- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Hans-Olov Olsson summarized my thoughts about the Volvo S80 when he said, “We’ve taken huge strides forward in terms of elegance and driving dynamics.” My sentiments exactly!

Of course, you’d expect Mr. Olsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car Corp., to feel that way. But the word “elegance” kept ringing in my ear during my weeklong evaluation of the S80. Another word that also rang clearly: “Wow!”

Wow is the way I felt every time I stepped on the accelerator. It’s equipped with a six-cylinder engine with moderate 268 horsepower, but it’s the twin exhaust turbochargers that give exciting acceleration to this five-passenger sedan.

The S80 was introduced about five years ago as Volvo’s first large front-wheel car. The transverse-mounted engine allows more interior space, yet the overall dimensions of the car were not large. That’s one reason it became a success.

But what makes it elegant? The new model has about 700 changes including a new engine and FOUR-C which stands for continuously controlled chassis concept. This is a tried-and-proven system used on the S60 R and V70 R models. In the S80, it provided exceptional comfort regardless of the type of road being driven. Yet, at the touch of a button, I could select a sportier mode. I could also select a more precise direct steering. But for the most part, FOUR-C was ideal. In either suspension mode, the immediacy of the turbo boost delivered unexpected enjoyment. This car handled extremely well, and I felt in complete control regardless of how hard I pushed it through tight turns.

Enough of the “Wow!” let’s get to its charm.

What makes this $50,425 sedan elegant? At the top of my list is a feature synonymous with Volvo: Safety. For me, the comfort of feeling safe and secure every time I drove this beauty is a form of elegance.

The S80 has numerous safety features such as antismash-and-grab laminated windows, dual-stage frontal airbags, inflatable side curtains, and three-point inertia-reel belts. Stability traction control, side-impact air bags, child tether seats and a whiplash protection seating system are included.

The list of safety features in Volvo cars is much more than in most other vehicles. That is why this car received five-star ratings in crash tests and was designated as a “Best Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For those who don’t consider safety an aspect of elegant, the eight-speaker 100-watt sound system might warrant attention. Or, depending on the model — 2.9, T6 or T6 Premier — there are optional improvements such as a 300-watt system and a rear entertainment DVD system with a 7-inch screen. The player is in the center console along with a television tuner and an auxiliary input panel.

My T6 model included the options of heated leather seats, power tilt/slide glass moonroof, and headlamp washer. It also had a raindrop sensor to operate the windshield wipers.

The headlights have an interesting feature: When going from low beam to high beam, the lights simply raise upward, thus illuminating farther down the road. These halogen lights are very bright in either position.

Other optional touches of upscale elegance: a DVD-based navigational system.

The T6 Premier model offers a rear-seat refrigerator, and the audio system has rear speakers or dual wireless infrared headphones for backseat passengers.

Volvo’s latest beauty has many other worthwhile features but the bottom line is this: If you can’t decide whether you prefer elegance or wow, you can opt for both with the S80.

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