- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

Although vehicles have steadily improved during the past decade, there are still only a handful of truly flawless ones on the road today vehicles in which careful planning and meticulous execution converge to create a near-perfect result. Volvo's flagship S80 is such a vehicle.

Volvo didn't make any changes worth mentioning to the 2002 S80. Why mess with success? It remains a roomy, powerful, well-appointed sedan that understates the fact that you have arrived at a point where you can plunk down $45,000 for an automobile. Neither flashy nor overbearing, it goes about its role as a sporty luxury sedan almost unnoticed.

It's handsome exterior lines aren't even as noteworthy as its smaller S60 stablemate. Its soft, conservative lines belie its sporty, let's-get-busy nature. The only stigma attached to it is Volvo's reputation for safety, and that certainly isn't a bad thing.

Three versions are offered: 2.9, T6 and T6 Executive. All three are powered by an inline V-6. In the case of the 2.9, the V-6, oddly enough, displaces 2.9 liters and generates 194 horsepower. The T6 editions use a modified 2.8-liter version of the same engine to which have been added twin turbochargers. The S80 used for this review was a T6. The T6 V-6 produces 210 horsepower and an invigorating 268 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines use the same four-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. Geartronic is Volvospeak indicating there is a manual shift gate.

Acceleration is enthusiastic. Reaching 60 miles-per-hour from a standstill takes less than seven seconds. There is a bit of torque steer (the tendency for a vehicle to pull to one side) evident under hard acceleration but not to excess.

The fully independent four-wheel suspension is tuned more toward comfort than handling. Though a bit soft, the suspension isn't sloppy. Under even aggressive maneuvers, the S80 maintains its decorum.

Anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake distribution are standard. Anti-skid control is optional and was included with the special-option group on my test T6.

The full compliment of Volvo safety features are included in the S80 base price. Inflatable curtain side-impact head protection, front side-impact air bags, dual front air bags and front seat whiplash protection are all standard. All five seating positions have a padded head restraint and pretensioners on their safety belts. The rear-seat head restraints fold down, out of the way when not in use.

Spacious and inviting, the S80 cabin is both practical and luxurious. The leather-covered seats are well-contoured, offering plenty of support. The rear seat is equally comfortable and provides adequate legroom even for taller passengers. The T6 Executive stretches rear legroom by two inches by replacing the fold-down rear seat with one that's fixed.

Large door openings make entering and exiting easy. All of the controls and gauges are conveniently arranged. The greenhouse is large, offering nearly uninterrupted 360-degree visibility. A low lift-over makes simple work of accessing the large trunk.

An exceptional sedan, the Volvo S80 is often overlooked. However, when comparing content for price with other entries in this segment, it adds value to its styling and performance attributes.

Its $42,150 base price includes virtually every luxury item offered in its class and then some. Everything from eight-way power-adjustable front seats and four-function trip computer to dual-zone automatic climate control and power glass moon roof are all part of the base price.

In addition, my test S80 had special $400 exterior paint, the upgraded surround-sound audio system ($1,000) and the T6 option package ($950) with 17-inch alloy wheels, security-laminated side windows, interior air-quality system, 10-disc CD changer, traction control and 17-inch wheels.

Adding the $625 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $45,125.

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