As Volvo's flagship sedan, the 2011 S80 carries the honor and duty of packing the most technology, safety, comfort, and space of any of its four-doored road cars. It shoulders the burden well, but when taken against the grander field of the competition, it sometimes leaves the driver wanting. MotorAuthority rates the 2011 Volvo S80 7 out of 10.
From ten feet, the S80 is nothing particularly special to look at. The relatively vast expanses of metal--it's a large sedan--show only the most minimal of character lines, curves, or undulations. Put simply: it's a very conservative design. Inside things liven up a bit, with the unique waterfall center console design that puts the controls on a thin panel, leaving space behind for stowing valuables. The dash itself is quite nice as well, with high-end wood, metal, and high-quality synthetics making up the design.
That's where the excitement on the inside ends, however. It's not outright boring, but the S80 leaves a lot on the table when compared to the likes of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class in terms of performance and handling. The single available powerplant, the T6 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder that feels so strong in the S60, feels a bit less enthusiastic in this larger sedan, despite its 300-horsepower output. Combine that with handling that's best described as ponderous, and the S80 retreats quickly to luxury conveyance, leaving the sporting aspirations to the Germans. An active suspension system with Comfort, Sport, and Advanced modes does its best to firm up the ride, but the lack of communication between car and driver, whether through the seat of the pants or the steering wheel, means it's not going to light the fire the performance driver is going to want burning in his full-size luxury sedan.
All-wheel drive makes for a safe and controlled all-weather car, and combined with Volvo's advanced electronics controlling stability and traction, it adds a definite degree of safety. Mix in the high-tech elements like the optional Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and the Personal Car Communicator that can detect the heartbeat of an intruder in your car before you even approach, and the S80 rightfully holds a reputation as one of the safest on the road. That reputation is backed up further by IIHS ratings of "good" in all categories.
As you'd expect in any flagship sedan, the 2011 Volvo S80 offers a banquet of goodes: Sirius Satellite Radio is standard, Active Bending Light headlights are a standalone option, the Multimedia Package adds a 650-watt surround sound system plus navigation with real-time traffic and a rear camera system. A Dynamic Package adds a lower ride height, headlamp washers, bi-xenon headlights, and Fortuna diamond-cut alloy wheels. New for 2011 is an Inscription Package, which offers Sovereign Hide soft leather upholstery, walnut inlays, walnut steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and other bits and baubles.
After you've configured your rolling luxury salon, you'd probably like to spend some time in it, and that's one area where the Volvo S80 excels. The seats are large and comfortable, accomodating a wide range of body types and sizes, with enough cushion for comfort and enough support for long drives. The back seat is ample for two full-sized adults, with contoured seating surfaces improving comfort there as well. Ride quality is likewise very good, avoiding the over-stiff feel of a sedan too bent on performance, but side-stepping the floty, detached feel of luxury sedans of the past.
For a complete and detailed examination of the 2011 Volvo S80's qualifications to play in the luxury sedan big leagues, read the full review at TheCarConnection.