Car Review

2012 Volvo S80: New Car Review

  • New Car Review

    The 2016 Volvo S80 flagship sedan mixes high quality with a low profile.
  • New Car Review

    The appealing 2015 Volvo S80 often gets lost in the luxury-sedan shuffle. Is this sleek, swift Swede a hidden gem or past its sell-by date?
  • New Car Review

    The stylish 2014 Volvo S80 often gets lost in the luxury-sedan shuffle. But is this sleek, swift Swede a hidden gem? Find out in our review.
See all Volvo S80 articles
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs

author photo by Josh Sadlier April 2012

Pros: Surprisingly affordable; strong optional turbocharged inline-6; high-quality cabin; stellar seat comfort

Cons: Weak base engine; awkward new display hump atop the dashboard; generally feels outclassed by newer rivals

The 2012 Volvo S80 is the flagship of a company in transition. When the first S80 made its debut more than a decade ago, it was a revelation, a genuinely stylish Volvo that turned decades of predictable boxiness on their head. But it takes more than just style to get the job done these days, and Volvo's automotive division has had a rough go of it lately, running into financial trouble in the mid-2000s that recently culminated in the division's sale by previous owner Ford to Chinese automaker Geely. In other words, it's not realistic to expect the current S80-which made its debut in 2006-to be a world-beating luxury sedan.

All is not lost, however, as 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. Indeed, there's considerable overlap between the S80 and Volvo's own S60 sport-luxury sedan. So what value does the S80 add? Well, it has a bigger back seat than many comparably priced sedans, for one thing, and it looks fancier, too, in that understated Swedish way. There's a maturity to the S80, an elegance, if you will, that sets it apart from the so-called entry-level offerings that populate this price point.

We're not telling you to run out and buy an S80-but we are saying that it deserves more consideration than it gets. If you find the looks appealing, take one for a spin; you might be pleasantly surprised by Volvo's flagship that isn't priced like one.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Volvo S80 is offered as either the 3.2 or the T6 AWD-those designations refer to the drivetrains, discussed in detail below-in base, Premier Plus and Premier Platinum trim levels. Standard features on the base trim include 17-inch wheels (18s on the T6), leather upholstery, power front seats, automatic climate control, a seven-inch information and entertainment display screen and an eight-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The base T6 additionally comes standard with a sunroof (optional on the 3.2) and can be equipped with a Dynamic Package that includes special 18-inch wheels, a lowered sport suspension with stiffer calibrations and auto-leveling capability, sport seats and "sanded silver" interior trim. Opting for the Premium Plus trim nets front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry/ignition, while the Platinum trim adds a 650-watt Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound stereo and a voice-activated navigation system. There's also a fancy Inscription appearance package with upscale interior touches.

If you're familiar with the S80's cockpit, you might find the 2012 version a bit jarring. That's because, in order to accommodate the newly standard seven-inch information and entertainment screen, Volvo decided to construct a center hump on the dashboard that reminds us of what BMW did with the previous-generation 3 and 5 Series. It didn't look good in the BMWs, and we don't think it plays well in the S80, either, where crisp minimalism formerly won the day.

Fortunately, the rest of the cabin hasn't changed much, so you still get 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 front seats are wonderful, providing drive-all-day comfort to a degree that few others can match, and although the back seat isn't huge like a Benz S-Class's, there's considerably more rear passenger space than in the S60 and its rivals.

Trunk capacity is 14.9 cubic feet, which is about average for a luxury sedan of this size.


The S80 comes standard with iPod/USB and Bluetooth, so it's got those boxes checked. But what about the new seven-inch information and entertainment display? Well, we like the display's graphical quality, and we don't mind that it's not a touchscreen, as the straightforward buttons under the screen guarantee that you won't have to deal with fingerprint smudges. It's just that, compared to the wide-screen displays in the latest Audi and BMW sedans, for example, the S80's display already seems outdated, an impression that is strengthened by that dash-top hump. The technology is okay, but we're just worried that the overall effect is a bit quaint by current standards. Hey, don't take our word for it; go sit in an S80 and see what you think.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The S80 3.2 comes with front-wheel-drive and a 3.2-liter inline 6 good for 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. This is a rather sluggish and unrefined engine by luxury-sedan standards, so we'd strongly advise investing a few grand extra and getting the T6. That way, you'll have a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with a potent 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, and the T6 also has standard all-wheel drive. Bear in mind, however, that the T6 gets just 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway, while the 3.2 achieves 20/29 mpg. A decent six-speed automatic transmission is standard in every S80.


The 2012 Volvo S80 comes with standard stability control, six airbags and an optional suite of computer-driven safety features, including a collision 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.

Driving Impressions

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 flagship, which means it's well isolated from the elements but not remotely engaging. If you're looking for a cosseting commuter pod 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. 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 new 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 - Slightly larger than the 3 Series, the CTS is much like the S80: it's the brand's de facto flagship because there's nothing above it. Expect engaging performance with the 3.6-liter V6 but less refinement than the Volvo offers.

Infiniti G37 - The G 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 G37 is guaranteed to snap you out of it.

AutoTrader Recommends

Since we're afraid the regular S80 might put us to sleep, we'd go with the T6 model and add the Dynamic Package for the lowered, sport-tuned suspension. Otherwise, we'd go easy on the options and be out the door for under $45,000. Not a bad deal, when you think about it.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Volvo S80: New Car Review - Autotrader