2007 Volvo S80
A rational choice for the business traveler
The Swedish Vikings were among the first business travelers. While Vikings from Denmark and Norway conquered and colonized to the west and southwest, Swedish Vikings traded to the east and southeast.
The Vikings were also renowned for their shipbuilding abilities, building vessels that were seaworthy and strong. Today, this ability is most visible in cars from the region, such as those from Volvo, a company founded by two Swedes, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson, in 1924. Their plan was to build cars more suited to Scandinavian driving conditions than what was being imported at the time.
Volvo, Latin for “I roll,” first gained a following in the U.S. with the stylish PV444, a derivative of which was a glass fiber sports car designed in the U.S in 1955, followed by the iconic P1800 sports coupe, styled initially by Ghia, made famous as the car driven by Roger Moore in “The Saint” TV series.
In 1956, Volvo introduced the 120 (sometimes called the Amazon), which was one of the first cars designed with accident protection and safety features. Innovation in safety continued: in 1959, Volvo introduced three-point safety belts to the world.
Volvo’s cars in the late 1960s and 1970s continued to hold thought leadership in safety and environmentalism with crumple zones, rear-facing child seats, collapsible steering columns, side collision protection, and the three-way catalytic converter.
Today, Volvo always gets top marks in government administered crash and safety tests. The 2006 S80 got five stars in all front- and side-impact crash tests and for its rollover resistance rating plus a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No data was available for the 2007 S80 but we expect it to perform similarly.
The Volvo S80, redesigned for 2007, is the latest from the land of the Vikings to come ashore in the U.S. It comes in two versions: the S80 3.2-liter inline six cylinder version with 235 hp and the flagship S80 V8 4.4-liter V-8 with all-wheel drive, with xxx hp and 325 pond-feet of torque. The 2007 has a slightly longer wheel baser, is one inch taller, and a bit wider than its predecessor.
Both come with leather upholstery, wood trim, power seats, and dual-zone climate control. The interior is very clean and Scandinavian modern, although the center console suffers from far too many buttons for too little functionality. Volvo’s seats are among the most supportive and comfortable we’ve seen and the rear seems more spacious than a BMW 5er or Mercedes E Class. The test model came with ventilated front seats, which add to driving comfort, particularly on hot and humid summer days.
Our test car featured an excellent audio system by Dynaudio, a Danish company known for high-end sound systems, featuring 12 Dynaudio drivers, a Dolby Pro-Logic II Processor, and dynamic power amplifiers. The positioning and adjustment of the speakers were tailored specifically for the passenger compartment of the S80 so that all occupants receive the same level of sound quality regardless of seating position. Volvo offers an iPod/USB interface for $335 although our test car did not come with it.
The interior of the S80 was whisper quiet with little or no wind noise. Gauges were well placed and easy to read with a speedometer and tachometer most prominent in the cluster. The quality of the materials, including plastics, was excellent.
Our S80 also had the optional satellite navigation system which pops out of the dashboard in the center. In the interest of safety, Volvo includes a wireless remote control that allows the passenger to control the system when the vehicle is in motion. We found the system fairly simple to use. Volvo does not use the system’s screen for other purposes, which is unfortunate as it’s well placed in the driver’s field of vision and would be more convenient than the LCD panel used for the radio and limited on-board computer.
Volvo has designed several innovative safety features which are available as options on the S80.
BLIS – Blind Spot Information System
Small cameras are mounted below both sideview mirrors to monitor traffic. As a car passes next to the S80, a small amber light near the A-pillar lights up to warn the driver. This is a good idea, esp. since the B-pillars and C-pillars of the car limit the driver’s ability to detect cars nearby and many drivers don’t know how to adjust their sideview mirrors to compensate for the blind spot.
Collision Warning System, bundled with adaptive cruise control ($1495)
Driver is alerted to a potential crash by a beeping and flashing red LEDs in the driver’s field of vision. Driving home from a meeting, a car cut across three lanes of the highway so as not to miss an exit. The Volvo’s system slowed the car and warned me just as I was about to put my foot on the brake.
PCC – Personal Car Communicator, security and the alarm includes heartbeat sensor alerting the owner if someone is in the Volvo who presumably should not be there.
The S80 felt safe, sure and predictable, but not exhilarating. It handled more like a front-wheel-drive car, thanks to its 61.5% weight bias up front and the fact that the all-wheel drive system sends 95% of the engine’s power to the front wheels under normal conditions. (BMW and Audi maintain a more balanced 50/50 split on their all-wheel drive powertrains under normal driving conditions.)
The ride was very comfortable and smooth, the car corners well, but driver is seemingly too well isolated from his surroundings. Still, Volvo still manages to inculcate a feeling of safety in every aspect of the car, including making the driver feel safer just for driving a Volvo.
The cool, clean Scandinavian interior sports simple lines and controls which aren’t too complex, except for the busy looking center console which seems to have more buttons than functions. The only thing missing was Bluetooth communications for my mobile phone; this is a dealer-installed option which my car did not have.
Driving off, I wonder: did the Vikings have ventilated seats on their voyages?
2007 Volvo S80 V8
Base price/price-as-tested $47,350/$60,105
Drivetrain Front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 4.4-liter/311 hp/32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed Geartronic Automatic
Curb weight 4,065 lbs
Wheelbase 111.6 in
Length x width x height 191x 73.3 x 58.8
0-60 mph 5.6 seconds
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 17/25
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.