The Volvo S80 was the first proponent of the 'brave New World' school of Volvo styling, bringing with it a certain level of restrained Scandinavian cool. Since its launch, the rest of the range has been updated with cars styled in a similar manner, with Volvo now enjoying an image that is as much about individual style as it is about the company's legendary dedication to safety.
At the Geneva Show
next month, the public will get its first glimpse of the all-new second-generation Volvo S80. The first official photographs shown here reveal that the new S80 adopts a thoroughly contemporary shape in keeping with the rest of the Volvo range, though perhaps a smidgen more dynamic, with a particularly smooth (some might say Audi-like) nose. The characteristic Volvo shoulder line is maintained, and together with slim new rear lights and good proportions, the Volvo S80 manages to conceal its size. It's interesting to note that despite obviously rivalling BMW, Audi, etc, Volvo are keen to point out that the S80 offers an alternative, tagging one of its unique selling points as "Scandinavian Luxury".
The Volvo S80 has never shown the way dynamically, though we found the outgoing S80
a pleasant enough drive, with the 2.5-litre five-cylinder providing entertaining grunt. That turbocharged unit is retained (rated at 200bhp and 236lb.ft of torque) and it is joined in the line-up by the new 185bhp D5 diesel we tried recently in the Volvo S60
. The big news comes with the launch of two new petrol engines. Top of the range is a V8 unit, which up to now has only been available in the US market in the XC90 SUV. It pushes out a healthy 315bhp. Volvo claims that it is the cleanest V8 engine on the market thanks to advanced electronics and four catalytic converters. Brand-new is a six-cylinder 3.2-litre, which in the new Volvo S80 produces 235bhp and 221lb.ft of torque. This same unit is to be used by Jaguar and Land Rover.
Hopefully Jaguar turns the engine through 90 degrees, as it is mounted transversely in the Volvo S80 to aid crash protection. Sadly for keen drivers, that means front-wheel drive, though the S80 V8 will have the option of four-wheel drive.
Few details of the interior are available as yet, though the S80 does adopt Volvo's floating centre console idea, albeit with leather trim. Elsewhere, the cockpit appears modern, without reinventing the whole concept of a car interior as BMW and Mercedes-Benz seem intent on doing.
Following its Geneva debut, the new S80 will be on sale in Britain by the summer. Watch out for our review on the Volvo Road Tests
Shane O' Donoghue - 1 Feb 2006