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CarWale Team, 13-Aug-2008. Car Tested: , Version:
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Introduction

Dressed in a business suit with 315bhp tucked under its hood, this really is one quick executive

Introduction  

The Americans are the world’s biggest fans of the V8 engine – think Corvettes, Mustangs, Firebirds, Challengers or even Saleen S7s that growl and roar their way down streets. Right from Bullitt to the remade Gone in 60 Seconds, V8s have adorned the silver screen as well. The Europeans have never been too far behind; you only have to hear the wail of an F430 at full chat to know that it isn’t always about torque, this V8 business. We at CarWale have revamped our road-test section, and what better way to start a new chapter than with the road-test of a V8? We didn’t land us a Yankee muscle car or Italian exotic, though – what lies under the Swedish Volvo S80’s hood is, in fact, Japanese!!!

Exterior

Unmistakably a Volvo from any angle, the design has now evolved into refined flowing lines. And do we love that muscular rear!

Exterior

The S80 is understated and has all the traditional Volvo lines. The design is markedly different from the traditional executive sedan. The big grille is quite aggressive-looking and shark-like from certain angles, and the waistline that runs from the front indicators to the flared rear fenders and tail-lamps stands out the most. (We also love the fact the the nose looks very Quattroporte-esque or Evo X – depending on whether you’re in the mood to drive to a candlelight dinner or put the fear of God into most other cars on the road!) The rear running lamps look fabulous, but it doesn’t look as expensive as it is, especially in the gray we got it in, which is not a good thing. Simple and elegant it may be, but for the Indian market, it needs to look more flashy and classy; after all, it is competing with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6. In the V8’s case, styling doesn’t matter so much because it’s going to go past in a flash anyway!

Interior, Comfort

Cliched as it may sound, this is really a Vroom with a view!

Interior

Design

The leather quality is top-notch, and the perfect driving position is easy to obtain with seats that cocoon you. But the rear is small, especially with a tall person in the front seat. It can get a little claustrophobic at the rear because of the way the roof peels back into the rear windscreen and bootlid. However, the same feeling of sitting in a smaller car helps boost confidence when driving the car, which is needed with a car this quick - it’s almost as if it converts itself from executive express to executive missile.

Fit and finish

 The materials used are fantastic and can compare with the best in the world. Tactile feel and damping of the buttons and switches is perfect, and the stitching of the leather on the seats is many notches above an E-Class’s. The leather still smelt like new on our test car even though it had 4500km on the odo – this is extremely rare. We don’t know how it’ll feel in summer, but we aren’t unduly worried, what with the powerful four-zone climate-control system. There is metal in all the right places, and the carpeting is plush. Everything looks classy and there isn’t a single bit that looks or feels cheap.

Instruments

 We love the way the dials light up, they’re one of the best sets of dials we’ve ever seen. The white LCDs and ice-blue backlighting make you feel like the car has a single-minded purpose: go fast. The dashboard has got a wonderful sense of occasion. It may seem like there are too many buttons on the dash, but it isn’t cluttered, it’s functional. All lighting is with light, pale colours that don’t hurt the eye. It’s differently and nicely done – for example, the airflow controls are in the figure of a passenger; you merely press them to direct the airflow.

Practicality

The car phone is a nice addition to the equipment; the handset nestled in the front armrest for the rear passengers is even nicer. Competitors like the E-Class don’t give you this feature as standard. The car phone doesn’t seem to be as effective as a normal mobile phone as far as reception is concerned, though. The microphone is powerful enough, and the noise cancellation is excellent. What makes it really useful is the fact that you can control all the phone’s functions from the steering wheel. DVD screens are present in the rear headrests to keep the kids happy, and headphones with individual volume controls for each of the rear passengers.

The glovebox is generous, and the door pockets are just big enough to be adequate but won’t hold anything big. There are pockets behind the front seats for papers and maps. The armrest console is big enough for CDs and miscellaneous items. There are enough cubbyholes below the centre console for phones, change and wallets. There is also a cooler that can hold a 1.5-litre bottle with ease between the rear seats, in the backrest. Useful to keep that bottle of champagne cool!

Boot space is almost non-existent because the full-sized spare wheel fills it up. Volvo has had to bung it in the boot because of ARAI laws that say a space-saver isn’t enough if the car isn’t shod with runflat tyres. However, the space saver is present in its space under the boot floor, so you can leave the full-sized spare in the garage and use all of the available boot space, and the space-saver if you ever have a flat. Even without the spare filling it up, boot space isn’t that great – it’ll swallow a couple of big bags, but beyond that it’s a tight fit.

Ergonomics

The driving position and the way controls fall to hand are completely flawless. However, one does sit a little low for the size of the car, which might intimidate short drivers. The mirrors could’ve been a little larger considering our difficult traffic conditions, despite their outer edges possessing greater curvature to eliminate blind spots. The gear shifter is great to hold and is lovely in manual mode as well.

Passenger comfort

 The front seats are great, and t he centre console m akes you feel like you’re in a cockpit, and that is certainly a good thing since this car does fly!It isn’t small, the inside, but it’s smaller than a Hyundai Sonata. For the price, a buyer will expect more space. An E-Class has enough space to stretch your legs out, but the Volvo doesn’t. There is enough head and sh oulder ro o m, but the legroom does not live up to expectations for a car in this class, but we’re not expecting some one to buy a V8 and sit in the back, so we aren’t going to complain about it.

Audio System

Studio quality sound from Dynaudio when you aren't listening to the glorious V8 singing.

Audio System

This car is a theatre on wheels! A nine-speaker system and four-channel amplifier provide enough wattage to deafen you at half volume. The surround sound can get a little flat compared to the three-channel setting and the standard setting, even with a high-definition digitally-recorded disc playing. This is one of the best car audio systems we’ve heard by far. It has a DVD player with an auxiliary input in the armrest, a six-CD changer in the console, and two headsets with individual volume controls at the rear. A tuner with AM/FM is present, but after you listen to a good CD – none of the 128kbps mp3 rubbish, mind – you’ll ignore the radio entirely, dig out the best music you have and listen to it in the car.

We really appreciate the sound staging – at the touch of a button you can configure the sound output so that it is optimised for either the rear seats, the front seats or just the driver’s seat. To put this into perspective, when you stage it for ‘driver’s seat’ you are literally surrounded by sound if you’re the driver. It sounds like you’re in the middle of the band playing the song! This is miles ahead of the Merc E-Class and BMW 5-series audio systems. It really makes the music come alive, provided you have a good enough CD.

Engine, Drivetrain, Fuel Efficiency

Need we say more!

Engine

The S80 V8 possesses a 4414cc, naturally aspirated transverse V8 that produces 315bhp@5950rpm and 44.9kgm@3950rpm. It sends its power through all four wheels, all the time. (Grin.) We haven’t driven anything like this before, it’s ridiculously fast for a saloon! It does feel restrained and in control when cruising, and it’s got bursts of acceleration that take you from zero to warp speed before you can say ‘Volvo S80 V8’. It’s the fastest saloon in India at the moment, barring substantially more expensive imports like the C63 AMG.

The engine is silent at idle and when cruising, but floor the throttle and you’re greeted with something you’ve never heard before – a delicious V8 growl to die for that makes us salivate every time we play the noise in our heads. To quote one awestruck passenger, “It’s straight out of NFS!” Volvo sent the engine back to Yamaha after development was complete because the engine was too quiet – this should tell you how refined it is!

Stick it in D in the city and it potters around like a docile pet in the city. Below 3000rpm it’s like any other car, getting from A to B in refined comfort. Overtaking will never be an issue – floor it, the gearbox wakes up and you’ve passed ten trucks before you know it!

Drivetrain

The S80 V8 possesses a six-speed automatic with manual shifts available once you tip it to the left while in D. It shifts up automatically at the redline in manual mode, and will not downshift even in manual mode if the engine is spinning above 3500rpm. Upshifts at the redline are a safety feature, but it needs to hold on to the gear a little in manual mode, because it can tend to upshift mid-corner, which will unsettle the driver. It also won’t let you upshift to fifth or sixth if you’re below 3000rpm, which is another safety feature since you’ll end up starving the engine. The gearbox is slow to respond to throttle inputs, and even when you shift manually, it takes its own sweet time to shift. We’d like to see Powershift on the Volvos ASAP, please.

The wood and chrome shift lever is fantastic – it is sculpted just right and feels oh-so-good to hold. The way the release button is integrated into the design is brilliant. It felt a little hard and noisy through the gate, especially from Park to Drive. In manual, it’s just right – not rubbery, not springy.

Fuel Efficiency

If you're out to save the planet, don't buy this car. The V8 is automotive hedonism at its very best, but imagine our surprise when it returned 9.5kpl on the highway! Must be all that Japanese know-how at work. It gave us less of a shock within city limits, where it went 5.5km to the litre. An overall figure of 6.5kpl for 315bhp is not bad at all, and we're mighty impressed - except when you give it stick. Our testing runs (plenty of stick and plenty of stupid grins) returned 3.6kpl, and gave our chief accountant a mild heart attack. We've not told him we've asked for the XC90 V8!

Ride & Handling

It was too fast for the photographer. So we had to make do with a static shot.

Ride and Handling

Because the tyres have an aspect ratio of 45, one can feel sharp ridges on the road at low speed. That doesn’t mean the ride is bad – nothing ever jars. It’s absorbent enough and gives you enough steering feel. At high speed, the suspension is a little too soft. It tends to pitch over crests, and gets caught by off-camber bumps.

At really high speeds – above 190kph in the wet – it feels a little nervous, even though it has got AWD and good feel from the steering. Maybe standing water and too much power doesn’t make for a good combination. Any road up, it isn’t as planted as an E240 or a BMW 5-series past 200kph, but we were driving in pouring rain, so that could’ve been a factor. It’d probably be a whole lot better in the dry. During our time with it, however, we never felt confident enough to push it beyond the limit because it felt a little twitchy.

Making the suspension harder would’ve made so many more bumps filter into the cabin, so we’re assuming Volvo retuned a hard suspension and made it softer for our road conditions. Fair enough, we think. They’ve done a good job with it – a very good compromise between ride and handling.

Steering feedback/response

Steering assist can be adjusted from low to medium or high. Feel from the steering is good, but nothing to shout about. It feels a little disconnected despite giving you enough information about the road. It’s dead accurate – if you want to be in a particular place, turn the wheel and you’ll end up exactly where you imagined yourself to be. With the assist set to high, it requires no effort at all to steer the car at low speed. The best of both worlds, with the help of electronics.

Ground clearance

The car is a little too low, especially the chin. It may have enough clearance, but we didn’t have the confidence to take it over large speed breakers and through deep potholes with impunity. However, it is a powerful car, and as such you can’t have a car so powerful with a high centre of gravity, so if you need more clearance, may we point you in the direction of the excellent XC90 instead, which is also available with the very same V8?

Braking, Tyres, Safety

With eight airbags, AWD and the legendary tough Volvo build quality, this is some seriously safe fun!

Braking

This car stops on a dime, as clichéd as that may sound. If you stomp on the brakes and someone’s not wearing their seat belt, well, watch out for flying objects! A car that goes this fast needs brakes this powerful. Even in the wet at crazy speeds, they’ll rein in speed effectively and without drama. They lack a little feel during initial travel, especially at low speeds. There’s good feedback beyond halfway of the pedal’s travel and then you can modulate them well. The fearsome bite needs a little getting used to, but when you find out how fast the car can be, you realise that it is necessary. A whole raft of technologies accompany and assist braking: ABS, EBD, Fading Brake Support that eliminates fade, Hydraulic Brake Assist that helps you use your brakes to the full in an emergency situation, Ready Alert Brakes that anticipates severe braking and prepares for it by moving the brake pads closer to the discs… The list is endless and effective, as is shown by the braking distance figure.

Tyres

The S80 V8 is shod with 245/45 R17 Michelin Primacy HP tyres, with a W speed rating. They have more than enough grip for most situations even in pouring rain. They don’t generate any intrusive noise at any point.

Safety

‘Volvo’ is synonymous with safety, so there’s a list of safety systems a mile long. A few are available under ‘braking’, here are some more:

DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control), Emergency Brake Lights that make the brake lamps flash under hard braking, IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System) that withholds unnecessary information like phone calls during overtaking manoeuvres, then displays it after the manoeuvre is complete. Eight airbags are present, including dual-stage airbags for driver and passenger, dual-chamber side airbags, and ‘Inflatable curtain’ airbags. There is also a soft plastic beam in front of the bumper and the engine is one of the automotive world’s few transversely mounted V8 engines for better pedestrian impact safety.

Cost, Overall Evaluation

When you're done with the regular work-week, take this hunk out on the open road and just drive!

Cost

The S80 V8 is available for a little over Rs 54 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai). The 3.2-litre V6 petrol costs Rs 48 lakh. Spares and labour won’t be cheap – this is a premium import, after all, with imported spares as well. We achieved 6.5kpl during our test, which is quite commendable given the engine, the size of the car and the way we drove it. With the V8 growl and 315 bhp on tap, acceleration is addictive!

Overall Evaluation

The first V8 in India nets you a high-speed rocket that can be used everyday, but you’ll reserve it for weekends, when you can take the kids and the wife (or husband) out for breakfast somewhere far away. You’ll buy it for the passion of driving – it’s as close to a muscle car as you can possibly get today in this country. Remove the V8 badge, and this car really defines the word ‘sleeper.’ Do we have customers who will want to spend 54 big ones on a sleeper – especially an exciting Volvo? Volvos are known for their B7R buses and big trucks in India, not cars, not just yet. If Volvo wants to make a statement in India, they should launch the C70 with the V8, that’d make perfect sense as an image builder.

That said, we love the car for what it is. It’s fast, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and it puts a grin on the driver’s face like no other car can today in this country. It is a car meant for the mature driver who respects the performance this car is capable of delivering. But the question that begs to be asked is, would an enthusiast spend 54 lakhs on a Volvo or 65 lakhs on a Porsche?

The established markets where this car sells are now preparing to scale down from V8s to turbocharged six-cylinder engines for better fuel efficiency, but we’re glad that a manufacturer is giving India the choice that anyone across the globe can make, unlike other manufacturers, and that an enthusiast with enough money can go get himself a muscle car in executive guise.

Useful touches

  • The key doesn’t need to be put in its slot to start the car. You can keep it in your pocket. It won’t eject if the car isn’t in park.
  • Auto-dim rearview mirror.
  • Painful touches

  • If you leave the car in gear without setting the parking brake and shut off the engine, the car will roll off – nothing locks the wheels!
  • Mirrors could’ve been larger.
  •  

    Test Data

    Engine Specifications

    4414cc, 8-cylinder, V8, petrol, 315bhp@5950rpm, 44.8kgm@3950rpm. View specifications

    Speedo Error

    Speedo Reading (kph) Actual Speed (kph)
    40  39.6
    60  59.4
    80  79.2
    100  99.2
    120  118.9
    140  139.3

    Max in Gear

    Gear Speed (kph)
    1st  54 (6500rpm)
    2nd  92.2 (6800rpm)
    3rd  148.6 (6800rpm)
    4th  
    5th  
    6th -

    Performance Test Data

    Top Speed  206.5kph*
    0-60kph  3.8sec
    0-100kph  7.5sec
    Quarter Mile (402m)  15.1sec
    Braking 80-0kph  33.9m/3.1sec
    30-50kph in 3rd**  2.3sec
    30-50kph in 4th   ----
    50-70kph in 5th  ----

    Fuel Efficiency

      City Highway Overall Worst
    Mileage (kpl)  5.5kpl  9.5kpl 6.5kpl 3.6kpl

    * Achieved. ** In kickdown for automatics.^ During performance tests.

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