The Volvo S80 is the model that changed the public image of the Swedish car when it was launched in 1998.
Once seen as the company that built safe, square, boring cars, Volvo is now regarded as a style leader.
The Volvo S80 is a large sedan with a shape that can be described as ‘simple but effective’, especially in the cabin where it’s distinctly Scandinavian and will never be mistaken as one of its German or British rivals.
Indeed, we heard owners say their S80 can almost be described as a Swedish lounge room on wheels.
Interior space is good in the front but we would like to have seen about 100 mm more rear legroom in a car in this class.
The boot is huge and reasonably easy to load despite its length.
Handling is safe and predictable and the big Swede is easy to drive.
It copes with long distance trips with ease – Sweden is a lot larger than most people realise, particularly from north to south which feels almost Aussie-like at times behind the wheel.
It goes without saying that the Volvo S80 carries a full range of safety features and that these substantially increased over the years.
These include multiple airbags, front seats with headrests and seat-backs which collapse in a controlled manner during a rear-end crash to minimise the dangers of whiplash injuries.
All five seating positions come with pyrotechnic safety-belt pretensioners.
Drivelines are many and varied, engines come with four, five, six and eight cylinders and drive either the front wheels or all four wheels – the latter being a favourite with snow skiers in Australia.
Petrols come with or without turbocharges. All diesels have a turbo.
Automatics all have six ratios with the new model from 2007. For obvious reasons no manual gearbox is offered.
A revision of the S80 lineup in December 2009 refreshed nose with a bolder grille with bigger ‘Thor’ badge, as well as a slightly different tail.
Some added chromed trim gave it a more up to date look. Inside were trim changes and as well as new choices of colour.
The engines upgraded to meet the latest emission standards.
These Volvos are complex machines with a lot of hi-tech components so are best left to professional mechanics for anything other than basic servicing.
Insurance companies like Volvos, not only because of the protection they offer occupants in crashes, but also because a considerable amount of design work has gone into making them relatively easy to repair after minor prangs.
Volvo S80 was replaced by the Volvo S90 in October, 2016 although they remained alongside each other until mid-2018.
Some S80s may not have been sold new till early 2017, but note that date of build is how car should be valued as a trade-in or at resale time, so don’t think that a 2017 rego date applies to price.
Despite Volvo’s strong reputation in building practical station wagons the Volvo S80 is only sold as a sedan, probably to give it a ‘prestige saloon’ image, not that of a load hauler.
The Volvo V70 wagon is based on the same platform as the S80, but oddly it is slightly smaller than the sedan.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check for a full service-record particularly on a diesel engine as it’s important its belts and tensioners are replaced on time.
Look for a cracked engine mount on a V8 engine (in very isolated instances).
Check for any smoke from the exhaust on the straight six engine.
Listen for unwarranted noises from a turbo engine, particularly when you work it hard.
The Volvo S80 is generally fine on rough roads, but listen for noises from the suspension that may indicate wear.
Make sure all gear changes from the automatic smooth and are all but impossible to feel unless at low to moderate throttle openings.
Check that the AM radio stations work as there have been problems. The FM band still works even if the AM is out.
Watch out for a performance model that has been driven hard. Uneven wear to the front tyres is an indicator of harsh driving. As is a lot of brake dust on the inside of the front wheels.
Expect to pay from $5000 to $9000 for a 2007 Volvo S80 D5; $8000 to $13,000 for a 2010 V8 R-Design; $10,000 to $15,000 for a 2015 T6 Luxury; $13,000 to $20,000 for a S80 T6 Luxury; $18,000 to $25,000 for a 2017 T6 Luxury; and $21,000 to $29,000 for a 2018 Luxury.
CAR BUYING TIPS
Used car prices have generally increased during the period of new car stock shortages so hunt around for the best deal.
Start looking at adverts for used vehicles several months before you intend buying.
That way you can see the prices being asked and whether they are rising and falling as dealers need to clear stock due to overcrowding.
Keep an eye on adverts for new cars that say there are specials on particular models.
These can mean a lot of traded-in cars are taking up too much space in the yards and will be discounted to get rid of them.
If checking a used car at a dealership look at other cars on the lot.
This can give you an insight to the quality of vehicles in which the dealer specialises.
Take a slow walk around any car you’re considering, looking for obvious defects.
It amuses us how many people dive into tiny details, only to later discover a major ding somewhere on the other side of the car.
Ideally any road test of a car you’re getting serious about should be done with the engine stone cold. Early morning is best.
In their later years, cars with a reputation for being long lived and trouble free sometimes attract buyers who have no intention of ever servicing them. The next owner may suffer as a result.