First Drive: Volvo S80 D4

The S80 has been around for a while now but Volvo has been a smart operator and regularly refreshed the big barge’s looks to keep it fresh in what is a fiercely competitive market.

The Volvo S80 D4's diesel engine boasts small-car economy without sacrificing performance

While there’s nothing earth-shattering to report on the current S80 if you’re looking for radical visual changes, the big news centres on what’s under the bonnet.

New from the ground up, Volvo’s home-grown four-cylinder diesel unit is a big deal for the Swedish firm. Boasting low-friction internals and benefiting from years of in-house research and development, the company is now capable of challenging its closest premium marque rivals when it comes to fuel economy and emissions.

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The Drive-E 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the S80 produces a healthy 181bhp and, crucially, boasts small-car economy and emissions figures of 70.6mpg and 104g/km CO2 respectively. Opt for the new eight-speed auto and the figures rise slightly but you’re still in compact family hatch territory.

Quality, safety, practicality and, more recently, style have traditionally been given greater importance by the S80’s maker. The car’s plush interior and equally plush ride distance themselves from the attributes of the more overtly sporting competition. For many seeking a refreshing change from the massed ranks of ultimate driving machines, this will be a good thing.

And alongside Volvo’s safety credentials the Swedish firm has started to ramp up its activities in the technology arena. Slick displays and controls have been partnered with clever mobile apps and infotainment systems so you can get the best out of the premium ownership experience.

The S80 isn’t a small car but it puts its size to good use. The large Swedish saloon boasts a capacious boot and, as you’d expect, a spacious cabin. With one eye on the fleet and private hire market, it’s good see that there’s plenty of room in the back. Conditions are equally enjoyable up front, which will be good news not just for occasional drivers but also for those who will view their S80 as a mobile office and workspace.

Key to the appeal of this particular S80 is its smart new diesel motor. Quiet and punchy yet economical, its performance transforms the S80 from being just another saloon in the office car park to a genuine contender once again. Don’t expect it to deliver on-the-limit thrills, though. This car is all about comfort, something all too evident from its plush, comfortable seats.

Still, a relaxed approach to driving will hopefully ensure you extract the maximum from the D4 diesel motor. While the all-new eight-speed auto is the way to go for maximum comfort, you’ll make the most savings with the six-speed manual. Thankfully it’s not a chore to use and, combined with the engine’s ample torque reserves, you can waft along with minimal effort.

Undercutting the German opposition by a pleasing margin, the S80 in Drive-E D4 guise also trumps its rivals when it comes to cost of ownership matters. The bottom line is that you’ll pay less in the showroom and at the pumps. Company car drivers should be pleased to hear that they’ll hand over less of their hard-earned money to the tax man over the course of the ownership period, thanks in part to the car’s low CO2 rating. All in all, it’s a car you can’t ignore.

Cost-conscious business 
operators and company car drivers keen to hold on to their cash should seriously consider this particular S80 if size and savings matter.

If you need a big car but don’t want to pay big-car money, the S80 will surprise and delight in equal measure. Sporty alternatives will cost more and you won’t always feel as refreshed at the end of a long journey. The S80’s plush ride and refined cabin should prove the refreshing change you need.


Price £33,720

Engine 2.0-litre, 4cyl, turbodiesel, 181bhp, 295 lb ft

Performance Top speed 140mph, 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds

Economy 70.6mpg combined

CO2 emissions 104g/km