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- Model: Volvo S80 D5 SE
- Bodystyle: four-door saloon
- Engine: 2.5 litre five-cylinder twin turbodiesel
- Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Gallery: Volvo S80 D5 SE
What is it?
Volvo's candidate for the large saloon market. It is the saloon version of the V70, the favourite estate car of that portion of Britain's middle-classes who do not wish to shout about it. The S80 however languishes in its shadow accordingly - and is probably best known as the car that Virgin will whisk you to Heathrow Airport in if you're travelling posh class.
Where does it fit?
The biggest saloon in Volvo's range, it has some fearsome rivals. In the mainstream it must joust with the likes of its cousin the Ford Mondeo, as well as cars like the Vauxhall Insignia. And in premium economy, the Volkswagen Passat. But it faces its toughest challenge with premium competitors like the BMW 5 Series, new Mercedes E-Class and newish Jaguar XF.
Is it for you?
Well, there's a question. If you want a very comfortable saloon that wafts happily up and down motorways with serenity and little fuss, absolutely. It has lots of room in front and back and is usable as a five-seater - an increasing rarity these days. It has an enormous boot, and as such could make for a surprisingly effective family car as well as an executive express.
What does it do well?
Like all big Volvos, it is very comfortable and the big leather chairs are cosseting and supportive. You could easily cross a continent in one of these and emerge without a hint of stiffness. It is a large car, but wears its size well and is certainly not a goliath. Armed with 20 more horses that the last one, the new 205hp D5 engine is torquey and effective, giving good overtaking reassurance and enables rapid progress, especially in motorway situations.
What doesn't it do well?
Now firmly in middle-age, this S80 is starting to show it. Its dashboard, which seemed thoroughly up to date in 2006, now seems outclassed by more recent efforts by the likes of Audi. Volvo is very proud of its 'floating' centre console but it looks cluttered and old fashioned compared with the sophisticated way that Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar now hide all their systems behind various new-generation interfaces.
The car's steering is very much set up for the straight ahead world of the fast road; a B-road blaster it is not, with uncommunicative, vague steering that underline the car's essentially soft nature. The manual gear-shift is similarly woolly.
What's it like to live with?
Liveability is the car's strong suit: the car is very comfy and the seats will support you for ever, whether you're at the wheel or taking a nap in the back. Rear legroom is decent as long as the front passenger is not too tall.
Equipment levels are reasonably generous, and you can specify clever options like adaptive cruise control, as well as an autobraking function if it thinks you're going to crash into the car in front.
Passive safety - such as six airbags and anti-whiplash headrests - is strong, and the overall rigidity of the car, combined with a transverse engine location means that if you're going to crash, this is one of the least worst cars to do it in. The sat-nav has been updated for the 2010 model year but I struggled to notice the difference: it is still unsophisticated to look at, fiddly to use and, at £2,000, very expensive for what it is.
How green is it?
Better than the old engine, but still not amazing: 164 g/km of CO2 is the key number, while an overall combined of 46mpg is respectable if not brilliant. In a mixture of driving situations we managed a real-world figure of 35mpg, which is not bad from a large car weighing nearly 1.7 metric tons.
Would we buy one?
The S80 is a decent enough car and offers something different, but it operates in very competitive waters. A decently equipped S80 D5 like the one we drove around the Cotswolds costs £33,000. This price lands the car decisively in enemy territory, with rivals from Germany and even old Blighty putting up a mighty fight. The likes of the Germans and Jaguar may still cost more, but they will also depreciate less- so short term pain will be more than compensated for when it comes to selling it on.
A bottom-of-the-range Jaguar XF costs £34,000, and that comes with a very generous standard spec including leather electric seats, Bluetooth, automatic transmission, and sat-nav - as well as a 240hp V6 3-litre diesel engine that makes the D5 featured here sound and feel a bit agricultural, as well as out-whacked. Put like that, the only new S80s that make sense have prices that start with a '2' - but they may leave you wondering where all the kit went.
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