Ah, Volvo. Despite some pretty spirited models, it still has an overly conservative image that hurts it when potential buyers want cars with a sportier reputation.
Volvo's potent new S80 T6 turbocharged inline 6-cylinder sedan may cause the Swedish automaker's competitive fires to burn brighter. But Volvo isn't abandoning its generally conservative feel with the T6 because it doesn't want to lose the largely conservative image that long has drawn customers.
The 2008 T6 has the same rock-solid feel of other S80 sedans, which have additional features for the new model year. It shares the accurate steering, supple ride, sure handling and strong brakes of other S80 trim levels.
The S80s are filled with comfort, convenience and safety items, including a power glass sunroof, variety of airbags and a traction/anti-skid control system.
The T6 is a strategic addition to the S80 line, which was redone for 2007 with revised styling and the first V8 available for a Volvo car.
The $42,045 T6 sits in the middle of the S80 line and is a perfect fit in terms of price and performance. It has a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder based on the entry S80s 3.2-liter engine and produces 281 horsepower with its compact and simplified power-boosting turbocharger, which features twin-scroll technology.
The $38,705 3.2 version has 235 horsepower. The top-line S80 is the $47,350 all-wheel-drive V8 AWD version. It has a 4.4-liter V8 with 311 horsepower, which is the same engine that powers Volvo's XC90 midsize SUV.
Acts Like V8
The T6 almost acts as if there's a strong V8 under the hood, providing lively in-town performance and when merging onto expressways and passing on highways. There's virtually no turbo lag, and maximum torque is on tap from 1500 rpm and is available all the way up the engine rev range. That allows rapid acceleration and smooth driveability.
Estimated fuel economy for the 231-horsepower 6-cylinder is 18 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. The V8 provides 17 and 25.
I expected higher numbers for the new turbo "six," but Volvo says they're 15 city and 23 highway. That's partly because the T6, like the V8 version, has all-wheel drive, which usually results in lower fuel economy numbers.
All engines only require regular-grade gasoline.
Responsive Automatic Transmission
All S80s have a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission that adapts itself to various driving habits.
The T6 is here partly because political and other pressures are causing European automakers to be more concerned with making "greener" vehicles that have lower emissions in an increasingly carbon-conscious world. Otherwise, Volvo may have come out with another S80 V8 model.
The S80 all-wheel-drive system should be appreciated even in warm-weather areas of the country. The system uses an electronically controlled hydraulic clutch and distributes drive between front and rear wheels to ensure the best possible road grip in all situations.
Generally Conservative Look
As with other S80 trim levels, the T6 has generally conservative styling, although it doeslook much like a European sports sedan, with such items as low-profile 50-series tires on 17-inch alloy wheels and prominent dual exhaust outlets.
The quiet, roomy interior looks upscale, but also conservative. Climate and audio controls are easily reached. But it's easy to confuse driver-side power controls for the front windows with those for the rear ones.
The trunk is roomy, and rear seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area.
New S80 items for 2008 include modern wood inlay trim for the 3.2, while the V8 AWD version has new bright taillight trim, brushed aluminum lower door side moldings, soft leather seat surfaces and keyless access and starting.
Also new are an $875 Climate Package that adds heated rear seats and a $1,650 Dynaudio Package that's a step up from the 2007 Audio Package; it adds rear seat headphone jacks and audio controls. The V8 AWD version also is offered with a new $325 "Classic Wood" steering wheel.
While the S80's standard steering and suspension work well, a $2,495 Sport Package has speed-sensitive power steering and driver-adjustable power adaptive suspension with Comfort, Sport and Advanced settings, along with ventilated front seats. There's some body "float" on bumpy roads with the Comfort setting, and Sport and Advanced settings reduce body lean, but cause a jiggly ride on some roads.
A $495 front/rear park assist feature prevents hitting unseen objects. And the $2,120 navigation system should help those who drive in unfamiliar areas. An $1,800 dual screen rear entertainment system should help keep the kids quiet.
A $1,495 Adaptive Cruise Control with collision warning and brake support will help prevent careless or cell-phone using (same thing?) drivers from striking a vehicle ahead of them.
And a $695 Blind Spot Information System activates warning lights on inside windshield pillars when vehicles in a driver's blind spot are detected-although I found that a quick over-the-shoulder glance also should be used.
It never hurts to add variety to an automaker's well-accepted line, so the new T6 should improve S80 sales.