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Motoring: Volvo S80 a lot of luxury for great price tag

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 24th, 2007

If you are fortunate enough to be in the market to buy a $70,000 luxury car, your choices are endless.

BMW will sell you a 535i, while Mercedes-Benz will try to allure you with the E350. Audi on the other hand has the brilliant A6 3.2 and Lexus has the boring GS350.

However, in the past, my favourite car in this category was the Acura RL. The RL is a simple buy, the car comes with everything as standard, including its wonderful navigation system and cooling seats, so all you have to do is pick the colour and drive home. The RL is quite nice to drive too, and with its intelligent all-wheel drive system, it is safe all year round. So it seemed for a while that the RL was as good as things can get in this segment of the market, until now.

Let me introduce you to the all-new Volvo S80, a car I wasn't expecting much from, but it just took my heart away.

What I love most about this new S80 is the availability of a V8 engine. Not just any V8 either, it has a bespoke 4.4-litre motor, which was developed by Yamaha, and produces 311 hp. In reality, it felt like it had even more power than that. This engine revs hard and fast, and the noise it makes would plant a smile on my face every time.

I could control the engine note with the manual mode on the six-speed automatic gearbox, which is surprisingly good to use. I surely was not expecting this car to be fun to drive, but it is. It even handles corners well. This Volvo is so much fun to drive it reaches the realm previously reserved for BMW's and Audi's.

However, I have not even got to the best part of this vehicle yet, the interior. This car has one of the most inviting, comfortable, and spacious interiors in this class. The interior looks great and has all the gadgets you can ask for (trust me, the equipment list is as long as the new Harry Potter book).

However some gadgets need a mention. Yes, I have seen adaptive cruise control before (the ones that automatically keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead), but this S80's safety features go a step even further. This has a collision warning system, so if you are not paying attention and something is in your way, the car alerts you (although I must say, I never once got it to work, even when I deliberately tried to run into things). It also has a system called “BLIS”, which stands for blind spot information system. Basically this system alerts you if anything is in your blind spot by turning a small yet visible orange light on by your rearview mirror. This system worked like a charm and I got used to it in no time at all.

I also got used to its active chassis. This car gives you three setting, comfort, sport and advanced. The sport feature didn't feel anything special, but going from comfort to advanced setting, you can feel a real difference. On the highway, cruising around, I'd keep it in comfort mode, but on back roads, I'd switch to the advanced setting and carved the road.

Carving the road at nighttime was even more fun, since it had turning headlights, so I could see just what was around the corner.

All these features make this a very attractive car. Even the price isn't bad. You can have the base S80 with the 3.2-litre V6 (another great engine) for just $55,000, while a base V8 is $65,000. My quite well equipped test vehicle was $72,600, so it is better priced than its German rivals. What about the RL? The RL is certainly a bit cheaper, but does not offer you some of the gadgets you get with the S80 and you cannot spec it with a V8.

So the S80 wins it for me. It does everything very well, including looking good. The only complaint I had was with its fuel economy. I averaged 15-litre/100 km, which is high, but then, if you can afford the car, you should be able to afford to drive it, and you will love driving it.
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