Volvo's largest sedan doesn't present the overbearing luxury of a Mercedes-Benz S-class or Lexus LS. Instead, it works as a very comfortable and refined everyday driver that lacks ostentation.
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Volvos still have a reputation as boxy safety cars, but the hard corners have long since been ironed out. There is still a hint of that former design choice in the grille and fenders.
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We were very impressed with this turbocharged 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine, as it delivers good economy and power. The S80 is also available with a 3.2-liter inline six and a 4.4-liter V-8.
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Visibility is very good inside the S80 due to the large windows all the way around. This design contributes to the safety of the vehicle.
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Both the turbocharged six-cylinder and the V-8 versions of the S80 come with all-wheel drive, designed to help traction in slippery conditions.
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The cabin design is particularly nice in the S80. We especially like the satin finish on the wood trim, which looks better than a high-gloss treatment, and the floating instrument panel.
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Handling isn't fantastic in the S80. The car has some aspirations to sportiness, but it wallows a bit in the turns.
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The S80 keeps it simple by only having two gauges, a speedometer and a tachometer, on the instrument cluster. Each gauge holds a monochrome display, which shows things such as the fuel level and outside temperature.
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The six-speed automatic transmission generally shifts smoothly, although we did feel a couple of uncomfortable bumps from it in normal driving, as if it was confused about when it should shift.
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The keypad on the instrument panel most goes to waste, merely serving to store preset radio stations. If the car had cell-phone integration, this keypad would be great for dialing numbers.
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These three buttons come with the Sport package, and adjust the car among three different driving modes. Each button changes the steering response, suspension damping, and transmission shift points.
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This bank of buttons lets you turn off or on some of the car's advanced safety features, such as blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, and collision avoidance.
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The BLIS light turns on when a car is in the lane next to the S80, when changing lanes would be unsafe. The light is well-positioned, right where you would see it while looking at a side mirror.
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Adaptive cruise control lets you set a cruising speed, then will slow the car down if there is slower traffic in the lane ahead. Here you can see the cruise control set for 70 mph, but the car only doing a little above 60 mph.
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The Driver Alert feature displays this coffee cup icon if it sense you are driving erratically for a long time.
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Lane departure uses cameras to monitor the lane lines on either side of the car, and sounds a triple chime if you cross over them without signaling.
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The radio display, with its paper-white background and virtual radio tuner, looks very good.
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The six-disc changer plays MP3 CDs, and even shows ID3 tagging information, but you can't browse through folders. It forces you to turn the tuning knob to go through one song at a time.
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The stock stereo system sounded pretty good. It also featured the usual controls for adjusting bass and treble levels.
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For audio adjustment, the S80 takes things a little further by offering separate five-band equalizers for the front and rear seats.
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The menu system gives you a high degree of customization, letting you change alert sounds and the distance for the collision alert system.
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