REVIEW DATE: 15 Jul 2010
Volvo's five-cylinder diesel could be a popular compromise in the S80 executive saloon. Steve Walker reports.
It's still a widely held view that an executive car isn't a real executive car unless it's harbouring an engine of at least six-cylinders. Times have changed a great deal since four-cylinder models were regularly sneered at in the golf club car park but there remains a lingering sense in some quarters that these entry-level variants lack the proper gravitas.
Counter-balancing the pressure to choose a purring V6 in the modern prestige car marketplace is the formidable, and rising, costs of running such a vehicle. Tax and fuel expenditure tends to rise in sync with the pot count in the engine bay so does the switched-on modern executive choose four or six? It's a tough one but Volvo would point out that a compromise is available in the shape of its five-cylinder S80 D3.
Few cars are better equipped to keep a low profile than the Volvo S80. It's just that kind of highly efficient, yet unassuming car that slips in under the radar. The S80's problem has been that many buyers choose executive saloons to make an impact and flaunt their status. If you're of the kind that wants executive luxury without the turning too many heads, this Volvo might be the answer and the D3 variant sets out to offer a fine balance between mild running costs and mid-range muscle.
As a common-rail injection diesel engine with a 2.0-litre capacity, the D3 unit in the S80 looks fiercely conventional but its five-cylinder configuration is out of the ordinary. The injection system itself is also highly advanced with piezoelectric injectors making multiple, precisely timed injections of fuel into the cylinders during each combustion cycle. It means that exactly the right amount of fuel is burned for optimum performance and economy in any driving conditions.
"The S80 D3 offers five-cylinder power in a tastefully understated package"
In the S80, the engine has 161bhp but far more impressive is torque to the tune of 400Nm that's generated between 1,400 and 2,850rpm. That's a lot of muscle in the bit part of the rev-range where you spend most of the time in normal driving. The 0-60mph acceleration might not sound too brisk at 9.2s but the S80 will feel stronger than that when locked into that rich seam of mid-range thrust.
The primary design cues are still much the same on this S80 as they were on the previous model - 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. It's handsome but not flashy.
Inside, well, it's all rather refreshing. Instead of trying to copy their German rivals, Volvo went its 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 in the centre of the dashboard, quality materials for upholsteries and a thoughtful choice of inlays and colour schemes that combine smoothly together. There's comfortable room for five adults and a huge 422-litre boot.
There are clearly high hopes for the D3 engine within Volvo because it's available right across the S80 range. Customers can choose from ES, SE, SE LUX and Executive variants with equipment levels on all models running to 16" alloy wheels, cruise control, electronic climate control and a punchy stereo package.
Ascend the range and things get progressively plusher. The SE adds leather faced seats, Bluetooth connectivity and 17" alloys while the SE LUX has satellite navigation, parking sensors and adaptive headlights. At the top of the range, the Exclusive lays it on thicker still with 18" alloy wheels and full leather seats with a massage function. Safety remains a massive part of Volvo's offering and the S80 has a comprehensive line-up of features to protect occupants and pedestrians.
Emissions are a massive consideration in the executive car market not only because the average buyer is passionate about saving the planet but also because of the hefty tax implications that accompany models with high CO2 outputs. The S80 D3 performs well in this regard with 139g/km emissions and couples that with combined cycle fuel economy of over 53mpg. One possible fly in the ointment for the engine is that the more powerful 205bhp D5 diesel has the same economy and emissions.
Depreciation is always a tricky subject for Volvo and you'll have to accept up-front that the S80 will lose its value more quickly than its key German rivals. Long servicing intervals and lower asking prices help to redress the balance though and overall, the S80 is a competitive proposition on cost grounds.
For those caught in the age-old executive car buying conundrum of whether to choose a four or six-cylinder engine, Volvo has what could be a handy compromise. The S80 D3 offers five-cylinder power in a tastefully understated package.
The D3 diesel engine packs a strong mid-range punch even by the high standards set elsewhere in the executive car sector while the S80 itself remains an attractive alternative to the German-dominated mainstream. Safety provision is always going to be first class but the bog Volvo also has a classy cabin design, high levels of comfort and a high specification in compared to its competitors.
The results below show the top S80 deals on buyacar
|Volvo S80 D4  SE Nav 4dr Geartronic diesel saloon|
|Price £25,430||Save £8,025|
|Volvo S80 D4  SE Nav 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £24,094||Save £7,876|
|Volvo S80 D4  Executive 4dr Geartronic diesel saloon|
|Price £29,150||Save £8,425|
|Volvo S80 D3  SE 4dr Geartronic diesel saloon|
|Price £23,225||Save £7,780|
|Volvo S80 D5  SE Lux 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £26,704||Save £8,166|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT S80 DEALS|
|For S80 D3|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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