Three years is a long time in the motor industry and that’s how long Volvo’s second generation S80 has been around for, so it’s been ripe for a revamp for some time. It comes as no surprise then, that the Swedish firm has waved its hand over its flagship fourdoor, but has this mid-life refreshment been fundamental enough to give the car new impetus in a buyer’s market. We’re not so sure. A fair amount has been done to spruce up the S80 in the form of a mild facelift with a restyled front grille and a larger Volvo badge. A splash of chrome detailing has been added, and the cabin has been upgraded too, so they’re worthwhile improvements.
There is a new D5 engine, with improved fuel economy and lower emissions than the previous five-cylinder diesel unit. It has piezo injectors and ceramic glow plugs for more efficient running and quieter cold starts. There’s an increase in power too, from 182 up to 202bhp. Performance is good, refinement slightly less so. The previous D5 was not particularly quiet, and the new one continues the trend. Give the engine some work to do, and it responds energetically, but it’s far from quiet. Big changes have been made to the suspension to brush up the previous car’s soft and somewhat wallowy ride. It has been modified for a firmer, sportier feel, which improves the handling and tautens the ride. The change is immediately noticeable, giving the S80 more poise and agility. The ride is better without becoming unduly hard, and the car has tidy handling with sharper steering.
These are changes that the S80 desperately needed, but it’s more of a catch-up manoeuvre to keep the opposition in sight. Dynamically, it feels a touch outclassed by a BMW, Mercedes or Audi. The Geartronic transmission gives you the choice of auto mode or manual sequential shift, and is pleasant enough to use, but it’s not quite as crisp as you might like. There are no paddles to let you keep your hands on the wheel while shifting gears, so there’s little incentive against leaving it in auto and letting the car make the decisions about when to move ratios – which is a pity, because the whole driving experience would certainly feel more involving if it had them.
RIVALS: BMW 525d SE BUSINESS EDITION, MERCEDES-BENZ E 250 CDI BLUEEFFICIENCY AVANTGARDE
- Engine: 2400cc, 5-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Max Power: 202bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 310lb ft at 1,500 to 3,250rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,000kg
- Max speed: 143mph
- 0-62mph: 8.0secs
- Combined Consumption: 42.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 178g/km (I)
- Boot space: 422litres
- Insurance group: 16