"The Volvo S80 offers lots of prestige for the money, and is very comfortable, but it lacks driving excitement."
The Volvo S80 bridges the gap between mainstream family cars like the Ford Mondeo, and executive German models like the Mercedes E-Class. Prestige is in the eye of the beholder, but the S80 certainly isn’t lacking quality or space. It's positively luxurious at the upper end of the range, and has one of the most comfortable drivers’ seats you’ll ever sit in. The S80 is better at long distances than pottering around town, and if low running costs really matter, look no further than the DRIVe model.
Everything about the S80, apart from the build quality, says ‘soft’. The steering, pedals and gearshift are all feather light. The steering wheel doesn’t offer enough resistance - it's so direct that at first the wheels seem to turn too quickly, which is made worse by excessive body roll during cornering. Otherwise the S80 feels built for comfort, regardless of distance. Any driver, short or tall, will find a good driving position, while the controls and buttons feel robustly built and nicely weighted. The S80 is the sort of car that encourages a relaxed driving style, because it's deliberately non-sporty. That's especially true of the DRIVe version, which has so little overtaking urge from its small 1.6-litre diesel that it's just not worth trying, although it's powerful enough to haul the car to motorway speeds adequately.
You can sit in the S80 for hours and stay comfortable. The soft suspension is good at soaking up and smoothing out even quite badly broken roads, although this can also lead to a floating effect as the car bounces up and down. The light, airy feel of the cabin lends itself to a relaxed atmosphere, and because there's so much rear leg and headroom, back passengers will feel it, too. There's even a ‘Clean Zone’ option that cleanses the air coming from the vents. Diesel versions all stay mostly rattle and noise free, but the more powerful D3 and D5 models feel more relaxed because they don’t need to be strained as much as the DRIVe's diesel engine does.
You’d expect Volvo's biggest saloon to be big on safety - and you’d be right. It's stuffed with electronic driving aids and airbags - and there's a collision warning system. However, the S80 has also been subject to a few official recalls for a range of mechanical and electrical faults. The subjective quality of the cabin is good, but there's a surprisingly high risk of the S80 suffering niggling faults.
There's a big 422-litre boot, which is a good, square shape with a wide opening. The central storage box between the front seats is big, too, as is the glove compartment. There's also some storage behind the centre console.
Value for money
All S80s come well equipped, with luxury car ‘basics’ like alloy wheels, climate control and electric windows. Leather seats are the preserve of SE level cars and above, where the S80 begins to look expensive. Ultimately, if you see it as a prestige car it represents good value, but residual values are nowhere near those of its German rivals.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine of the DRIVe model might seem too small for such a big car, but its 62.8mpg can’t be argued with, and it will cost just £30 per year in Road Tax. The D3 and D5 diesels are significantly more powerful, while fuel consumption of 53.3mpg is still impressive. As ever, petrol versions consume lots of fuel, the worst of which is the 4.4-litre V8, which returns 23.3mpg.