Volvo’s top-dog S80 was available in its most recent generation to us Canadians from model year 2007 to present day, with numerous updates and facelifts applied to keep things fresh. Designed and engineered with a Swedish eye for practicality, sensibility, elegant luxury and safety, prime purchase considerations for Volvo’s biggest sedan included comfort, confidence, peace of mind and a top-of-the-line driving experience that flew under the radar.
Depending on the year and model in question, feature content included automatic climate control, push-button start, a sunroof, the most comfortable seats you’ll visit in the course of your day, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, active cruise control, a Dynaudio stereo system, xenon headlights with washers, and a plethora of airbags and electronic traction and stability aids.
Build quality, comfort levels, noise levels and trim materials were all fitting of a range-topping luxury sedan.
Look for the S80 with a range of engines, including Volvo’s 3.2 litre straight-six, a turbocharged straight-six, or a gorgeous 4.4L Yamaha-built V8 in earlier models. Front or all-wheel drive was available and all units got an automatic transmission.
What Owners Like
Owner reviews typically see S80 owners raving about extreme comfort, a hearty feel of safety and security, a fantastic and tranquil highway drive, plenty of space, and good fuel mileage, even from the V8 engine. The premium stereo system and high-intensity xenon headlamps are also highly rated, as is confidence when travelling in winter weather in models with the AWD system. Many S80 owners report their desire to purchase another one, some day.
What Owners Dislike
Complaints are minimal, and tend to centre around a fussy and clumsy navigation system, and a lack of North American friendly cup holder sizes. Many owners wonder if the Swedes drink coffee while they drive.
Here are some owner reviews on autoTRADER.ca.
The Test Drive
As the S80 is a top-dog car packed with numerous high-tech implements and complicated systems, plan on test-driving used candidates when you’ve got an hour or more to spend examining both the entire range of included features, and the way the vehicle drives.
Run through all electronic systems first, confirming that the memory seats, adaptive lamps, climate control, keyless start system, stereo, and anything else that runs on electricity is working properly. Plot a course with the navigation system, and pair your Bluetooth phone and call your grandmother.
Note that a bad Infotainment Control Module can cause a slew of sporadic problems with the on-screen display, stereo, steering-wheel controls and other functions related to the infotainment system.
Try the parking assist system a few times too, confirming proper operation and checking for any warning messages of system non-functionality. If any issues are noted, a faulty wiring harness may be to blame. This will likely cause a ‘Service Parking Assist’ message to pop up in the instrument cluster.
Confirm proper operation of the air conditioner, as some owners have reported premature system failure, possibly caused by a bad bearing on the AC compressor, or a refrigerant leak. Here’s some more reading. And speaking of keeping cool, rare but notable reports of cooling system leaks and overheating caused by failed fan modules were made in some online discussions, so be on the lookout.
On turbocharged models, have someone watch for smoke from the exhaust at startup, at full throttle while driving, and for a few moments after a hard drive. Smoke could indicate a problem with the turbocharger, though with sensible driving and regular oil changes, this component should last the life of the vehicle. Insist on driving a turbocharged model when it hasn’t been driven for several hours, and allow the car to idle up to operating temperature, and then a few minutes longer, before setting off for a drive. This can coax oily smoke from a bad set of turbocharger seals. Confirm that the turbocharged S80 you’re considering was treated to high-quality, regular oil changes, for maximum confidence.
Shoppers are advised to scrutinize the feel of the S80’s brake pedal while applying light, moderate and full braking, noting that a soft pedal, or a pedal that goes to the floor, as well as weak braking performance, can be caused by a leak in the brake booster or a connected vacuum line, and is a safety concern. This somewhat common issue may be evidenced by a loud hissing sound as the brakes are applied. Thankfully, owners say this issue isn’t difficult or expensive to address.
Listen closely to the S80 you’re driving at low to moderate speeds for unwelcome noises from the rear of the vehicle, which could be the result of a bad wheel bearing and hub assembly, and though rare, could also indicate a problem with the rear differential on AWD models. Note that clunks and popping sounds from beneath the car are a typical sign of suspension bushing wear, and that the S80 has been reported to consume front control arm bushings at a faster than expected rate by some owners.
Here’s a thread in which a potential shopper asks the owners community on a Volvo forum what to look out for when looking for a used S80 from this generation. The gist? There are a few well known issues, but nothing alarming or systematic.
Talk to the seller and ensure they’ll be okay with you taking the car to a Volvo dealer for a pre-purchase inspection if you short-list their model for purchase. The cost of a pre-purchase inspection is worth the peace of mind, and numerous owners suggest that a Volvo mechanic is the best person to help guide your final decision on a particular model. Quickly, they can check the condition of major components, fluids, electronics, and consumable parts like tires and brakes, possibly identifying a problem you, or even the seller, wasn’t aware of.
Which engine? Many owners recommend sticking to the 3.2L or 4.4L naturally-aspirated powerplants. Notably, the straight-six is easy to work on for do-it-yourself types who like to do their own work (spark-plugs, oil changes, etc), and offers a decent blend of power, mileage and refinement.
This one looks like a relatively solid bet on a well-loved luxury sedan that can be bought with confidence with a thumbs-up from a Volvo mechanic.
Here’s a hearty list of recalls.
Crash Test Scores
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2014)