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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Volvo S80 T6 Road TestDate:10/12/2003   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Volvo S80 T6 Road Test

Volvo S80 T6 SE

Test Date
6 - 13/10/2003

Our Thoughts
Volvo's flagship majors on power but is setup for comfort. Revised early this year to keep pace with the market. It now boasts an intelligent chassis and revised steering. Can it holds its share of the exec market or even increase it - we'll see.

The Volvo S80 first appeared 5 years ago (1998). And although the styling still looks fresh other bits of the car were starting to lag behind. Therefore to keep pace with the market and increase sales, Volvo made a number of changes to the S80 earlier this year

According to the SMMT, Volvo S80 sales for the last three years looked like:
YearS80 SalesTotal Sales% of Total Sales

As is the current trend 56% of S80s sold in the UK, are the diesel D5 model.

The 'new car' was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motorshow in February. The major changes are under the surface - although the front and rear did get some design tweaks. Headline change was the adoption of 4-C the continually adjusted suspension, first seen on the S60R. Also adopted was new power-assisted rack and pinion steering. So has Volvo done enough to maintain or increase its share of the exec saloon market ?

1st Impressions - Exterior Styling

As already mentioned the S80 design has remained fresh even after five years so this years revisions were limited to:

Chiselled and Mean
  • A dynamic dark silver square-mesh grille
  • Chrome door handles
  • Chrome highlights under the side windows
  • Smaller rear light clusters with brighter LED brake lights and lower chrome strip, plus reprofiled one-piece boot lid with chrome strip above the number plate and redesigned, colour-coded bumpers
  • New smoother front section around grille, bumper and spoiler with chrome strip across lower air intake, and larger apertures for the fog lamps
  • Redesigned, more aerodynamic door mirrors for improved air flow to keep side windows cleaner

  • The family resemblance between the S80 and S60 is very strong, a point highlighted by the two cars we have tested both having the same grey (Titanium Grey Pearl) paintwork.

    From the front the S80 looks solid and the way the lines of the bonnet and windscreen work together evokes a feeling that the car is lurching forward. From the side the S80 looks less unique, and from a distance its outline resembles that of an Audi. Closer you can pick up the clever profiling. The optional 18inch alloys don't fill the arches as much as you'd expect, but do match the understated sporty look of the car. The rear of the car is similarly profiled to the S60 and works well. The T6 badging is also very subtle.

    Interior Styling

    Interior-wise the car is exactly how I imagine a Volvo, with a very light coloured cabin. You either love this or hate it, I am wavering to the later. The darker interior that featured in the S60 T5 we tested back in July was more my taste.

    Light and Airy - a bit much for me
    The dark grey dash is clear, with black dials with chrome edges, white numbering, and red needles. There are four dials: Engine temp, Speedometer (graduated up to 160mph), revometer (graduated upto 8,000 rpm with the redline at 7,000rpm) and finally the petrol guage.

    The large steering wheel contains the controls for the cruise control (left) and the phone/radio (right).

    Hidden on the rear of the right side of the wheel are the controls for the satnav this is quite awkward and I didn't actually notice it for 3 days ! I suppose with practice your will become accustomed to it but certainly I hadn't by the end of the week. The main problem being you can't actually see what your pressing. Another way to control the satnav is using the supplied remote controls - but obviously this is appropriate for the passenger (or driver when parked). The satnav itself is good, the screen is positioned in the top of the dash and is easy to read when you get used to the position

    The dash is trimmed with a metallic checkerboard effect and suits the car. The center console houses the radio/CD/phone controls, air conditioning and heating. And also has the buttons to retract the parking control, side mirrors, alarm and more importantly control the traction control (DSTC) and alter the 4C suspension settings. The 4C system is the same type of actively controlled chassis as debuted by the S60R, but in the S80 it has been adapted for front wheel drive use, and is focused on improving comfort. The system can be switched between two settings: comfort and sport by the driver.

    The console has infuriatingly no ashtray (or rather a place to put your rubbish (sweet wrappers more often than not when I'm driving)). There is in it's place a drinks holder that is not quite as impressive as Saab's offering but it pops out and extends in a similar manner.

    The gear stick is pretty compact with 4 positions on the right hand side P R N D and the ability to slot it across to the right from Drive to enable geartronic manual control. Pushing forward and pulling back the stick within this setting selects the appropriate gears.

    The armrest lifts to reveal a reasonably sized cubby hole, and in also houses a slim headset that can be used with the phone kit - this seems a bit old school.

    The seats are well padded and are electric allowing movement forward-backwards, up-down and also the ability to Tilt up and down too. The drivers seat also has a manual bolster which is a bit fiddly as it is on the inside of seat. Both front seats feature leather pockets on front.

    An interesting safety feature is that as part of the parking control system the radio actually mutes whilst you are reversing. Another example of Volvo's focus on this area.

    Ride, Handling & Steering

    Big, but safe and comfy to boot
    There is no getting away from the fact that the S80 is a big car and feels big to drive. It rides better than the S60 T5 feeling firmer and more planted and fact that can be attributed to the 4C suspension. Ride quality is good and reflects Volvos aims that comfort should be foremost

    The Steering is very slow and although this is one of the things that the 2003 revision included it is a weak point of the car. The car has a new system from ZF which aims to create more direct steering response at slower speeds without compromising high speed steering. The feel of the steering is also vague and not very inspiring. We had a similar observation in the S60 T5.

    The 4C suspension has two settings (comfort + sport) and there is a noticeable difference with the sport mode being slightly harder and with noticeably less roll. In both settings you still feel removed from the suspension - floating. The car seems to handle quite well but you feel almost separated from the road and the suspension. It is if the ride is separate to the handling. The car never feels out of control, it is just you don't necessarily feel that in control of it. Volvo's stated aim of the system is to 'make the Volvo S80 a highly competent and extremely comfortable long-distance tourer - offering exceptional ride comfort allied to dependable, safe roadholding properties'. I would agree with this in the fact the car does feel safe, and is certainly good at eating lots of miles - just don't expect too much 'sport' even in sport mode.

    Braking wise - the car brakes well and is slightly more in control than others that we have tested. The car does feel big and heavy and the brakes are working hard to slow the car. Certainly after a couple of hard stops the brakes are getting very hot and will being to fade if this was repeated more times.

    Engine, Gearbox and Performance

    The T6 is the flagship S80 and has a 2922cc Twin turbo producing a healthy 272bhp and 280lb ft. The later usefully between 1800- 5000rpm.

    280bhp 3.0litre bi-turbo blunted by 4-speed Geartronic
    Volvo, unfortunately only mated this engine with a 4 speed geartronic auto box. This dulls the power and makes the car feel only quite fast. If you compare to my old Alpina B10 3.3, which had the slightly more bhp (280) and less torque (247), it doesn't feel anywhere near as quick. In pure numbers the Volvo is a second behind at 60mph and over 2 seconds behind at 100mph. In addition as the Volvo is front wheel drive if you do get the power down the front wheels struggle to deploy the power.

    The engine noise is muted, this is executive travel rather than sporty. In fact it is hard to tell there is a 3.0litre twin-turbo under the bonnet

    Under the bonnet things are definitely impressive there is loads of plumbing and the whole effect is rather science fiction like. The twin turbos like some parasite on the engine - well maybe..

    We were able to performance test the T6 and here are the results capared to the only available stats we found:
    Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
    Volvo S80 T6 SE (0)




    Volvo S80 T6 SE (0)
    FastSaloons Figures








    *All stats are performed on private roads and repeated several times with the average displayed.


    Plenty of room front, back and boot
    Rear legroom is good plenty of room for tall adults even behind a tall front occupant.

    The Rear bench seat can be easily folded down from either the boot (using conveniently located levers in either side of the boot - near the lid), or inside the car.

    The boot swallows 460litres and is certainly comparable to most of the sector - although Merc and BMW have both increased the E-class and 5-Series to 500litres.

    In terms of economy the Volvo doesn't do to badly considering the two turbos on it's motor. Official urban returns 17.3mpg; extra ubrban 33.6mpg and combined 25mpg. Considering the power and torque of the engine these figures aren't that bad at all.

    On the emissions front the T6 manages 272g/km which puts it into the top 35% tax bracket, and therefore it needs to provide at lot of benefits for the extra s it will cost business drivers.

    The insurance rating of 16 is pretty good.


    The list price for the Volvo S80 T6 SE is 30905 OTR. The T6 we reviewed had a number of extras: comms pack 2700, active 4C suspension (+18inch alloys) 2125, Bi-Xenon lights 650, Metallic paint 500, Park assist with audio mute 340, Winter pack 300. This equates to just under 6,700 optional equipment and makes the total price for the car of 36490.

    The cars competitors all struggle to match the cars power figures but can match the performance BMW offers the 530i and 530d both priced just below 31k. Audi has the 3.0 quattro sport which starts at 33,005. Jaguar has 3.0 V6 SE at 29950. Mercedes has the E430 at 34,215. VW has the Passat W8 at 29,960. Skoda comes in with a low 21,555, Vauxhall's Vectra 3.2 V6 is similarly priced at 21185. Finally Saab has the 9-5 Aero at 26,795. Not to mention the forthcoming MG ZT260.

    From the above prices the S80 is mixing it with the premier brands and certainly feels closer to that end of the market in terms of build and interior. Whether it can match these cars for driver involvement is questionable. But as Volvo has not set out to (unlike the S60 R) it has succeeded in producing a pretty brisk exec, which will transport you in comfort, safety and ensure you arrive suitably relaxed


    Pic a pic
    Volvo Press Release for revised S80

    Volvo Press Release for revised S80

    Our Review of the Volvo S60 T5

    Volvo S80 Advert

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