

In its performance partner, the S80 T6, is a twin-turbo version of the in-line six. The T6 uses a 2.8-litre version of the engine with two light-pressure inter-cooled turbochargers. This engine can generate 268 horsepower and it can rocket this S80 from 0 to 100 km/hour in about 7-seconds.

Both versions of the S80 use a 4-speed automatic transmission with adaptive programming. However, in the T6 it also has a Geartronic feature, which gives the driver the option to manually select gears.

The S80 comes with state-of-the-art active and passive safety features. A feature called Stability and Traction Control (STC) allows sure starts and predictable handling in slippery conditions. A more advanced version called DSTC added a skid control system and was an option.

2004 Volvo S80 2.5 AWD

2004 Volvo S80 2.5 AWD
2004 Volvo S80 2.5 AWD
Click image to enlarge

On the passive safety side, all seat belts came with pre-tensioners and the driver and front passenger have dual-stage air bags and a whiplash protection system. A Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) has side air bags for front seats and Inflatable Curtain protection for front and rear-seat passengers. There are padded head restraints for all seats as well as numerous other occupant safety features.

The Volvo S80 luxury sedan was awarded the highest rating for crashworthiness by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on its performance in their frontal offset crash tests into a deformable barrier at 40 mph. It was also the first car to be awarded the double 5-star rating in front and side impact crash testing done by the U.S. government.

However, the S80 is not flawless and did have three safety recalls. On some ’99 vehicles the electric cooling fan can overheat in a hot climate. Both front suspension ball joints should be replaced with a reinforced version on the ’99 and 2000 model years. And the rear outboard seat belt anchorage bolts should be inspected and, if necessary, tightened to the specified torque, on a 2001.

A premium luxury automobile with world-class safety features, a used Volvo S80 makes an interesting alternative purchase choice to an average new family sedan, for about the same money.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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