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EMPOWERING

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Jan 9, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

EMPOWERING

By JOHN GRAFMAN

One thing is painfully obvious: I don't match Volvo's demographics. I suppose if I was married, made twice as much money, and had a few kids, this will be perfect. Volvo has built its reputation on being safe, which is more than I can say about myself.

The all-new S80 is an impressive-looking car. It's a nice marriage of European styling and Volvo heritage. The interior also captures many of the virtues of the Swedish manufacturer. Complementing the good looks is a strong eight-cylinder motor. Complementing the motor is a very refined suspension. Added to this are a whole host of technical marvels and accouterments. Volvo has built one good car. Actually, a very good car.

And on top of everything else, this car is priced lower than most of its competitors. While this is indeed a very good car, I hesitate in saying it's a great car. Something seems to be missing. Call it what you will - a lack of involvement, engagement, or maybe just a lack of passion - but there seems to be a missing ingredient here.

This isn't to say the S80 isn't fun to drive, because it is. It's hard to go wrong with that thought because residing under the hood of the test vehicle is a smooth 311 horsepower V8 engine that produces 325 pound-feet of torque. Even equipped with the in line six, it still pumps out 235 horsepower with 236 pound-feet of torque. Both of these motors possess the capability of getting this car going. The eight-cylinder motor does a convincing job in the performance department. And that is an impressive feat. After all, this is one big sedan.

This new S80 one-ups the prior generation in terms of dimension as well as power. The prior version offered a V6, but not the requisite eight that the market calls for in a premium saloon. Not available this go around, at least not yet, is a diesel motor. I would like to have seen Volvo take the lead in this field offering buyers the added benefit of greater power and economy that diesels provide. I guess we will just have to be patient on this.

In rough terms, this is able to keep up with the Jones, with 0-60 mph in six seconds configured with the eight. The inline six can do it in about seven-and-a-half seconds. So long as the Jones aren't tooling about in transport costing an arm and a leg, the Volvo should be able to either keep up fine, or lead the way. I foresee some surprised faces when they notice the badging on the car that passes them by sports the Volvo logo.

The transmission is also in step with the motor. The six -speed automatic transmission with Geartronic sequential shifting brings the driver into the driving experience, rather than just being a passive participant along for the ride. Numerous automobiles have sequential shifters, so maybe this is no real surprise - but it does show Volvo is on the ball. The shifting functions as advertised, and it does offer the fun factor that will otherwise be missing.

The perfect complement to the new found muscle is the brilliant suspension management. The enhanced version of the Volvo Four C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) 'active' suspension allows for dampening changes automatically in a split second. As the needs arises, such as at higher speeds, the suspension stiffens up for added control. The driver also has the option of adjusting the suspension to three setting allowing for a more compliant ride, or a firmer ride. In torn up city streets that are getting further neglected all the time the suspension should prove to be a real benefit.

The new Volvo does provide a whole bevy of other luxury features. One feature isn't even on the car itself. The new Personal Car Communicator (PCC) is a smart key that knows if the car is locked, or if it isn't, and it can alert the driver of such. It also can warn if the alarm has been triggered, and it can even alert the owner if an intruder happens to be in the car before the owner has even stepped foot near it.

The first generation Volvo S80 was the first car to receive a five-star crash test rating for all tests in the United States, and the new rendition of the S80 pushes the standard even further. Enhancing its crash protection, the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) has become even more advanced in protection against whiplash. I guess the Swedes have a good head on their shoulder, and they like to keep it there.

The chassis has been designed into several different crumples zones, which will further help in protecting the occupants in the event there is a collision. By using four different grades of steel, predictable crash energy absorption is now at hand, should it be brought to bear. Volvo has built its reputation on safety, so maybe none of this is really out of the ordinary - even if they are remarkable features.

As our moms always told us, safety first. The BLIS, which stands for Blind Spot Information System, is again intended to assist the driver where he, or she has a lack of visibility. An Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system with Collision Warning and Brake Support is one of the highly advanced systems that integrates a convenience feature along with a safety feature. This allows for improved reaction to brake response, reducing stopping distance and perhaps accidents. I am expecting to see a feature that disables a mobile phone if it detects a potential for accident. I guess this will arrive in Version 2.0.

But this car isn't about individual features, it's about the big picture. For Volvo to step-up and take on the very best of the European and Asian models is out of the ordinary. The company has slowly, and quietly been building a following on its achievements and safety. All the while they have been making huge steps forward in quality and design. Over the past few years, they have gracefully made a point of showing just how good its product compares. However, with the introduction of this product, the subtle innuendo has been replaced by a much more determined stance.

Perhaps this is where the company comes full circle. After years of waving the safety banner, its battle cry is now changing. The Swedes are now shouting luxury and performance. All the while the campaign for safety rolls on.

So, does the S80 have the right stuff? Well, looking at the available features and high-level quality in which they're presented I have to say definitely so. From the adjustable suspension, its navigation system, to a very light, well-thought out, and roomy interior, this car offers many of the goods that buyers in this segment eat up.

I, on the other hand, don't fit the demographics of its buyer as mentioned. So what's in it for me? I think back on all the years of brainwashing, and when I hear Volvo, I think safety. So naturally, I don't really put it in the same category as BMW or Audi. I'm sure that's fine by the Swedes, because they'll have no problem selling all 20-25,000 they plan on building. Should this bother them if I personally find this as only very good? I doubt it. After all, who complains about coming in first, even if it is safety! The challenge these days isn't in making it home quicker, it's just making home in one piece.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Dollar-for-dollar, this is a tough car to beat - especially on safety issues.

For more information go to www.volvocars.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base $47,350 (V8), $38,705 (I6)

Engine type: 4.4-liter, 8 cylinder, 32 valve, quad cam, naturally aspirated, transverse mounted, aluminum block and head 3.2-liter, 6 cylinder, 24 valve, twin cam, naturally aspirated, transverse mounted, aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 311 @ 5,950 rpm (V8), 235 @ 6,200 rpm (I6)

Torque: 325 lb.-ft @ 3,950 rpm (V8), 236 @ 3,200 rpm (I6)

Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive (V8), front engine / front-wheel drive (I6)

Transmission type: 6-speed adaptive automatic geartronic transmission, electronically controlled, with lock-up and winter mode selection

Suspension: Front: Spring-strut, lower link, anti-roll bar Rear: Individual, multi-link with coil springs, anti-roll bar

Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 17 X 8 (V8), 17 X 7 (I6), 245/45/17 (V8), 225/50/17 (I6) all season tires, 18" optional tires and wheels available Rear: Standard: 17 X 8 (V8), 17 X 7 (I6), 245/45/17 (V8), 225/50/17 (I6) all season tires 18" optional tires and wheels available

Brakes: Front: Vented discs 12-13" diameter Rear: Vented discs 12" diameter

Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC), ABS with Emergency Brake Detection (EBD)

Overall length: 191"Overall width: 73" Overall height: 59" Curb weight (lbs.): 3,839 (V8), 3,486 (I6)

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 17/25 (V8), 19/28 (I6), RON 91

Top Speed, mph: 130

0-62 mph: 5.5 seconds (V8), 8.0 (I6)

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