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View the cars in our AutoRoadTests Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us at Volvo S80 V8 SE Sport RoadtestDate:10/06/2007   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Volvo S80 V8 SE Sport Roadtest

Volvo S80 SE Sport

Our Thoughts

The S80 is now in it's
second generation. How will we find Volvo's flagship saloon, this time with V8 power.


The last all wheel drive Volvo I drove was the S60R. Despite criticism in the press I found it really fun to drive, it also looked and sounded great. I didnít really feel the same excitement when I considered the S80 V8. That was until I saw the show car at the British Motor show last year. It was a black example and looked fabulous outside and in.

Exterior Styling

My first views of the Silver Volvo S80 V8 SE Sport were approaching the car from the rear. My initial impression was a little underwhelming. Some of this is to do with the colour, Silver really is a little too common these days. However, my main source of disappointment centred on the twin tail pipes, which in this day and age, seem a little small. The pipes themselves are oval shaped and are wide enough, just not deep enough. Interestingly, Volvo has located the rear parking sensors on the lowest part of the rear bumper in the section that is cut out for the tailpipes.

Restyled front, strong flanks, rear retains original shape.
As with the older model the rear lights form the final part of the carís sculpted flanks. I particularly like this design and am glad it has been preserved. Badge-wise the rear of the car gets Volvo across the boot lid and lower down you get S80 on the left and V8 AWD on the right.

Moving around to the front of the car I donít think the redesign has been as effective. The car is sleeker, more sloping and less square, but crucially less distinctive from the rest of the range. The new shape somehow shrinks the cars proportions and makes it less obviously an S80. The previous S80 was very similar to the Audi A8 which manages to distance itself from the smaller models in the range. Volvo has also altered the front light clusters which now wrap around the sides of the car, adding to the sleeker look.

We can ultimately blame safety for most of the styling changes as Volvo leads the way in both passenger and pedestrian safety. For example it is not simply the looks that make the bottom edge of the front lip spoiler protrude exactly the same amount, to align with the bumper. This clever design means that in the event of the car hitting someone, the force of the impact is distributed over a larger area and as such should injure the personís legs less. The bonnet is similarly designed with a honeycomb structure to minimise injuries, if someone unfortunately found themselves hitting it.

Two more aspects of note are the grille mounted V8 badge and the closed of left side of the grille, which ultimately protects the radar sensor used both by the active cruise control and the collision warning system, see later.

From the side the car looks very clean and is characterised by the strong flank lines. In the new design the flank lines continue across the bonnet and have been extended down the front of the car. Things arenít all good though, as I thought the car looked under-wheeled, even though it is shod in 245/40 R18 P Zero Rossos. They just donít look big enough, but that may be the ALPINA fan coming out in me, as ALPINA will soon adopt 20 inch alloys on the new 5-Series based B5.

Interior Styling

First impressions of the carís interior are good. The cabin is well laid out and on the face of it looks to use a good selection of quality materials.

Looking through the big four spoke steering wheel you are greeted with attractive two tone grey dials with simple red/orange needles and shiny sliver rings around them. The steering wheel itself is covered in a very soft leather, which feels good to the touch and makes using it all the more pleasant. On the front of the wheel you get cruise control, radio and phone controls. The Sat nav controls are relegated to the back of right hand side of the steering wheel. It is completely hidden but well designed and once youíve learnt the simple controls the system works well. Also of note are the carís steering column stalks which are big and easy to read, they also have a raised bit to visually remind you what they do. These are visible behind the wheel spokes.

Well designed and specified interior.
The core part of the car is Volvoís signature Ďfloating consoleí. In some ways the console should make the car feel a little budget. Especially as the S80 is meant to portray an image of luxury and as such space saving isnít such a high priority. However, the materials used and the general build quality ensure that this is not the case. As I mentioned in my review of the S40 T5 which was the first Volvo to feature this new console, it reminds you very much of the typical household electronics and this certainly makes it feel modern and up to date. On this new console clever use of metallic trim to surround the CD player controls and the Gear box lift the looks and give it some important detailing. In front of the gear stick and also within the metallic surround are the three suspension buttons (Comfort / Sport / Advanced).

The trim this car uses is aluminium and brushed both horizontally and vertically the effect is actually attractive and for some reason reminds me of tartan, although Iím sure that was not the intention.

With regard to materials that are used in the cabin, Volvo has also used a roll out rubber cover for the cubbyhole in the horizontal part of the console, just behind the gear stick, and again this seems to have worked. Instead of looking ghastly it matches the car and is made of a really tactile material.

A big part of a Volvo are the large leather seats. A fact I remember from when my dad had Volvos when I was a child. This car gets heated and ventilated; eight-way electric seats with three memory settings. The seats themselves seem quite firm and not as soft as the Volvo seats from my memory. However, they proved to be comfortable over longer journeys and my only real issue with them concerns the manual Lumbar wheel which is awkwardly positioned, on the inside of the seats, and pretty much inaccessible due to large central arm rest. Both front seats get the now familiar leather pocket on the front edge of the seats.

The car gets a good spec list including dual zone automatic air conditioning; Bluetooth phone system which I found very easy to set up and use; a twelve speaker stereo system, using Dynaudio speakers, Satellite navigation which rises out of the top of the dash when it is switched on; Radar assisted cruise control;

Two other features worth noting are the slim stereo read out, which also doubles as the heating display this is very clear and looked particularly good.

The second feature of note is important for those of us who have a family, The inside of the speedo and revometer have electronic displays which are used to display both informational and warning messages. One such message is information on whoís sat in the rear of the car and whoís wearing their seatbelts. My children are generally very good at putting their seatbelts on but sometimes donít. With this system I could tell all three of them were sat in the back, but only two of them had actually fastened their seatbelts. This is important with children, and particularly if car seats are involved and a unfastened belt might go unnoticed.

Finally we get to the dashboard inserted key fob and accompanying start button weíll need those next.

Ride, Handling & Steering

Iím not sure I like cars that have electronically adjustable suspension. I may not be that sensitive to the nuance of ride. I suppose I have this feeling that with the click of a button the car will be transformed from the softest cruiser into the hardest riding sports car. Obviously in practice this isnít the case and in some cases you find yourself flicking the switch back and forth trying to feel the differences.

3 Suspension settings, AWD and well weighted steering.
Unlike in the S60R where I labelled Advanced (or Advanced Sport to give itís full name) Random as it seemed to be exactly that. In the V8 it does seem to firm things up beyond Sport and as such I found myself driving the car the majority of time in this mode. Comfort was noticeably (once I recalibrated my wild expectations) softer and sport somewhere in between. Iím not sure the difference warrants a button; to some maybe, for me Iíd be happy with advanced settings.

The Steering on the car is ok, it isnít over assisted meaning there is some decent weight to itís action. It isnít overly sensitive though and if you expect to feel whatís happening beneath you, youíll be disappointed. The car actually uses speed dependant power assistance which I didnít overtly notice, which is a good thing as it obviously felt natural whatever speed you were at.

The AWD system seems to work well and suits the bigger V8 power plant. Traction is good and only brutish behaviour, wet conditions or loose surfaces makes the wheels spin. In all case the power can be deployed pretty successfully. Cornering is pretty neutral and when pushed the rear can be enticed out, albeit in the normal safe Volvo kind of way.

The car is pretty fast, see the next section for specifics, yet thanks to its size and the above it doesnít always feel that swift.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The car has the first V8 ever fitted to a Volvo Saloon car. The 4414 cc engine produces its peak power of 311 bhp (315 PS) at 5950 rpm and 325lb ft (440 Nm) at 3950 rpm. The result is that the 1742 Kg Saloon can reach 62mph in just 6.5 seconds and continues up to an electronically limited 155mph top speed. This V8 engine is Euro5 and ULEV II (US's strict Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II standards) compliant.

The first thing I notice on firing up the engine is that, counter to my preconceptions, this car sounds pretty naughty. The V8 producing a great rumble, not at all muted as I was expecting. rev the engine and it responds with some seriously nice noises. Even with the cabin closed it still sounds good. Outside the car it sounds great.

4.4-litre V8 = 311bhp / 325 lb ft AND a great soundtrack.
Gearbox wise the car gets a six speed auto box, and like most systems these days, it has the ability of being placed into manual. This is achieved by moving the gear lever over to left hand side of the gate. In practice manual holds onto the gears longer (in auto, changes are at 6k rpm where as in manual, changes are at just over rev limit c. 6.5k rpm). As with most manually operated auto boxes it doesnít actually keep hold of the gear, once if you get to the redline it automatically changes up.

We pitted the V8 against an ALPINA Roadster S that we were also testing, in a mock traffic light dash and found it could keep up but ultimately didnít have the legs of the smaller, equally powered car. That said the car is comfortably fast enough to deal with most cars on the road.

These days everything is about presentation and the engine bay is a case in point. The first thing that strikes you when you open the V8ís bonnet is that its engine is the wrong way around. In the name of safety Volvo has inserted the V8 block transversely (as with all S80 engines), locating the engine this way increases the space at the front of the car, crucially allowing space for safety systems and also minimising the chance of the engine intruding into the front passengers in the event of a crash.

At this point It is worth looking at the engine of the older generation S80 T6, that we tested back in October 2003, to see how the design of engine bays has changed. Gone are the impressive sprawls of piping and exposed engine parts. And in are simple engine cowlings, in this case marked with the Volvo logo and V8.

We were able to test the carís acceleration with our V-box:
(Note: Tests were carried out with the gearbox in manual and the suspension set to advanced)

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Volvo S80 V8 (2 (06 - ))(6.3)
Volvo S80 V8 (2 (06 - ))
(2.38)(3.57)(4.81)(6.22) (8.07)(10.08)(12.39)(15.33)
* all tests are carried out on private roads. does not condone exceeding the speed limit on public roads.

We also found that he S80 sprints over a quarter mile in 14.72 seconds, reaching a speed of 98.03mph. A standing Km takes the car 26.47 seconds.


The S80 certainly has enough space and comfort to suit a family. Features like the rear seat indication on the dash (see interior write up) and twin headphone ports / controls in the rear of the car all bode well for a family.

The boot seems pretty big but with a capacity of just 422 litres, it falls short of most of its competitors which have increased storage capacity with their new cars. For comparison the BMW 5-Series has 520 litres and the Mercedes E-class 540 litres.

23.7 combined mpg = 284 g/km. Full marks for safety and useful Aux-in.
Economy wise the V8 power obviously takes itís toll. Official figures are 11.7mpg for urban, 34mpg for extra urban resulting in a combined figure of 23.7mpg. Whilst this isnít great itís about what youíd expect from a car this size, all wheel drive and with this performance. Emissions, as you would expect are also quite high at 284 g/km.

Safety is also a key strength that Volvo has concentrated on for as long as most people can remember and as a result the car has numerous features such as an improved version of SIPS (Side Impact Protection System). In this revised system the new side impact airbags now feature two chambers to reflect the fact that a personís hips and chest can take different forces. With this in mind the lower chamber can inflate to a pressure up to five times greater than the upper chamber. The side impact airbags are then used in combination with an inflatable curtain and specially designed body work to ensure the system provides the most effective protection possible. The car also features WHIPS (WHIplash Protection System) which involves the head restraints- absorbing the head movement in the event of a rear collision.

Even the carís key fob has been enhanced with personal security in mind. The fob is referred to as a personal safety communicator. It can tell you if the car has been left locked or unlocked Ė either by accessing the current status if it is within 100m of the car or by remembering the last known status if you are further away. The system also features use a heartbeat sensor to tell you if there is anyone uninvited in your car. Great if you are a spy, I guess. The system works by having a status button on the fob, when you click it the fob interacts with the car, if youíre near enough, and tells you if the car is locked, unlocked and if someone else is inside.

Finally, I need to mention the carís active cruise control. Cruise control in my experience is an odd thing, on the face of it, it is a very useful feature. However, in practice the time you can use it arenít as frequent as perhaps you thought. Therefore with Volvoís radar controlled active cruise control things start to get more usable. You set the speed like with a normal cruise control but in addition you set the distance that you want the car to maintain in front of you, or put another way how far from the car in front you want to be. This is illustrated as bars Ė the more bars the bigger the distance. Once youíve done this you can more or less forget about everything apart form the steering. The result is that you will end up using it more.

The radar performs another function on the car it also predicts collisions. As youíd expect I had to try to invoke the system in an attempt to understand how useful it would be in every day life. It certainly works and getting too close to the car in front will trigger an audible alert and flashing red alert bar at the base of the windscreen directly in front of the driver. On two occasions the system went off without me deliberately triggering it. The first was caused by a car in front of me braking late and suddenly indicating to turn right into a side road. The second occurred when I approached a slower moving car on a dual carriageway and trigger just as I was moving into the outside lane. Both occasions the system triggered correctly, the second one however made me jump and sent my heart a racing ! My conclusion on this feature is that youíll probably hate it the majority of times, but maybe it would just help you that one time you get distracted.


I liked the V8, it has character, itís fast and I like what Volvo has done with the interior. Great news then. Well actually great until I saw the price of the car. A V8 SE Sport has a list price just £5 shy of £40,000, the car as we tested here had a further £9,000 worth of options on top of that making and on the road price for this car of a whopping £49,995 ! Thatís some serious lolly, in anyoneís book, and puts it in the same league as Audiís RS4 (albeit that is a smaller car, but still formidable competition).

In fact if you start to look around you can get (list prices shown):

Audi A6 4.2 V8 Quattro SE (£44k) or in S line spec (£46k); BMW 550i SE (£45k) or 550i M Sport (£48k) or a well specced 540i SE (£38.5k) or 540i M Sport (£42k); a well specced Jaguar S-Type 4.2 V8 (£38.5) or even an Jaguar S-Type R (£50k); Lexus GS430 (£47k) or the new hybrid GS450h SE (£44k) and finally from Mercedes either a well specced E350 (£39k) or an E500 (£49k)

All the above offer similar performance and could arguably be called more desirable and in most cases will have better residuals. All of which makes trying to understand who will buy the V8 all the harder to work out. In the UK at least it will be a rare sight, in the US, incidently Volvo's largest market, it may be more common.

It is a great car, but at a price.

Quick Section Links:†††††††††
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion

Related Links:†††††††††

Our review of the Volvo S40 T5

Our review of the Volvo S60 R

Our review of the Volvo S80 T6 SE

Full Set of Photos taken during the test

Volvo's UK website



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