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Motoring: Volvo S80 makes luxurious splash

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 4th, 2008

One of the nicest cars I drove last year was the Volvo S80 V8. It really is a brilliant machine and shows the world that Volvo has to be taken seriously in the luxury car segment.

However, the reality is, that most of the people who would buy an S80 would not spend the extra dollars for the V8, most would settle with the cheaper 3.2-litre V6 version.

So the question is, would you be happy enough with the V6, or do you really need to get the V8?

To find out, I booked myself into a S80 3.2 to see.

Right from the start, you know this is a good car. For a kick-off, I like the way it looks. It is stylish and would look good on any driveway, just like Ikea furniture looks good in any room.

Speaking of room, there is plenty of that in front and back of this S80, so all your passengers will be comfortable. Adding to the comfort are those brilliant seats, which are so good I wish all cars had seats like these.

Then there are other comfort and convenience features. I like the keyless go entry and starting system, so you no longer have to press a button on the remote to gain entry into the car, nor do you have to put the key anywhere to start the car, as long as the key is inside the cabin, you just put your foot on the brake pedal and push the “Start” button and the car fires up. Press it again and it shuts off, very clever.

Not as clever as the collision warning system which starts braking the car if you are about to have a collision. Then there is the cruise control, which automatically keeps a safe distance between you and the car ahead. There is also a lane departure warning (LDW) system and a blind spot indication system (BLIS). This car has so many features to prevent you from having an accident, that if you do manage to crash one of these, you are a true moron and shouldn't be allowed to drive a car again.

If you do crash due to some other idiot's fault, be assured you have plenty of airbags to keep you safe.

All these safety and convenience features are very good, but is this car any good to drive?

Yes, it is, but I will tell you right now, I much prefer the V8 version. The 3.2-litre V6 is not very powerful for this size of vehicle, you only get 235 hp, while similarly sized engines from Audi and BMW are far more powerful.

The performance also suffers because all Canadian market S80's only come with the all-wheel drive system as standard. Sure it might have a six-speed automatic gearbox with the Geartronic system allowing you to choose your own gears, but the performance is still not what you'd call lighting fast. I know most Audi's also have standard all-wheel drive systems, but the Audi systems do feel more refined in my view and thanks to more powerful engines an Audi A6 3.2 is a lot quicker too.

I was also not very impressed with the fuel economy from the Volvo V6, I only managed to average 14.4-litres/100km on an urban driving cycle (city and highway combined), which again is not as good as some of its competition.

The S80 however won't be shamed by any competitors in the corners. This vehicle does handle very well and the steering does give you the right amount of feedback, so this is one Volvo you can enjoy driving through a twisty stretch of road.

Having said that, the S80 is a very relaxing place to be in and if you do a lot of highway driving, you will absolutely love this car.

What I love most about this Volvo is the price. A base S80 3.2 starts at $54,995, which makes it a lot cheaper than most of its direct rivals.

However, my advice for my readers is this, if you are considering an S80, save up until you can afford the V8 version. Sure it is $10,000 more expensive and its fuel economy is even worse, but it is a lot more fun to drive.

So if I was in the market for a car in this segment and I was looking to buy a V6, I'd rather have an Audi. But then for the price of an Audi A6 3.2 V6, I can buy an S80 V8, and I honestly would take the S80 V8, because of the extra punch leading to extra fun.

In the past, Volvo has made some good cars, but the new S80 certainly is the best car they have ever made, and if you've never seriously looked at a Volvo, now is the time. Trust me you'll be impressed.
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