REVIEW DATE: 11 Jun 2007
The Volvo S80 is always at its most appealing when it's heaving with kit. Andy Enright takes a look at the well-stuffed Executive versions
There can be few more underrated cars on sale than Volvo's S80. Somehow it's never quite managed to capture the public's imagination despite being one of the most technically accomplished cars in its class. Technical accomplishment clearly only gets you so far. Undeterred by this relative apathy, Volvo has hit upon a slightly more overt tactic with the latest S80 Executive models. Load them up with standard equipment until it's virtually impossible to crowbar anything else in. What's more, it's a strategy that might just work.
The trouble with a beautifully-finished chassis member or a half-million euros ploughed into fine tuning an anti-roll bar is that the prospective customer in the car showroom looking at the car rarely actually cares one way or the other. Yes, these factors matter when it comes to buyer retention as it means the owner will value the way the car drives but buyer retention is a moot point if the car lacks the showroom wow factor to turn potentials into punters. That's where this Executive model scores so highly. Sit in one of these, softly turn the key and you'll find more toys to play with than Hamleys. There's the sort of chrome, wood and leather you thought were the preserve of British car manufacturers. It's all rather agreeable.
So let's take a deep breath and run through the specification of this Executive model. It's based on the already well-appointed SE Lux variant but adds a Dynaudio premium sound system with Dolby Pro Logic surround sound, a 5x130 watt amplifier, twelve Dynaudio speakers and an auxiliary input to fire mp3s from your iPod down the stereo's neck. Add to that a DVD-based satellite navigation system and Volvo's clever Personal Car Communicator with keyless drive and you'll have more than enough buttons to press to enable you to find new functions months after you think you've got these systems taped.
In addition, buyers also receive active bi-xenon headlights, heated front and rear seats, heated windscreen washer nozzles, front and rear park assist and a rear seat audio console with a pair of headphone sockets. It's a spec list that makes any of its comparatively-priced rivals look rather basic.
"The S80 is now set to be judged against a whole set of harsher criteria. That's the dubious reward for striding upmarket"
If that were the sum total of the Executive's goodies, it would still raise a few eyebrows but there's more. A lot more. The Executive is identifiable from the outside by its unique 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome sections on the lower air intake, fog light trims, door mouldings and rear lights. Don't try to full beam an S80 Executive in other words as it has enough chrome to return the favour.
Inside, there's soft leather upholstery that's swathed across the door inserts and armrests with contrasting stitching and piping, while rear seat passengers get a very special touch - a refrigerator in the centre armrest with Swedish crystal Kosta Boda tumblers. As you can see, this is no mats'n'flaps lash up. Some serious thought has gone into this model. There's a walnut wood framed centre console with contrasting aluminium inlays and a walnut and leather gear knob. That'll do as far as specification goes. Let's take a look at the engines.
Three powerplants are offered, a diesel and two punchy petrols. With a 315bhp V8 four-wheel drive flagship model on offer, Volvo has really upped the ante but elsewhere there are more accessible attractions with the option of all-wheel-drive that also catch the eye. Take the 3.2-litre 235bhp six-cylinder powerplant for example, a unit designed by Volvo that is built at the Ford group engine plant in Bridgend, Wales alongside six and eight-cylinder units for other Premier Automotive Group brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover. Despite being a six-cylinder engine, it has been designed to be more compact than Volvo's five-cylinder units thanks to the camshaft drive mechanism and ancillaries being relocated and integrated into the engine block itself. In addition, the D5 (185bhp) turbo diesel with 400Nm of torque is also offered.
Prices? Expect to pay £38,515 for the D5 Executive and £48,100 for the V8 AWD model. Like the diesel, the 3.2-litre car is offered in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive form with four driven wheels commanding a premium of around £1,000. My tip would be to stretch to the all-wheel drive models as they really add another dimension in winter traction.
Safety technology for the S80 includes active safety systems such as Collision Warning and Brake Support with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and a patented body structure developed at the Volvo Safety Centre. The S80 includes an optional key fob offering 'keyless drive' and incorporating a world first innovation - the Personal Car Communicator (PCC). This system features intelligent technology to remotely check if the car is locked or not then alert you if the alarm has been activated along with a heartbeat sensor which warns if there is anyone in the car.
Another interesting technology is the Collision Warning system which alerts the driver, via a 'heads-up' warning display on the windscreen plus audible buzzer, if the gap to the car in front closes so fast that a collision is likely, while the Brake Support system boosts the braking force to ensure braking is as effective as possible. The active Bi-Xenon headlights turn the beam of the headlights in the direction the steering wheel is being turned, allowing better visibility deeper into corners at night and also helping to highlight the immediate verge where a pedestrian, cyclist or parked vehicle could be obscured.
The S80 Executive faces a tough task toppling the established favourites in this sector and anybody with an ounce of financial savvy will know that expensive gadgets do very little to prop up a car's residual values a few years down the line. That said, if you want a car that offers superior comfort and convenience right here, right now, the S80 Executive has very few direct rivals.
The results below show the top S80 deals on buyacar
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