Performance, ride and handling

The launch of the V60 back in January saw the debut of Volvo's new 1.6-litre direct injection motor. The new S80 T4 utilises the same Ford sourced 1596cc unit. Like Volvo's latest 2-litre units, the four-cylinder engine features turbocharging and GTDi direct fuel injection to muster an impressive 180bhp at 5700rpm, which makes it one of the most powerful engines in the Cat A class. Interestingly, Ford also uses this engine to the tune of around 300bhp for its new 1.6-litre Fiesta WRC World Rally Car.

Outright performance of the entry level S80 is reasonably sprightly - 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds and a 220km/h top speed are numbers that are nothing to be ashamed of for such a large car with a relatively tiny motor. Surprisingly, although the 1627kg S80 is almost 100kg heavier than the 1532kg V60, Volvo quotes similar performance numbers for both cars.

When compared to the 2.0T, the T4 is just seven-tenths of a second slower off the line to 100km/h and has a 10km/h slower top speed than the former's 8.5 seconds and 230km/h performance figures. On the road, the T4's on paper performance deficit to the 2.0T definitely doesn't feel as much of a gap as the numbers suggest, with the T4 having more than enough go to keep up with the fastest of traffic on our roads. I reckon that many would be surprised that such a big car with a 1.6-litre engine can perform this well.

With 240Nm of torque on tap from 1600rpm, the T4 unit equals Volkswagen's 1.4-litre twincharged units when it comes to pulling power. Despite its relatively flat torque curve, the engine does suffer from a bit of turbo lag at slow crawling speeds as the turbo takes a bit of time to suck in all the exhaust gases to spool itself up and start strutting its stuff.

Mid-range performance is strong but just like the S80 2.0T's GTDi 2-litre turbo lump, the T4 unit can feel a little short of breath and hence lose momentum at higher engine speeds. On the upside, the 1.6 unit does sound like it revs smoother than Volvo's larger 2-litre four-pot.

The T4 motor is hooked up to Volvo's familiar six-speed Powershift twin clutch transmission. Powershift isn't programmed to shift lightning quick like VW's DSG boxes but it offers smoother operation almost to the point that many will mistake it for a torque converter auto instead of a twin clutch unit.

The S80's chassis is set up more for wafting along than for spirited driving so don't expect it to be as dynamic as a BMW. It goes round corners decently enough but the steering feels wooden and is rather lifeless for the handling to be truly rewarding. Body control is lacking as well as the S80 can be quite a ‘rolly polly' in the corners.

On the upside, the S80's non-sporting pretensions means it offers a pliant ride at all speeds, offering its occupants a comfortable journey every time. In terms of ride comfort, it certainly betters rivals like the Saab 95 or the Audi A6.

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