By on January 12, 2007

3592_11.jpgSafety legislation is killing Volvo. New rules and test procedures have virtually leveled the playing field, to the point where Volkswagen sells crash protection as credibly as Thor's mob. Even worse, the Swedish brand has at least partially surrendered the field. Sure, their cars still come laden with the latest safety-oriented gizmos and boast the best construction techniques, but the focus has shifted. According to the official website, you should buy the new Volvo S80 because of its “Scandinavian luxury.” In case you’re wondering, that means “comfort + power + safety.” Talk about changing priorities…

The new S80’s sheetmetal betrays the tension between Volvo’s desire to cling to its safe, stolid past and its [perceived] need to get funky with it. The even-more-gently-than-before sloping sheetmetal transitions (from the S80’s hood to its front windscreen and from the rear window to the trunk deck) continue the brand's established rounded radii = safety equation. At the same time, the S80’s broader and higher shoulders create a more masculine appearance. And the aggressive Aston/Jaguar-esque hood strakes try to tell the world that “me first” and “safety first” are not aesthetically incompatible– even if they are.

3575_11.jpgAnyway, Volvo wasn’t kidding about putting comfort at the top of the list. In typical Scandinavian fashion, the Volvo S80’s interior challenges the Audi for sybaritic supremacy. While both marques get full marks for top notch materials deployed with studied minimalism, Sweden pulls ahead with gloved user-friendly interfaces. The S80’s radio, for example, gives users immediate access to all functions without the previous model’s massive button array. If Swedes spent more time in the S80, Seasonal Affective Disorder would be a thing of the past.

Comfort? Check. Power? The $38,705 base S80 holsters an all-new 3.2-liter inline six that produces 235hp and 236lb.-ft. torque. The advanced cam profiles (toggling between high and low-valve lift) help make the engine relatively economical (19/28 mpg). Yes, well, that’s less horsepower, torque and fuel efficiency than a cheaper, equivalently-engined Audi A4. In subjective terms, S80’s mill labors to propel the car’s 3486lbs through its front wheels. She'll jog to sixty in a more-than-merely-adequate (but hardly spritely) eight seconds.

4474_11.jpgScandinavian luxury ingredient number two isn’t missing from the premium S80– the first Volvo sedan with eight cylinders underhood. The same Yamaha-sourced 4.4-liter mill found in the XC90 sidewinds its way into the S80’s beak, pumping-out 311hp and 325lb-ft of twist. Even with almost a thousand pounds less to drag around, the S80 V8 scoots to 60 only slightly faster than the SUV– but a full 1.5 seconds faster than its lesser-engined sibling. Unfortunately, the S80 shares the truck’s dim-witted, mileage-seeking, stomp-to-go gearbox.

With great power comes great premiums; you have stump-up nearly nine more G’s for an optionless V8 ($47,350). Of course, the extra wedge also buys you all-wheel drive, which increases the S80’s bad weather capabilities, but does little to improve its handling dynamics. Whereas drivers of the base model are stuck in permanent plush mode, V8 owners select from Comfort, Sport and Advanced. More accurately, they choose between “Squishy, Slightly Less Squishy and Moderately Firm.” Only the Advanced setting would amuse the committed pistonhead. At best, the S80 is quick and controllable. At worst, it’s a Swedish Lincoln Town Car.

Completing Volvo’s not-so-secret luxury car recipe, the S80’s got all the safety kit covered: crumple zones, cushions and airbags aplenty (including kneepads for the front passenger), whiplash protection, ABS, stability and traction control, seatbelt pretensioners, collision warning adaptive cruise control and pre-panic brake charging. And you can bet that the new S80 will equal the previous model’s five-star NCAP rating when the government gets ‘round to smashing the S80 to smithereens.

3568_12.jpgThe S80 has two unique safety selling points. For an additional $595, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) radar sensors monitor your rear flanks ten meters aft. When another car is closer and it doesn't appear, the computer illuminates warning lights mounted next to the side mirrors. Unfortunately, the lights are not bright enough; I didn’t notice them turning on and off.

The second system consists of a forward facing radar system that computes the closing rate to objects ahead. If it reckons you're about to test your insurance compay's coverage, it sounds an audible warning and flashes a bright band across the windshield (unlike Mercedes' effort). It's a terrific unique selling point– buried under the general heading of Adaptive Cruise Control. Clearly, the S80 remains a Volvo in the traditional sense. Whether the ever-smaller extra safety margin is worth sacrificing power, handling, price and let's face it, snob value, remains an open question. 

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76 Comments on “Volvo S80 Review...”


  • avatar
    JJ

    In Europe this competes with the A6…

    V30–>A3/1-Series
    S40/V50/S60–>A4/3-Series
    V70/S80–>A6/5-Series

    I don’t like all the creasing below the doors, the rest of the car looks bland but quite nice to me.

    Wouldn’t buy one over an Audi or BMW though. The Volvo “Lincoln Town Car handling” ruins it for me.

  • avatar
    webebob

    This looks like a nice car. Just this week my wife asked me if a Volvo was as good as a comparable Mercedes. In this, the time of “Engineered like NO other car in the world” I honestly don’t know. But to compare the Volvo to Audi is to rekindle memories of the first Audis, the 100LS and Fo(i)xes of ’70’s infamy. There will never be an Audi in my garage. But from that age I remember the Volvo 1800S fondly.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I tested the S80 in Sweden several months ago. I particularly liked the collision avoidance system because the moron in a Ford Expedition who drove into the back of our Boxster a year ago at 50 mph (while fussing with the kids in the back seat) might have been alerted a millisecond sooner and maybe even slowed to 40 or even 30… I don't know how solid all those other "safe" cars are, but Volvo crashed an S80 into a 700-ton concrete block at 40 mph while I watched. Went up to it a moment afterward and was able to open all four doors quite normally. As an EMS volunteer who gets to go to car crashes on a weekly basis, I can tell you we normally need hydraulic rams to open anything from the hood to the trunk.

  • avatar

    I keep hearing about these top quality interior materials that audi uses. Maybe that’s what used to cover the white plastic door pulls in my A4. hmmm…

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Lexus can get away with sharing parts with Toyota, including engines and even platforms, because the essense of a Lexus boils down to (a) dealership experience, (b) high level of comfort features and (c) consistent lack of defects (itself a Toyota hallmark). So an ES — really a gussied up Camry– can be a true Lexus because the dealer gives the customer high maintenance, but the customer doesn’t have to give the car high maintenance.

    Volvo however, is stuck in a pickle. Modern auto industry business models dictate a sharing of platforms with Ford, but historically, Volvo’s calling card, safety, has been dependent on having its own unique, very safe platform. At the same time, while I have no doubt the S80 is VERY safe, I have no safety concerns whatsoever about a modern BMW, Benz, Audi, Lexus, yatta yatta. So what makes a Volvo unique?

    More to the point, what makes a Volvo worth a $20K premium over a Mercury Montego, of all things?

  • avatar

    SherbornSean:

    FYI According to our good friends at Car and Driver, the S80 is built with parts from the S40/V50/C70 (and the Euro Ford Focus and Mazda 3)– enlarged and strengthened where needed.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Volvo apparently takes safety more seriously than the corporate mothership – the XC90 designed around the time of the Ford takeover and has extra-strong roof pillars to avoid head injury in a rollover. In contrast, Ford’s corporate position is that the current roof pillar strength standard is adequate, and Volvo engineers were basically told to shut it.

    A couple of years ago, Ford corporate documents briefly leaked out to the public during one of the many Explorer rollover trials, demonstrating Volvo’s difference in philosophy and testing in writing. Ford quickly moved to have them quashed.

    So, what are you getting over the Montego? Stronger roof pillars, for one.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Perhaps the safety ratings need to go to 10 stars. There seems to be congestion at 5 now.

  • avatar

    Marketing niche? You’re forgetting the other alternative to the traditional safety:

    If you drive a Volvo, you’re obviously a politically correct, bleeding-heart liberal.

    Because of this, my wife absolutely refuses to be seen behind the wheel of one. After she wrecked our M3, I threatened to replace it with a Volvo if she ever damaged it again.

    It worked. The car went through the rest of it’s service life with nary a scratch.

  • avatar

    Oh yeah, almost forgot . . . . .

    If you drive a Volvo, you’re out gunning for motorcyclists.

    Somewhere along the line, I believe it was a study in England that showed a significant increase in motorcycle/automobile collisions where the car driver was at fault over any other marque.

  • avatar

    Drove the S80 V8 in late December. Frankly, I don’t understand how Volvo thinks such a middling car is going to be successful in a segment where Volvo has traditionally failed. The car is hard to tell apart from the S60. The rear seat is not quite mid-sized. The engines are short about 50 horses, and the handling is as the above review describes it.

    Against my better judgment, I’ve assumed that Volvo will hit its sales target for the car, I believe about 20,000 per year, so I’ve entered the new S80 into my site’s pricing database.

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/S80.php

    Will anyone bother to check it out?

  • avatar
    kasumi

    Although Volvo may intend to go against BMW 5-series and Audi A6 with the S80, it really doesn’t need the performance aspects of both of those cars to sell it. The primary S80 drivers I see, and a fair deal of them, are much older. The S80 is a great alternative if you don’t want the perceived flashiness of a Cadillac, can’t stand the idea of a Lincoln, aren’t old enough to drive an Avalon and will never look at a Jaguar.

    Its bigger than the S60, nice and safe and not very fast. I doubt the S80 drivers are breaking the speed limit very often.

    It can’t compete with its German rivals (or Lexus/Acura/Infiniti), but it has a strong brand name and a nice-looking car, thats a fairly good deal.

    K.

  • avatar

    Damned by faint praise. Ouch.

  • avatar
    audimination

    I still see it as a shame that the yanks bought Volvo and Saab. Both companies have seen the essence of their culture and being ripped out and replaced with their american counterparts corporate bureaucracy. I still CRINGE at the thought of a Chevy Trailblazer with a Saab emblem on it…it hurts.

    Honestly, I hope some day soon that a consortium of wealthy swedes decides to buy up Saab and Volvo, and make a Swedish-only car company (perhaps with Koenigsegg as their ultra-luxury mark;))

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    audimination, great idea–keep the Swedes real!

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    If you drive a Volvo, you’re out gunning for motorcyclists.

    In which case, you actually want the collision warning system, right? Rewire it so that it tells you the number of points instead of bleating when you’re within target range.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Robert,
    You’re right about the new S80’s lineage. It’s actually the Montego which is built off the D3, which is Ford’s update/cost reengineering of the old S80’s platform.

    My thought was that if the new S80 is not much improvement over the old S80, it’s probably not much better than the Montego with a 260hp engine and AWD, except for quality of interior finishes.

    Who will buy this? Maybe doctors in their 50’s who don’t need prestige and have spent enough time in the ER to see the impact of bad car accidents. That’s not a big market.

  • avatar

    Volvo driver here, bought an ’89 240 in ’91 for a heck of a lot less than I would have spent for a comparable car new. It had power everything, OK room, a crummy heater, leaky AC, slower than dirt and a lousy radio, but it had heated seats and you could fix it with a hammer. In the past fourteen years the wife’s been through a Mazda Protege, a Jetta, a Voyager and a Chevy Venture.

    I sold my 240 last year with 285k on the odo for $3000 bucks and bought a V70 t5. I love this car. looked at the Audi wagon, but there was no way I could justify the price, even on a two-year old model. The T5 has just enough grunt to be a lot of fun and it has a lot of room and is a great highway cruiser. I think its got the best interior I’ve ever been in.

    Problem with Volvo lately has been price, why buy an S80 when I can get a Lexus or hell, a Toyota Avalon? They don’t need a big sedan over here, they need to fix the s60.

    Volvo’s niche is the wagon, they should concentrate on that, put out a base model 4-banger wagon at an affordable price. Not a mini-wagon, a real v70.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Legendary durability is another part of the Volvo heritage that has gone missing. A five year old Volvo is pretty much done now.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “Volvo’s niche is the wagon, they should concentrate on that, put out a base model 4-banger wagon at an affordable price. Not a mini-wagon, a real v70.” – Lost My Cookies

    Yes! Reinvent the 240 Wagon!!

    Aim for 34 mpg highway. Make it durable, keep it simple. No fancy options. If it’s light enough, a 150hp I4 will do.

    I’d buy it.

  • avatar
    blautens

    The last time I thought about owning a Volvo was when I heard about the guy in the northeast building 240s and 740s with small block Ford V8s and eventually creating a conversion kit for them. I bet he thinks it’s amusing that years later Volvo became part of PAG….

    As most are alluding too, it’s not an awful car, but for Volvo money, there are other options that are more appealing that don’t skimp on safety, either. It’s a tough sell…

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “Legendary durability is another part of the Volvo heritage that has gone missing.” – Gardiner Westbound

    Our experience wasn’t so much “legendary reliability” as that most problems were minor (esp window switches – I’d rather have cranks, anyway) and when something important broke, it was usually inexpensive to fix, even at dealer labor rates. Well, the drivetrain itself was probably pretty reliable on an objective basis.

    The small engine in the full-size engine compartment made some things easy.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Farago:

    FYI According to our good friends at Car and Driver, the S80 is built with parts from the S40/V50/C70 (and the Euro Ford Focus and Mazda 3)– enlarged and strengthened where needed.

    After that rigged “comparison test” with the AWD Fusion vs FWD Accamrys I’m not sure why you bothered checking with C&D. The TV commercial that Ford is running touting the “results” of the “comparison” is a complete sham and gives the impression that C&D readers (which I used to be) actually prefer an apples-to apples Fusion.

    C&D is the new MOTOR TRENDY and has lost whatever credibility it had left.

  • avatar

    Funny how Ford is using the C1 platform as the basis for so many cars. What’s wrong with the CD3 (Maz 6)?

    The v8 is sourced from Yamaha? I learned something today.

    Good review William C.

    Edit: Wikipedia answered the platform question..seek and ye shall find
    “Originally known as “C1-Plus” due to its similarity, EUCD was chosen by Ford’s European operations instead of the Mazda-designed CD3 platform due to the large number of components shared with the smaller C1. Another factor was reportedly the inability of the CD3 to accept Volvo’s straight-5 engines. The first EUCD cars were introduced at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show: Volvo’s S80 and Ford’s S-MAX and Galaxy.[1]

    Ford will reportedly build an EUCD line at Halewood Assembly for the Jaguar crossover and Land Rover Freelander.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_EUCD_platform

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    From what I’m hearing from insiders, C/D is pretty rudderless right now. There’s huge dissatisfaction among staffers.

    Anent Volvos, we just bought a V50 T5 AWD to replace the A4 Avant that’s going to our daughter. The 50 is all the wagon I need–holds two Serottas–and it has the same engine as the 70. the other day, I left it with a GM PR guy friend when I picked up an STS-V Cadillac and told him to feel free to drive it.

    “It goes down the road just fine,” he later said, “but it’s so….so _plain_!” Hey, I’m a minimalist.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Rodster,
    You’re right. The Monthlies have seen the writing on the wall: real car enthusiasts won’t wait once a month for news and reviews, when they can get it online from sources like TTAC. As consumers leave, so go advertising dollars, so they have to resort to being more ‘advertiser friendly’ to stave off bankrupcy.

    Right now, the only thing C/D has going for it is that my desktop computer is difficult to take to the can. Once I get a wifi laptop, it’s over.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I think Volvo should give up on cars and just go into the aftermarket seat business. Everytime I get into a Volvo, I marvel at the comfort of the seats. I would order a recliner for home, a desk chair for the office and replace the seats in a VW GTI with some of these.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Jay Shoemaker: I think Volvo should give up on cars and just go into the aftermarket seat business. Everytime I get into a Volvo, I marvel at the comfort of the seats. I would order a recliner for home, a desk chair for the office and replace the seats in a VW GTI with some of these.

    Amen. Maybe they could cut a distribution deal with IKEA.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    I’ve been a C&D subscriber since ’90. Their arrogant attitude, combined with the tragically unhip staff members, has led me not to subscribe again.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    ejacobs:

    Yea, C&D got rid of their young, hip writer: Brock Yates.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    * unfirm suspension: guys, the world is not the ‘ring and not every pistonhead likes hard suspension settings. i for one prefer a shmoove drive, with well-controlled body movements, communicative steering, and good man-machine interface in all the important areas — but not a hard-knocking ride.

    * volvo heritage: the amazon was amongst the sportiest european cars of the 1960s. (as a matter of fact, they are still enjoyable cars to drive). a volvo can be a swedish brick, can be a simon templar luxury coupe, can be just about anything, basically.

    * ford dna: this may be heretic to y’all, but i say the dna pudding is ok — the proof is in the eating. the swell saab 9000 had the same underpinnings as the so-so lancia thema and the pathetic fiat coma. give some good, conscientious and imaginative engineers a vw and they’ll make a porsche out of it. there is nothing inherently wrong with the s80 architecture or with its machinery.

    * image: what kind of luxury car can a guy drive, anyway? plenty of people i know dislike japanese cars out of good principle. bmw’s are, at least according to clarkson, ss staff cars. mercedes are unreliable and expensive, the citroen c6 is hysterical, and american cars are a joke (a bad one). so what’s left? not much more than volvo, if you ask me.

    honestjohn for one likes the s80 as well:
    http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road_tests/index.htm?id=258

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    A Volvo plus is that the styling is distinctive. And to me, the S40 and V50 are the sharpest-looking sedan-wagon pair on the road today. They just seem to reflect an artist’s touch.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Perhaps the “Swedish Town Car” is not so bad for Volvo. When I drove the S40 I thought it was stiff without being sporty. The interior materials were good but not compellingly luxurious. Yes, it looked nice, but that wasn’t enough.

  • avatar
    michaelhagerty

    Having read Car and Driver since 1967 and subscribed since 1981, the rapid decline of the magazine is sad to watch. What’s amazing is that Motor Trend has actually improved to the point where this month, MT is the better read. I never thought I’d see the day.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Stephan Wilkinson–
    A minimalist with two serottas? hmmmm…
    They’re singlespeeds or fixies, right? :)

  • avatar
    noley

    After my last Volvo, a 940 Turbo wagon which was the worst car I’ve ever owned, I swore I would never buy another Volvo. But that was a “good riddance” reaction. Still, the failings of that beast aside, Volvo has to at least build something I’d like. While most of the current ones look good and are nice enough to motor around in, the company just doesn’t make anything I want to make make payments on.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    The first gen S80 a friend drives I found pretty underwhelming. Slow, some chintzy interior details, and high levels of road noise for a luxmobile. This review reminded me of those dreadful tv commercials voice-overed by the insufferable Donald Sutherland: “Quite possibly, the most beautiful sedan in the world…” NOT!
    Volvo (and Saab) front seats are the best, though, no question.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Call me a crazy dreamer but maybe basing a group of luxury/near-luxury cars on platforms common to some mid-price cars will result in good platforms for the luxury cars and really good platforms for the mid-price cars.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Noley, I was thinking it was just the fwd Volvos that sucked – our S70 was incredibly comfortable, a tank on the road, and decent mpg….when it ran. After 4 years and endless high maintenance (including 15+ $20 lightbulbs…wtf?), we took a bath (needed $9k in repairs, we owed $10k, we got $5k on trade) we went back to Toyota.

    And all this time I was kicking myself for not going the extra $2k for the S90 and rwd to get the legendary Volvo durability….

  • avatar

    bestertester
    * volvo heritage: the amazon was amongst the sportiest european cars of the 1960s. (as a matter of fact, they are still enjoyable cars to drive). a volvo can be a swedish brick, can be a simon templar luxury coupe, can be just about anything, basically.

    One of the coolest-looking, too. The styling had a level of artistic integrity which the modern curvy Volvos lack. In fact, I’d say that as far as styling goes, it is in the top 5% of all time.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Volvo had a rough patch reliability-wise around the time that Ford bought them. They have seem to come back though as of late, but they were never be as durable as the old RWD Volvos. 260k and counting on my utilitarian ‘89240 Estate.

    Also, I believe that they are going to merge the S60 and S80 into the midsize and possibly create a new fullsize, the S100.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Similar to noley, I had an ’85 740 passed down from the ‘rents for 5 years. The worst problem was a recurring electrical gremlin that would prevent the car from starting, and the dealers could never find the problem. I never got stranded in the middle of nowhere, but the potential was certainly there.

    There were a whole bunch of other mechanical ills that cost thousands of dollars and lost time, and there haven’t been any Volvo’s in the driveway since.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    The old 240s were fantastic. Even though they seemed to need excessive exhaust system work, they were bulletproof cars and they ran forever. Part of the reason they ran forever is because the technology was not very complexed and maintaining them was easy. They almost look better a little beaten up and they were often handed-down to antimaterialistic children in high school and college. The Volvos in the late 80s and 90s really did not keep up with the quality improvements that we saw with domestic and other import brands. The last generation S80 was a problematic car and not competitive. The 1st generation S40 shared unimpressive Mitsubishi DNA and was a bad sign for Volvo enthusiasts.

    The newer Volvos are re-capturing some of the appeal of the old 240. I currently have an 05 S40T5. Love it. No problems whatsoever so far. And there are substantial safety and performance benefits of the S40 over it’s platform-mates at Ford and Mazda.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Here’s a link for all you Swedish Meatballs.

    http://www.turbobricks.com

  • avatar

    “The worst problem was a recurring electrical gremlin that would prevent the car from starting, and the dealers could never find the problem.”

    OK, the cars were an aquired taste, like beer or anchovies, but that there comment just illustrates the one glaring problem with volvo, the dealers. Incredibly expensive and the service depts were usually run by inept jerks who ran off the guys who love and know how to fix the cars. The parts dept were usually cool, but I had my rear muffler (OK that was a problem too) replaced by a dealer ONCE before I went and found an independant volvo Dr.

    Your problem was probably your ignition relay, it was pretty well known and could be fixed with a heatgun and plumbing solder.

    But you can tell by reading this comment you had to think the car was worth it. Volvo’s and to a lesser extent Saabs, have that weird aura. They’re different. So the people who go and buy Volvos are like people who buy Macintoshes over a Windows PC. They are looking for some outward sign of their differentness. Of course, it’ll be nice and comfortable, easy to use, but they can’t run Need for Speed on it, so they go back to Windows eventually. But the people who buy more than one Volvo are like the guy who buys that used Mac off of Ebay and installs Linux on it.

    Maybe Lincoln should import the S80 V8 and rebadge it.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    bestertester:
    * unfirm suspension: guys, the world is not the ‘ring and not every pistonhead likes hard suspension settings. i for one prefer a shmoove drive, with well-controlled body movements, communicative steering, and good man-machine interface in all the important areas — but not a hard-knocking ride.

    If you love smooth rides, the S80 would suit you. I don’t begrudge anybody for wanting smoothness. The 6-cylinder model in particular is well suited for chauffeuring grandmother to and from the old folk’s home.

    My point is that the so called “sport” mode is not sporty. Should you want to make the 315 horses underhood gallop, you’ll need the advanced mode. If you really want to throw the S80’s weight around, say in an effort to keep pace with a 5-series, A6, Q45, etc, you’ll wish you could turn it up another notch.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I rented the previous gen s80 for a week a few years back. I thought it was comfortable, smooth and competent but I was on vacation relaxing at the time, cruising around, seeing the sights, eating good food, etc. How else would I feel?

    Whenever Volvo’s are discussed I always read that while the marque scores high in government crash safety tests where they really excel is in “real world safety.” Have the other manufacturers caught up as far as real world safety is concerned? Can safety be accurately measured by crash testing? If Volvo is in fact a safer vehicle than most then that is what they should focus on primarily. They do, to some degree.

    I saw a 240 wagon on the side of the highway with it’s hazards flashing on the way to work this morning.

  • avatar

    I have a friend who still has the Volvo wagon her parents bought in 1968, when she was about 10. She and her husband gave the car a fairly extensive overhaul in the latter ’90s. Adhering to steriotype, her father was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and she’s a professor.

    Someone said above that Volvos were the quirkier Swedes. But it was Saabs until somewhere around the early ’90s. Saabs were exceptionally quirky.

    GM and Ford have dumbed the brands down something awful.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Re. Volvo and real-world safety: the company maintains a full-time “go team” at the factory in Gothenburg that listens to scanners and the instant there’s a serious accident involving a Volvo within 60 miles of Gothenburg, they scramble, sometimes reaching the accident site before the cops do. They then do a complete accident investigation and sometimes even bring the car back to the safety lab at the factory to fully check it out and basically see what worked and what, if anything, didn’t.

    I saw one such car in the lab in which a guy had a seizure and hit a tree at 50. He survived just fine, though the entire front of the car was unrecognizable.

    Mercedes was actually the first to do something like this, but Volvo has done it more thoroughly: they have a database of 60,000 serious accidents involving their cars, and what happened to the cars, in enormous detail. Can you imagine GM doing anything like this?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    “GM and Ford have dumbed the brands down something awful.”

    This comment is based on what? I would agree with this in SAAB’s situation. However, Volvo has been kept distinct and unique from Ford’s other brands. Actually, Volvo’s image has been enhanced and on the short-list of more people today than ever before. Perhaps, after the Jaguar X-type, they learned that they shouldn’t mess with the integrity of such an established brand.

  • avatar
    macarose

    Ok, it’s time to dispel a few myths that have been propogating through the media morass.

    “Volvo’s reliability declined… due to Ford buying them.”

    The primary reason why Volvo had quality control problems right around when Ford bought them out is because they released several brand new vehicles during that point in time that were far different from the historic 240/940/S90 RWD platform (ended in 1997) and their FWD 850/S70/V70 (ended in 2000).

    In Volvo’s case, the S80 was truly a brand new car in 1998 in every sense of the term. The platform, the electronics, the powertrains, virtually all of it was from scratch. As with virtually all new model launches with manufacturers that sell in limited volumes, there is a steep learning curve (and higher defect rate) in the production and assembly of their major mechanical components.

    While Ford, Toyota, and GM have a volume that allows several hundreds of thousands of models of a given platform within a year’s time, smaller manufacturers, especially those in Europe have experienced a harder road. It’s no accident that only VW, which has been below the North American industry average during the past fifteen years, has been the only successful European marque to offer models in the larger volume markets. Unlike Peugeot, Renault, Rover, Citroen, and Skoda, they were the only ones who could substantially improve their quality (defect wise and product wise) to competitive levels in the NA market over the course of time.

    The same phenomena of high defects during a new model launch has been universal. Not just with the Focuses and Cavaliers, but also with virtually all luxury marques. The Mercedes C, E, ML and S classes during the past 20 years have offered more lemons than virtually any other luxury lineup and, yes, even the Camry and Avalon have experienced serious defect issues in recent time. In Volvo’s particular case, quality suffered through the first two years of it’s release because they were literally building brand new product from the get go. More specifically, the electronic’s system, throttle body injection (which was later recalled), and the transmission all had major teething problems because they were far more sophisticated and complicated than the models that preceded them.

    The same was true for the now lauded FWD Volvo 850 when it came out in 1994. In fact, if you visit enough dealer and public auctions around the country you’ll notice that a disproportionate number of FWD Volvos of the 1990’s have broken odometers, burned out bulbs, defective ABS modules, and usually at least one broken motor mount. Volvo’s are DURABLE vehicles, but they never were really good choices for those who couldn’t stand the sight of a ‘Check Engine’ or ‘ABS’ light.

    People who offer the unqualified opinion that ‘Ford is to blame’ usually aren’t aware of the tremedous complexities and brutal learning curves that are involved with building a truly ‘new car’. They also don’t realize that Ford literally saved Jaguar’s rump by investing billions of dollars and a tremendous level of talent into their then fading brand. Within a decade Jaguar went from the bottom to near-bottom in virtually every J.D. Power survey to being at or among the top of virtually all of their quality surveys for luxury vehicles.

    Then again, why bother learning something when you have a multi-billion dollar media industry that prefers sensationalism to actual fact finding.

    “I’ll take Audi’s WTF braking system and somersaulting Samurais for $200 Alex!!!”

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Macarose:Good post.
    I would add to it that I think people are confusing reliability with repairability. Most of the Volvo owners who posted aren’t claiming that they ran for 300K miles without a problem, but rather that it was easily fixed by a knowledgeable pro who had inexpensive parts handy. That’s repairabiity and JD Power doesn’t measure it.

    I think what also changed in the timeframe you described is that the technology changed so much, and cars, Volvos especially, got much more complex, and lost some of that repairability charm.

    In Ford’s favor I would say that they took Jaguar from the bottom of the quality lists into the Top 3 very quickly, which is quite an accomplishment. Why would they do the opposite to Volvo? They didn’t.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to: Lost My Cookies:
    Volvo’s niche is the wagon, they should concentrate on that, put out a base model 4-banger wagon at an affordable price. Not a mini-wagon, a real v70.

    Subaru offers the I4 Legacy wagon at low $20k. AWD+classing leading safety+reliability. In other words, almost better in every area than the Volvo wagon you have projected.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Volvo’s are for paranoid people. If that is your gig, more power to you.

    Reliability went down from the old school Volvo because they are now front wheel drive, and now come with all kinds of silly electronic gee-gaws on them.

    Cars today have too much crap on them – automakers use it to try to convince people to buy new to get a feature when their old vehicle is perfectly fine.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Is that Yamaha 4.4l V8 related to the SHO V8 that Yamaha used to make for Ford?

  • avatar
    NickR

    Sorry, that’s covered in the article…I overlooked it. My apologies.

  • avatar
    memikeyounot702

    I’ve never owned a Volvo, so can’t speak to what it’s like to drive one on a regular basis. A friend had one from the mid-90’s and I know he loved it…and I always liked the oddball but unique styling they used.
    Even if I could afford one now, I think Volvo ruined their looks when they decided they had to look like a Honda, or worse yet, a Toyota Avalon.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    A source who shall anonymous, since he didn't give me permission to quote him, and he still works for Volvo (cars), once told me, "I stood close enough to Jacques Nasser to hear him say I paid one dollar for a company and the rest (of $33 billion USD) for the S80 platform." Now while that platform has changed more than a bit since the first generation, it is still worth noting. Additionally, I believe I can stay within TTAC guidelines for non-flaming, when I say that the image of all Volvophiles as being rabid Howard Dean supporters is nonsense. If anyone – most especially one of the early commentators – would read the book Will by G. Gordon Liddy, he or she would find that the G-man's (his own preferred radio host handle) father was one of the first people to import Volvos. Then too, before he celebrated no longer having to assert the existence of non-existent weapons of mass-destruction, by buying a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette, Colin Powell was not as a do-it-yourself restorer of vintage Volvos; and almost became a used car dealer, specializing in the marque. (Read My American Journey for evidence of that and a good bio, overall.) Now, I will admit that many Volvo owners meet the parameters of closet socialists (or not so closeted). But to say all of them are, is akin to saying all guys who drive pickup trucks are named Bubba and watch wrestling for entertainment. And no, Volvo owners have nothing against motorcyclists; in fact, many of them own either a motorcycle or a bicycle. I am more concerned about SUV drivers with cellphones – my bias – in that regard. Maybe there are statistics showing a lot of Volvo owners have been involved in collisions with motorcyclists. However, as Mark Twain once said, "There are lies, damn lies and statistics."

  • avatar
    pb35

    Stephan Wilkinson

    I’ve heard of the Volvo safety center, I was alluding to that in my post; I just didn’t want to get too wordy. I did read that story about the gentleman that had the seizure too. Further to my question/comment, I am currently cross shopping two new vehicles, the XC90 and the Honda Ridgeline. The XC was just voted “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS. The Ridgeline is rated very highly as well by NHTSA (though it’s not rated by the IIHS). A friend’s wife just recently totaled her Pilot. She emerged without a scratch and my buddy went out the next day and bought another Pilot (and traded his 13 y.o. Civic for a CR-V). Sounds like a lot of stories that I’ve heard in the past about people wrecking the Volvo and going straight to the dealership to buy another.

    It sounds like other manufacturers are catching up in the safety game. Is the Ridgeline really as safe as the XC in the real world? That may be, but I bet it doesn’t have a boron-reinforced roof.

  • avatar
    durailer

    So what if the pistonheads are complaining about the performance? This car has a class-leading interior and handsome exterior styling; overall, a distinctive car that’s not trying too hard (insert Bangle-reference here). I’d rather be seen driving this than a Mercury.

    So the engine choices are I6 and V8? What happened to the 280hp T6? (high-pressure turbo variant of the I6)

    For the S60/V70 R, Volvo tuned their T5 to pump out 300 ponies. Do the math, and a tricked-up T6 could produce around 350hp…and probably outrun the V8.

    I’m looking forward to the long-awaited 2008 update of the S60, and thanks to Ford, Volvo’s going to hit us with a barrage of crossovers (XC50 and XC60)…keep your eyes peeled.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Correction to a typo in earlier post: meant to write “Colin Powell was known as a do-it-yourself restorer of vintage Volvos,” instead of “not as a do-it-yourself restorer of vintage Volvos.”

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Durailer,
    I thought I read that Volvo hasn’t yet figured out what to do with the S60. I know the V70 will be replaced soon (same platform as S80), but I thought that Volvo had found that there wasn’t room between the S40 and the S80 for another sedan.

    How many ways can you stretch a Mazda3?

  • avatar
    durailer

    @ SherbornSean

    I heard that the next S60 will share its platform with the S80/Ford Mondeo -distancing itself from the S40/Mazda3/EuroFocus. Pricewise, there’s certainly room for a Volvo sedan between the S80 and the S40.

    For the next gen, I’m crossing my fingers that a new hash of RWD platforms will find it’s way into Volvo’s portfolio…if only Ford can see the logic of taking the CrownVic off life support and giving it some much-needed surgery.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Even Volvo doesn’t build Volvos anymore. For the life of me I cannot imagine why someone would buy an S80 over an Acura RL.

    And where is the high end Volvo minivan? Volvo’s family friendly image is/was perfect for the $50k best in the world minivan, but they have never built it.

  • avatar
    etsikest

    I’m not sure about tendencies in US of A, but here what I noticed in Europe. All world’s car companies sold/merged with US companies are sooner or later losing their quality. They may save image, but quality – not for long. Actually it is true for most highly technological products Killing perfectionism in favor of ‘good enough to handle warranty’ quality is absolutely reasonable business move, tho bit shortsighted IMO.

  • avatar
    macarose

    “Reliability went down from the old school Volvo because they are now front wheel drive”

    Yes, we all know that manufacturers that make front wheel drive cars are less reliable than the rear wheel drive ones. In otherwords two legs are better than four, and eight legs are better than six.

    “and now come with all kinds of silly electronic gee-gaws on them.”

    How did you know about the gee-gaw option. I live in Georgia and where we’re from we call it the ‘hee-haw’.

    ‘Cars today have too much crap on them’

    Only if the driver and passengers have very loose bladders. In the repossessions that come through the auctions, we find that Buicks, Cadillacs and the Toyota Camry have the highest level of TPC (turd per car).

    “automakers use it to try to convince people to buy new to get a feature when their old vehicle is perfectly fine.”

    We call this progress. Daytime running lights, hee-haw doo dads that light up on your GPS when the ABS in your CTS is SOL, creature features of all shapes and mutations are what make modern cars such groovy machines. I’m looking forward to the day when my next door neighbor, Greg Brady, will find a way to install a 64″ DVD/CD/MP3/CBS/ABC/NBC/PBS/MTV/ xmmultimedia entertainment center with satellite and cable hookup with modular free porting and teleporting to his 1972 Plymouth Valiant.

    In the meantime, I’ll just take the bus.

  • avatar
    Dream 50

    wsn wrote:

    “Subaru offers the I4 Legacy wagon at low $20k. AWD+classing leading safety+reliability.”

    This was my perception until I went to the Sapporo Auto Auction with a dealer frind of mine. While perusing the auction guide for cars I was interested in, I asked him why Subes of all sorts were priced so crazy low (even by Japanese used car standards).

    His response was that motors are often bagged at 100k km. That sentiment was echoed by my independent mechanic who sees all sorts of brands. That being said, my buddy’s 10 year old turbo Legacy with 170 k km and infrequent oil changes or cooling down periods still runs strong.

    Off topic for a Volvo thread, I know, but I thought that I might offer an alternative outlook on the “Subarus are bulletproof” legacy.

    And not I4’s, sir (maam?) but boxer fours.

    Keith

  • avatar

    Volvo S80 is the first Volvo sedan model to have Volvo’s compact, transversely fitted V8 with a power output of 315 horsepower (234.8 kw) and 440 nm of torque. Volvo XC90 has first come out with an advanced electronics and four catalytic converters. Volvo S80 could also come with the active Four-C chassis, which automatically adjusts chassis settings to better suit the current driving conditions.

  • avatar
    raymundojr

    I tested the S80 in Sweden several months ago. I particularly liked the collision avoidance system because the moron in a Ford Expedition who drove into the back of our Boxster a year ago at 50 mph (while fussing with the kids in the back seat) might have been alerted a millisecond sooner and maybe even slowed to 40 or even 30…
    I don’t know how solid all those other “safe” cars are, but Volvo crashed an S80 into a 700-ton concrete block at 40 mph while I watched. Went up to it a moment afterward and was able to open all four doors quite normally and the Volvo brake dust shields was okay. As an EMS volunteer who gets to go to car crashes on a weekly basis, I can tell you we normally need hydraulic rams to open anything from the hood to the trunk.

  • avatar
    davie6

    I have a 2004 S80 T6 that I bought new. At 10,000 miles the lug nuts rusted. I have tried to have this resolved at the dealership and by writing Volvo directly with no luck. If Volvo wants to even think about competing in it’s perceived market segment, then they are going to have to be more customer oriented. I know that it is a minor thing but for a car at that price point it should have been fixed. Dealer experience for me has been dismal at best and couple that with me STILL having rusted lug nuts, this is my 3rd and last Volvo.

  • avatar
    quebec3

    I smashed into an 07 golf city whose owner thought RED was just a nice color at an intersection(22 years old female waitress on the road at 8h30 am after a night shift, should be sleeping at that hour) I totalled my 98 S70 because of that highly skilled young driver, but even if the front end of the S70 had lost 18 inches in length, all of the 4 doors were opening and closing like in the show room. No wonder why I bought another one. It was my first airbag experience, I’d do it again anytime, uhh just the airbag though. Through the smoke of the airbag, I was able to see the young skilled driver of the german car doing 360s 5 feet in the air, I had given her a S70 push in her RH doors. A second sooner and my ribs would have played dixie on her front end. Anyways, that’s all over, nobody was hurt and I got a newer car. If I ever have another smash with this nice car because of a skilled driver, my next vehicle will be an early 70s heavy duty 4X4 pick up truck with sections of rail road tracks as bumpers. I’ll never have to be nervous again at traffic lights, neither in shopping center parking lots. I think being in a volvo that day had something to do with the fact that 2 hrs after the smash, I was riding my bike, no pain no nothing, even the following days.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I visited Volvo’s Gothenburg crash-test center awhile ago and was at a 40-mph test of an S80, as a car journo, Went down onto the crash-site floor after the thing was fired into a concrete block the size of a small house, and you’re right, I was able to open all four doors utterly normally. Never seen anything like it.

  • avatar
    Eduard

    Had a 2006 S60 R until last Friday when a car full of kids t-boned me at 40+ mph which caused me to do a 180 spin into a telephone pole. Thinking of a 2008 S80 T6 AWD now. Yep, walk away from something like that and hard not to consider another Volvo.

    Pics: http://dombek.com/accident.htm

  • avatar
    kwoerpel

    Funny, how all these people have the answers for Volvo owners.
    I was an executive of Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company. I drive an XC90.
    I am an Independent and definately not a liberal like my kids.
    I raced Porsches, so I am not just some one who putts around. I still have 2 that I drive regularly and 2 old models in storage.
    I am contemplating buying an S80 T6 this month. Keeping the XC90.
    Maybe If this gets know, they will reposess the XC90.
    The XC90 has been perfect, whoops CD jammed.
    I never would have thought I would own a Volvo. I purchased it as it was the most comfortable seat for my wife ,who had back surgery.
    Dealer is fantastic.
    I will probably get drummed out of Porsche club when this info gets out.

  • avatar
    Bshrop

    I see that many of the comments shared here are mere assumptions and borrowed from outside opinions. I have owned the S-80, 281hp, AWD, with Turbo now for 7 months.

    If you desire sport and comfort it’s a excellent choice. However, not many autos can compare to the ride the Lexus 350S in comfort, but the lexus lacks speed, handling and power. It also is a (front wheel drive)car. However, the combination of power, and torque will change your mind about the S-80 AWd/T6, it will run with a 7 series BMW. Do you hear me!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Two months ago I raced a 7 series and KEPT PACE, UP TO 120MPH with one. The light weight engine, coupled with the AWD does make a difference on the S-80 T-6/AWD. However, Motor Trend holds a contrary view on this.

    I can say that, Yes I agree that the S-80 is more comfortable than the 5 series BMW and by far the Audi-6. But lacks the handling. The average driver will clearly not notice the difference, but will enjoy the seat comfort and the power of this car, equal to any BMW-5 or Audi-6 . You will be persuaded especially when you compare the price.

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