Volvo’s flagship, the S80, is the same size as a BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class but, in this case, makes do with a measly 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. It’s the S80 for those who clock up the miles and care more about mpg than bhp. We’re driving the D2 to see if the smaller engine makes it a bridge too far when it comes to larger luxury saloons.
Why is it called a D2?
If you’re not accustomed to Volvo’s nomenclature yet, it’s based on power: the greater the number, the more potent the engine. And of course, the D means diesel (and, oddly, petrol models have a ‘T’ prefix). So in this case, it’s the least powerful diesel, which means the 1.6-litre four-cylinder common rail turbodiesel with 113bhp and 199lb ft torque. It’s mated to the cheaper ‘Powershift’ six-speed automatic transmission, and is geared for lolling about motorways rather than the bustling metropolis.
Shouldn’t a luxury saloon be all about power?
Part of a luxury car’s remit is ability in spades, in terms of comfort, user friendliness and performance – take BMW’s i3 city car, for instance, as an example of poke still required for a car to be classed as premium. Yet what about those who can’t/won’t fuel a V8 or blown six-cylinder and want at least a modicum of opulence? Look to Mercedes, which took its excellent 2.1-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the C-class and fitted it into the larger E-class, a cat that’s about the same size as the S80 – but it has a minimum of 201bhp.
The S80 D2 trails the least powerful Mercedes by a hefty 88bhp, and while that makes the Volvo as far from potent as you can get, it’s still a premium experience behind the wheel. The cabin isn’t what you’d call opulent or extravagant, but it still passes as a luxury saloon in terms of its finish and feel. There’s the colour displays, including the crisp digital instrument cluster, firm stalks to access the menu and the 7.0in center screen with DAB radio, but to cut costs sat-nav is a £950 option, and you’ll pay extra for the long lost of safety gear on offer.
Yet the standard S80’s seats are some of the best in the business in terms of comfort and proper support, as is the thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel. There’s also loads of head-, shoulder and elbowroom in both the front and the back, and of course more practical elements include its 480-litre boot.
So what’s it like around town?
If you’re after throttle response, look elsewhere, because the D2 makes getting to 62mph feel like an annual event. With 1600kg to shift, its 12.8sec, erm, sprint is lethargic at best, but at least it’s smooth once torque decides to get things going from 1750rpm. It peaks quickly, though, with torque dropping off beyond 2500rpm: this is a car made for continuous speed, rather than flexible performance and drivability. On the motorway, it’s like flying a plane to its cruising altitude and then leaving the thing on autopilot, which you’ll notice by the drop in its agreeableness around town.
The steering prefers the straight-ahead, as it doesn’t weigh up a great deal and doesn’t tell you where the front wheels are with any measure of confidence. That said, the S80 D2 is easy to drive, with light weightings and is extremely refined in terms of both engine and exterior noise. Passengers will easily fall asleep…
If it’s that slow, the fuel consumption must be amazing?
It is. The official combined figure is 68.9mpg – a number that you’d struggle to achieve in any hatch from a decade ago. Of course, you’re unlikely to achieve this actual number, but the test result puts the D2 ahead of the any diesel-powered BMW 5-series, Audi A6 and pips the Mercedes E300 Hybrid by 0.1mpg – a car that costs another £10k. With the standard 17in alloys, the Volvo’s 109g/km matches the E300’s, too.
The S80 is near the end of its life – a replacement is due in 2015 using the new SPA underpinnings and VEA powerplants, badged S90 – but it’s aged gracefully after its 2013 refresh. If you’re a number cruncher, the S80 D2 could be for you, but we’re not convinced that you need a car so slow – the sacrifice of performance for MPG has gone a tad too far here.
If you really need the space it may make sense, but there are more entertaining cars that aren’t far off the Volvo’s efficient that can still carry four adults comfortably and make you smile at the wheel.