Volvo's flagship sedan was introduced for the 1999 model year and got a mildly freshened appearance for 2004. The front fascia was reworked, and the grille surround was re-profiled for a gentler transition to the bodysides. Fog lamps were added, and the grille contained a square-mesh pattern. The mirrors were redesigned to help reduce wind noise.
More important to buyers in the Snow Belt, the 2004 lineup gained an all-wheel-drive version. The system works automatically, transferring power to the rear wheels only when the front tires have lost traction.
Front fog lamps are standard on all 2005 models, and Volvo's Four-C active chassis is optional for front-wheel-drive sedans. Real burled walnut wood trim decorates the T6's instrument panel and steering wheel. A new Sport package for 2.5T models includes the T6's sport seats and 17-inch Interceptor alloy wheels.
Partly because it was designed specifically as a sedan, the S80 looks dramatically different than its squared-off predecessors. The compact grille extends forward and is accented by a prominent V shape molded into the hood. A sharply raked back window has nearly the same angle as the windshield. Crisp rear creases are in sharp contrast with the rounded front of the car. The S80 rides a 109.9-inch wheelbase and measures 189.8 inches long overall.
Volvo's largest sedan is categorized as a midsize vehicle, but its spacious interior makes some other luxury sedans look small inside. Even with a sunroof, headroom is ample for tall passengers. Rear-seat occupants enjoy generous legroom and foot space. Large side windows provide excellent views.
Even though the trunk lid opens more than 90 degrees, the opening isn't particularly large. Still, the cargo floor is long, wide and flat. Trunks hold 14.4 cubic feet of cargo. Split rear seatbacks fold flat without the need to remove the head restraints. Each rear head restraint folds down with the push of a dashboard button. The T6 Premier sedan features a standard rear-seat entertainment system.
Under the Hood
Both front- and all-wheel-drive 2.5T models hold a 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder that works with a five-speed-automatic transmission. T6 models get a 268-hp, 2.9-liter inline-six-cylinder that breathes with twin turbochargers. A four-speed automatic goes into T6 sedans.
Antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags for the front seats, and side curtain-type airbags are standard. A Whiplash Protection Seating System moves the front seatbacks rearward in a rear-end collision.
Understated and elegant, the S80 is spacious throughout and delivers a smooth, easy ride. When equipped with the inline-six-cylinder, responses are energetic for a big car.
Automatic-transmission shifts are smooth yet noticeable. The easy-to-drive S80 promises excellent control and precise handling, but the available navigation system's screen isn't easy to read.