There are three petrol engines to choose from - including a turbocharged 2.5 and the 3.0 T6 that comes with all-wheel drive - but the diesel versions make the most sense. Both the D3 and D5 accelerate smoothly but the D5 is rather raucous. The 1.6-litre diesel is smooth but slow.
The S80 grips and handles well enough, but the steering on all versions is vague. The ride can be jittery at low speed and over poor road surfaces, but on the motorway the big Volvo is fairly relaxed.
The S80’s cabin is fairly peaceful on the motorway, with little road- or wind noise to distract you. The suspension clonks over poor surfaces, however. The petrol engines are easy on the ear, but the D3 and D5 engines are boomy when worked hard.
The S80 is competitively priced, but depreciation is heavy compared with that of its German rivals, pushing contract hire rates up. It’s better news when it comes to maintenance costs, thanks to lengthy servicing intervals of two years or 18,000 miles. Company car tax bills and fuel economy are mostly what you’d expect for a car in this class.
The S80’s cabin is showing its age, and is nowhere near as classy as the inside of a BMW 5 Series or an Audi A6. It does feel solid, though. The S80 didn’t fare well in the 2011 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, finishing bottom of the executive class.
Given Volvo’s reputation for safety, it’s little surprise that the S80 has stability control, six airbags and active anti-whiplash head restraints as standard. Among the options are sensors that warn if a vehicle enters your blind spot, and adaptive cruise control that keeps you a safe distance from the car in front. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted to all models to discourage thieves.
Most drivers should be able to get comfortable thanks to a seat and steering wheel that have plenty of adjustment. The switchgear is easy to reach and well laid out, but the Sensus infotainment system isn’t all that intuitive. The thick windscreen pillars also badly restrict forward vision, and the driving position is rather high.
The S80 is a big car and can seat four in comfort. Boot space could be more generous, but the rear seats split and fold 60/40 so you can carry larger loads. Oddment storage is also good, but the main bin between the driver and front passenger can be fiddly to open.
The entry-level ES models come with climate control, cruise control and a posh MP3-compatible stereo – while SE Lux adds sat-nav, xenon headlights and rear parking sensors. Top-spec Executive versions feature leather upholstery (with an in-built massage function) and a premium 12-speaker stereo.
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It would be good if the DRIVe S80 had a bit more oomph, but its exceptional economy, competitive pricing and spacious, comfortable cabin still make it a great company car choice.