Traveling in a Family Way: 2009 Volvo S80 T6 AWD
Once upon a time, most people described their Volvo as a "safety cage with a car built around it." They were best known for their boxy looks and crash-test worthiness. It's been more than ten years since Volvo designers began smoothing the edges off their squarish designs, but they haven't softened their reputation for extreme safety.
The new Volvo S80 design is beautiful outside and roomy inside, boasting lovely wood inlays and sumptuous leather seats. The turbocharged 3.0-liter engine delivers 281 horsepower for dynamic acceleration, while a manumatic transmission allows the driver to bump the shifter up and down for more control of that power. An optional Dynaudio Dolby Pro-Logic 12-speaker surround sound system delivers exquisite sound - as well as rear-seat headphone jacks and audio controls.
The litany of standard and optional safety features available on Volvo's flagship S80 sedan might make your head spin, but the security they offer your family will keep your heart warm. Four-wheel disc brakes are so... yesterday: This car boasts an optional Collision Avoidance Package that will help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of accidents by helping to prevent driver distraction and fatigue. Collision Warning with Auto Braking (CWAB) will trigger an audible signal and automatically apply brakes when sensors indicate a rear-end collision is imminent. An Adaptive Cruise Control (AAC) keeps the sedan's speed at the designated speed while a radar sensor measures the distance to the vehicle in front and adjusts the sedan's speed to maintain the set distance. Distance Alert (DA) will maintain that distance even if the cruise control is not engaged. A Lane Departure Warning (LDW) alerts the driver with an audible signal if the car crosses lane markings without an obvious reason, such as activating turn signals. And finally, a Driver Alert Control (DAC) assesses the driver's alertness and intervenes with audible and visual signals to suggest the driver take a break. All these acronyms are packaged together to provide $1700 of incredible safety.
Another high-tech option is Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which places cameras in the rear view mirrors to alert the driver to vehicles or other obstacles that have snuck into the blind spot.
Volvo's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) fob (standard on V8, optional on other models) has won awards for its security features: it tells you whether you locked the car when you left, and confirms if it is still locked when you return. From a range of more than 300 feet away, a heartbeat sensor on the fob flickers to alert you if a human is secretly hiding inside - or if you might have forgotten the sleeping baby or family dog in the backseat. Keyless entry allows you to keep the fob in your purse or diaper bag and push a button on the dash to start the car -- ideal if you're as key-impaired as I am.
If all that's not enough for you, the sedan boasts dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and front seat-mounted torso airbags as well as a Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) in the headrests to reduce whiplash in rear impacts. Mom will appreciate rain sensing windshield wipers and one-touch up/down controls for all windows, while her passengers will enjoy dual-zone climate controls with back vents, four reading lamps, two 12-volt power outlets, and heated front and rear seats. The back seat is roomy enough for three to sit comfortably, even with front seats pushed back to accommodate tall passengers. Two pairs of latch anchors are positioned in the outboard spots, with three tethers for complete carseat-mounting flexibility. The 60/40-split rear seat folds to allow long items to pass into the back seat, while still accommodating a child seat, and a pop-up grocery bag holder helps keep groceries contained in the otherwise cavernous (14.9-cubic-foot) trunk.
The Volvo S8 is rated at 15 mpg city and 23 highway, and our weeklong test averaged about 17.2 mpg combined. Its 18.5-gallon tank could allow a cruising range in excess of 400 miles under best driving conditions. With a suggested list price beginning at $42,045, the Volvo S80 T67 AWD compares favorably against the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class luxury sedans. Our test model featured metallic paint ($475), Dynaudio package ($1650), and Climate Package ($875); adding in the $745 destination brings the grand total to $45,790 which means that this lovely luxury sedan isn't just incredibly safe, but is also competitively priced.
Volvo has indeed stepped out of its box to become a truly beautiful vehicle.