2011 Volvo S80 3.2 Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2011 Volvo S80

New Car Test Drive
© 2011 NewCarTestDrive.com

Big and luxurious, the Volvo S80 is roomy and comfortable. It rides smoothly around town. And it's fast. Stand on the gas and it accelerates with authority and tracks straight as an arrow at high speeds. Volvo's flagship luxury sedan is a worthy competitor to comparably sized luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Acura, and Cadillac.

The 2011 Volvo S80 models are more powerful than last year's versions. Both use six-cylinder engines.

The 2011 S80 3.2 delivers 240 horsepower, a slight increase over last year, while meeting stricter ULEV emissions standards. The S80 3.2 comes with a 3.2-liter six-cylinder and front-wheel drive. Volvo says it can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 7.4 seconds while the federal government says it gets 19/27 mpg City/Highway.

The 2011 S80 T6 AWD has been boosted to 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, a substantial increase over last year. The T6 comes with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 and all-wheel drive, which can propel it from 0-60 in a very quick 6.3 seconds. The S80 T6 is EPA-rated at 18/26 mpg. The T6 Dynamic Package delivers crisper response with the sport chassis with shorter and firmer springs, modified shock damping, firmer anti-roll bars and stiffer subframe bushings.

The S80 is at its best hurtling down the highway where it's a stable, comfortable platform. It's quite fast. It handles winding roads well for a large luxury car.

Inside is a sumptuous cabin with comfortable seats, sophisticated audio, and an available navigation system. Optional adaptive cruise control allows the driver to maintain set following distances with the cars ahead: the system will accelerate or slow the car as needed. The S80 is loaded with safety equipment, from its protective structure to its state-of-the-art active and passive safety features.

The current-generation version was launched as a 2007 model. For 2011, Sirius Satellite Radio comes standard. The V8 model has been discontinued.

Model Lineup

Volvo S80 3.2 ($36,950); T6 AWD ($40,700)

Walk Around

The Volvo S80 is a handsome sedan with distinctive styling, though it's getting a bit long in the tooth. The S80 shares the semi-fastback profile of the smaller Volvo S60.

The S80 is comparable in size to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac CTS, and Lexus GS.

Wheels on the S80 3.2 are a 17-inch design Volvo calls Cassini, with a bright-finish, nine-spoke pattern; they are available for the T6, also. The T6 comes with 18-inch wheels in a pattern called Balius. The 18-inch Fortuna Diamond Cut, optional for the S80 3.2, has seven spokes with machined surfaces at the tips.


The sumptuous surroundings in the S80 are amplified by the wonderfully comfortable seats and the generous front and rear legroom that helps to put the S80 squarely in the luxury class. The seats are available plain, heated, or heated and cooled. For 2011, new Toscana Tan/Off Black and Espresso Brown/Soft Beige interior colors are available with the Inscription Package.

The instruments in the S80 are mounted in the traditional Volvo trapezoidal binnacle, and Volvo's watch dial instrument faces are standard on all S80 models. The freestanding center stack that connects the dashboard to the console is a key design element. The switches, controls and instruments follow traditional Volvo themes, but everything is contemporary, including the tachometer and speedometer, more classic and less industrial than in previous designs. A menu system tailors the seats, rearview mirrors, climate control, audio, navigation.

The navigation system pops up out of the dashtop, either by using the steering-wheel-mounted controls on the right rear of the wheel or the provided remote control, which stores in the console. We found the steering wheel controls fussy and hard to use, but owners will figure them out quickly.

The 160-watt, eight-speaker sound system will play MP3 files and has an auxiliary input for iPods and other players. Sirius Satellite Radio is standard. A USB port is provided. Also available is a five-channel, 12-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound system developed with Dynaudio.

The Personal Car Communicator is an electronic key fob that can lock or unlock the S80 from distances up to 110 yards, and can tell you what state the locks are in. It can activate the alarm, and can sense the presence of a human heartbeat inside the car.

Driving Impressions

The Volvo S80 is a rock-solid sedan, a wonderful steed for covering large swaths of highway quickly and comfortably.

Fuel economy for the base S80 with the 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive is an EPA-rated 19/27 mpg City/Highway.

The turbocharged T6 is rated 18/26 miles per gallon. Maximum torque with the turbo is on tap from just 1500 rpm and remains available all the way up the rev range.

At cruising speeds, we found the cabin quiet, with a bit of wind noise and a bit of tire noise coming in.

The Volvo chassis system underneath the S80 is an evolution of the 4C chassis, with adaptive shock absorbers changing second by second according to inputs from the road and the car itself. The system offers three different settings: Comfort, Sport, and Advanced.

The Dynamic chassis promises crisper response via shorter and firmer springs, modified shock damping, firmer anti-roll bars and stiffer subframe bushings.

We experienced the adaptive cruise control system, which worked as advertised to maintain our preset distance to the car ahead in the fast lane, and we heard and saw the collision warning system in action and preferred to turn it off when on the crowded two-lane roads.

We found the brakes powerful and quick and positive when used hard from high speeds.

The Volvo S80 is a good choice among luxury sedans. It comes with Volvo's well-deserved reputation for safety engineering, so it's a very safe car. It has an understated grace. On the road, it's quick and powerful, surefooted and solid. The all-wheel-drive system that comes on the T6 enhances safety in slippery conditions.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw reported from Sweden, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Charlottesville, Virginia.

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