If you enjoy driving a Porsche 911,Corvette, or Lexus you will likelyenjoy the new 2007 V8 S80 fromVolvo. The naturally aspirated,all-alloy V8 runs on premium fuel andputs out 325 foot-pounds of torque. Itis a special engine that idles smoothly ata low 675 rpms to save fuel. Becausethe only gear box is a 6-speed adaptiveautomatic, the engine must showtorque at a low rpm. This Yamaha V8achieves the majority of its torquebelow 3000 rpm, and Volvo limits thetop speed to 130 mph.
Competitive Volvo V8
All S80 V8s are all-wheel drive. Theengine exhaust system seems simple,compact, direct, and efficient, yet theexhaust tones are exotic and riveting.Inadvertently, we stood by some V8s asthey fired up and moved away from thecurb. Our group stopped talking andchanged the conversation as to how wewere surprised by the terrific exhaustnotes this luxury sedan stirs up.
If you are less aggressive or don'trequire all-wheel drive, then look at thein-line 6-cylinder engine (V6), becauselike the V8, it is a naturally aspiratedengine mounted transversely in thefront for the best safety. The all-alloyV6 is especially compact and well-balancedwith a low idle speed of only 650rpm. Front engine, front-wheel driveoffers the next best traction to all-wheeldrive with noticeably improved economy.While the automatic was responsivein all modes, it is clearly designed forluxury and not as punchy as the BMWs.
Your Driving Personality
The S80's steering is rack and pinion,and the suspension is independentwith a gentle radius of movement,antilock brakes, dynamic stability, andtraction control that come standard.Like the single sport button on a BMWdashboard, Volvo offers three optionalperformance settings for the sports-mindeddriver: comfort, sport, andadvanced. There are noticeable differencesin the way these active chassiscontrols work; refer to www.volvo.com for greater details on this intelligentenjoyable feature.
Another clever feature in this activepackage is the adjustable steering wheeleffort. Through the center control panelyou can have low-, medium-, or higheffortsteering. For most of us, the bestvalue will be the 6-cylinder engine withoutall the gadgets and frills—but theair-cooled and heated seats are superior.
Thoughtful Luxury Features
The S80 is a luxury car with softcurves and earth tones, offeringthoughtful features. For those of uswho have walked away wondering ifwe've remembered to lock our car, theS80 keyfobs will notify you with just aglance—a convenient reminder offeredby no other automaker.
The interior also has a pleasant and asatisfying level of technologies. If youlike tech gadgets, Volvo offers an optionalnavigation system—the only navigationscreen that rises up out of the centerof the dashboard, much higher and inthe line of sight than in other cars, andhides away when not in use. However, itis slow to program and limited in theway it operates. Most units today offermore features and portability.
The climate controls are superior,clear, and easy to use like the audio systems.It allows the passenger easy controlto set their climate and entertainmentthe way they like. The deviatingupper and lower colors of the instrumentpanel create less strain on the eyes,and the standard audio system is superb.
Pumping up the Prevention
Volvo's history and brand identityhas always been forward-thinking togive the driver more control to savelives. This generation of new safetyalpha acronym support systems areworthy of noting: the Adaptive CruiseControl (ACC) uses radar sensors tomeasure the distance of the car in frontof you and adapts your cruise, and thesame sensor is also a Collision Warningwith Brake Support (CWBS), whichhelps you avoid a collision. The BlindSpot Information System (BSIS) alertsthe driver if a vehicle is in their blindspot, and a side warning light warnsyou if a vehicle is approaching. If youoften find yourself commuting in highwaytraffic, these systems will keep youalert and help you avoid collisions. Allof the safety options are firmly in placewith airbags and a solid frame youwould expect from Volvo.
Many of these new safety systemsare optional, so test drive vehicles withthe systems you plan on spending theextra bucks for so you know what youwant and need.
Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent researchreporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.