Volvo S80 2.5T – Safe Does Not Necessarily Mean Slow

Volvo S80 2.5T – Safe Does Not Necessarily Mean Slow

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Those of us that are old enough will remember the days when Volvos were built like tanks – if you happen to hit one with any other car, you are likely to be worse off. Whilst others would boast of how many horsepower they had, or the zero to sixty in how many seconds (back then we were still on miles per hour), the Volvo owner would be saying, “It’s not the fastest or most powerful, but safety is important to me.” Whilst it is true that safety is one of the core values considered when purchasing a car, it does not sound as grand as ‘zero to hundred in 7.5 seconds’ – perhaps we all want to portray just that little bit of flamboyance in the company of others– having steadfast values seems very ‘establishment’, or is equal to being boring.

Safety remains very much on the high priority list in the design of any Volvo today, and even though most reputable automotive brands have some of the safety features found in Volvos, you are likely to find that in any category or class, the Volvo will have more. Just for the record, it was Volvo that first designed and introduced the three-point seatbelt in 1959, and unselfishly released the patent on it to allow all other car makers to freely use it in their cars in the interests of safety. Today, Volvo continues its relentless quest to enhance not only vehicle occupant safety, but pedestrian safety as well. As an aside, I have just returned from Portugal after testing one of the latest Volvo cars which has an innovative pedestrian safety feature, but an embargo forbids me to go any further on this matter. On an aside, you won’t have to wait much longer, as the car in question is due here very soon. How soon? Stay tuned!

The new Volvo S80 2.5T, face-lifted and launched recently here in Malaysia, is perhaps one of the cars that you might want to consider if you want to have a very safe car, but don’t want to be left out of conversations when it comes to performance. Mooted as the “fastest sedan in its class”, the S80 2.5T comes not only with the Volvo safety we all know about, but with engine and drive train enhancements as well.

The S80 comes equipped with a 2.5 litre turbo charged 5-cylinder engine, upping the horsepower from the previously naturally aspirated engine of the same capacity from 200hp to 231hp. Torque increase as a result of the turbo is also increased from 300 to 340Nm. The wonderful thing about turbo charging an engine is that usable torque comes in relatively early, and it stays there throughout the rpm range, in this case, from 1700rpm to 4,800 rpm. The zero to 100km/h dash is accomplished in just 7.5 seconds now, hence the new product tagline above. Top speed, for safety reasons, is electronically limited to 210 km/h. (not to my liking, but this is Volvo). Coupled to a 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, the S80 2.5T provides exhilarating driving performance – and you can look your so-called friends in the eyes now, with your new S80 bragging rights.

In terms of exterior looks, there are some tasteful additions of chrome to the body trim that make it look a lot better – and the base shape of the S80 is Volvo’s best to date. With a raised waistline, a coupe-like silhouette, and a slight downward rake from rear to front, the Volvo S80 2.5T stands out in the crowd. In terms of size, the Volvo stands a little under 2 inches taller than the Mercedes E-class and the new BMW 5 Series. It is as wide as the BMW, but is just under 2 inches shorter than the BMW, and slightly more than half an inch shorter than the Mercedes-Benz E Class. During the recent media drive which took us from Petaling Jaya to Penang, Volvo Car Malaysia ‘dressed up’ one unit with optional rims and tyres, and racing stripes – the end result was a very handsome car that took centre stage.

Inside, the fittings are very Volvo, with the traditional slim centre console, climate control air-conditioning, a push-button start/stop, and the keyless entry/start function allows you to keep the keys in your pocket while driving – for convenience, there is a key slot next to the start/stop button. Wood inlays, tastefully placed on the dashboard, centre console, air-conditioning vents, and along the outer edge if the steering wheel add to the sophistication and luxury, complemented further by the large contoured seats bound in soft leather. The driver and front passenger seats are electrically controlled, while the driver has a three position memory function. Legroom is very generous, as expected of a car of this size. A thoughtful feature is the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) – at the touch of a button on the remote, the car owner can instantly check if the doors are locked or unlocked, if the alarm has been activated, or if the alarm has been set off, and someone is in the car.

The S80 2.5T comes packed with a host of safety features. In addition to the ABS and related systems like EBA and EBD, air-bags and side curtains, side Impact Protection (SIPS), Whiplash Protection (WHIPS) there are many innovative features to make the Volvo S80 T5 one of the safest cars around.

New is an Adaptive Cruise Control system (ACC) – at speeds above 30 km/h, the S80 automatically keeps to a driver pre-set distance (based on time interval) to the vehicle ahead. Time interval is used, as the ‘safe’ distance interval would vary according to vehicle speed. The ACC is adjustable to five different time intervals. Also new is Collision Warning with Auto Brake (CWAB) – designed to help avoid rear end collisions, or minimise the impact of such collisions. If the car approaches another vehicle and the driver does not react (the distance is worked out by a radar sensors and the system works out the safe distance according to a speed/distance relationship), then the system provides an early warning using audible and visual signals. If the risk of a collision increases despite the warning, the brake system is activated.

Driver Alert Control (DAC), and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) – activated a t speeds over 65 km/h, the DAC system senses if the driver is drowsy (by monitoring if the steering starts to wander to the left and right), and emits an audio warning with a suggestion to stop for a break (an image of a cup of coffee appears in the on-board display). The LDW warning uses cameras mounted in the windscreen to detect the lines on the road, and should you go over them, an audible warning is turned on. However, if you intentionally change lanes, activation the indicator lights overrules the system.

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) uses cameras mounted in the door mirrors to register if another vehicle is in the blind spots along the side of the car, and helps to prevent accidents from occurring. When the steering is turned, Active Bending Lights turn in the same direction to help improve illumination on dark and twisty roads.
On the road, the S80 2.5T is stately in terms of ride and internal ambience. You sit in luxurious executive comfort, and enjoy the interior quietness or the excellent sound system as you glide along at regulation speeds. Should you want to liberate yourself for a while, just put your foot down, and the turbo stacks all of the 231 horses together, for you to stamp your authority on the road, and you get that kick-in-the-pants feeling as your body gets pushed into the seat. It is not like the kick you would get from a Porsche Turbo, but it is an exciting enough sensation – in the process, you would also be leaving most of the cars on the road behind to eat your dust.

The S80 2.5T can cruise comfortably at between 180 to 200 km/h the whole day, being geared for high speed cruising at relatively low engine speeds. What it could do with is the option for selecting different suspension settings, available from Volvo, but not in the local version – the suspension, whilst very good at low and medium speeds, is not stiff enough at the higher speed spectrum – our Malaysian highways to tend to have undulations, and around corners, these undulations do cause the tail to buck up and down if one is driving fast.

Fuel consumption, based on the current specifications, is rated at 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres – under local conditions, wherein we drive with air-conditioners on, expect to get around 11 to 12 litres per 100 kilometres. On the media drive, which went through a combination of trunk roads, highways and city driving, plus some exuberant driving styles, the full tank of petrol got us through the 410 kilometre route from Petaling Jaya to Penang with slightly more than a quarter tank left in the 70 litre fuel tank. On the return journey which covered 390 kilometres, the S80 I drove at a steady pace had a little less than half tank when I arrived. What you get really depends on how you drive – a light foot and steady throttle versus a heavy foot and pedal-to-the-metal type driving can yield huge differences – one of my early adventures with my fellow media friend, Paul Si in two Golf GTi’s on a trip to Penang is a case in point – I arrived with the reserve light showing, whilst Paul’s car had more than half a tank left.

In a nutshell, the Volvo S80 2.5T is a great car – that is, if you want the reassurance of having one of the safest cars in the world, yet, every once in a while, you have that need for speed, and need to express yourself. At RM295,000, it also is one of the most affordable continental mid-to large sized sedans available.


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