The 2014 Volvo S80 is Volvo's flagship sedan, yet it keeps a low profile. Although the S80 is attractive, it doesn't scream "look at me!" like some flashier rivals. But if you spend time with Volvo's finest, you'll likely come to appreciate its smooth, refined character. For folks who just want a car that quietly does most things well, the S80 could hit the spot.
Volvo has adopted an aggressive strategy with the S80, offering its top-of-the-line sedan at prices you'd expect to pay for, say, a new BMW 3 Series. Notably, the S80 also faces internal competition from Volvo's own S60 sport-luxury sedan, which was more recently redesigned and has met with wide acclaim. So what value does the S80 add? Well, it has a bigger back seat, for one thing, and it conveys more elegance in that understated Swedish way. There's a maturity to the S80 that sets it apart from many offerings at this price.
On the other hand, the S80 is getting on in years, and its performance and technology are correspondingly behind the curve. This isn't a car that's going to win a comparison test against its rivals. Still, the S80 deserves more consideration than it gets. If you find its looks appealing, take one for a spin; you may be pleasantly surprised by Volvo's flagship that isn't priced like one.
What's New for 2014?
The S80 gets revised exterior styling, LED running lights, a 3-mode TFT instrument cluster, quicker shifts (T6 only), a new steering wheel and shift knob, and a few additional standard features and options across trim levels.
What We Like
Surprisingly affordable; strong optional turbocharged inline 6-cylinder; high-quality cabin; stellar seat comfort
What We Don't
Weak base engine; generally feels outclassed by newer rivals
The S80 3.2 comes with front-wheel drive and a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder good for 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. The S80 T6 AWD steps up to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder rated at 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard in every S80.
The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 3.2 at 20 miles per gallon city/29 mpg hwy, while the T6 gets 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Volvo S80 is offered as either the 3.2 or the T6 AWD, each of which comes in base, Premier Plus and Platinum trim levels.
Standard features on the base 3.2 ($40,815) trim include 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, power front seats, automatic climate control, a 7-in information and entertainment display screen and an 8-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
The 3.2 Premier Plus ($42,315) nets front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, keyless entry/ignition, a quick-fold front passenger seat and a grocery bag holder in the trunk.
The 3.2 Platinum ($45,015) adds enhanced interior accent lighting, a 650-watt Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound stereo and a voice-activated navigation system.
The base T6 AWD ($44,865), T6 AWD Premier Plus ($46,365) and T6 AWD Platinum ($49,065) follow the same general equipment strategy as their 3.2-model counterparts. They add a sunroof (optional on the 3.2) and 18-in wheels, and can be equipped with a sport chassis that includes special 19-in wheels.
The T6 also offers a fancy Inscription appearance package with upscale interior touches, such as wood interior trim, a leather-covered dashboard and softer leather seats with ventilation.
All S80s can be equipped with the Technology package, which adds pedestrian/cyclist detection, automatic high beams, speed-limit display, adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigation system with full braking capability, a driver drowsiness monitor and lane-departure warning. There's also a Climate package that includes a heated windshield, heated windshield washer nozzles, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and an interior air quality system.
Trunk capacity is 14.9 cu ft, which is about average for a luxury sedan of this size.
As the flagship of a company famous for its safety, the Volvo S80 is a safety superstar. It has standard stability control, six airbags and an optional suite of computer-driven safety features (the aforementioned Technology package), including an available collision/pedestrian avoidance system that can bring the car to a full stop if an impact is deemed imminent.
The government hasn't crash-tested an S80 using its new methodology, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the S80 its top rating of Good in every category, not surprisingly.
Behind the Wheel
The S80's interior is understated and classy, with top-notch materials all around, a sleek center panel with sensible controls (including Volvo's unique humanoid diagram for airflow control) and a generally luxurious vibe that speaks well of Volvo's attention to detail. The new-for-2014 TFT instrument cluster adds driver-selectable Elegance, Eco and Performance themes. The front seats are wonderful, providing drive-all-day comfort to a degree that few others can match. While the back seat isn't as huge as that of other flagship sedans, there's considerably more rear passenger space than in the S60 and its rivals.
Under the hood, the 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder disappoints with its mediocre acceleration and unrefined noises at high rpm. This isn't a flagship-worthy engine. Much more satisfying is the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder, which delivers authoritative power on demand.
On the road, the S80 has a nose for the fast lane, hunkering down at high speeds the way a good European luxury sedan should. Otherwise, though, it drives like a big luxury sedan, which means it's well isolated from the elements but not remotely engaging. If you're looking for a comfortable commuter with room for four adults, you could do much worse than the S80; just don't expect much in the way of driver involvement. This Volvo is a throwback to the days when luxury meant soft, smooth and straight ahead -- and we can see the appeal in that.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 3 Series -- The S80's pricing is so moderate that the 5 Series is too expensive to compare, so if you're interested in a BMW, see if you find the 3 Series suitably sized. It certainly spanks the S80 in performance, fuel economy and tech, but styling and quality? Those are tough ones.
Cadillac CTS -- The CTS is much like the S80: It's the brand's de facto flagship because there's nothing above it. Expect engaging performance but a firmer ride.
Infiniti Q50 -- The new Q can't touch the Volvo for stateliness, but it adds a healthy dose of sport, courtesy of its rowdy V6 and its 370Z-derived platform. If the S80 kind of puts you to sleep, the Q50 is guaranteed to snap you out of it.
Skip the 3.2 and look at one of the T6 models. The twin-turbo motor is well worth the upgrade.