2003 Volvo S80

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$36,455

starting MSRP

2003 Volvo S80

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2003 Volvo S80 trim comparison will help you decide.

2003 Volvo S80 review: Our expert's take

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The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

On Christmas Day 1998, I wrote about a new Volvo, the flagship S80 sedan, which I both praised (“incredibly nice”) and damned (“generic European style”).

Now, almost four years later, I’m back in the S80 sedan, and not much has changed. It still has a refined driving feel and a sophisticated, if subtle, appeal.

So, I keep asking myself, why don’t I like this car as much as I used to?

Perhaps I’ve changed, having gotten pickier and more crotchety with age.

My wife and kids might concur with that opinion, but I think the competitive landscape has made the S80 less enticing.

Certainly, buyers — or, more precisely, non-buyers, agree. S80 sales are down substantially from 2001, falling 24.1 percent from 18,494 in the first 11 months of last year to 14,037 this year. The sour economy, plus ever-more luxury SUV choices, including Volvo’s new XC90, which shares a platform with the S80, have contributed to slowing luxury car sales.

Perhaps Volvo’s problem, in particular, is that it hasn’t convinced buyers that it’s building a luxury car worth $40,000.

Our test car, a Nautic blue T6 model, had a base price of $43,935. In its class of six-cylinder, luxury-marque sedans, only the Mercedes-Benz E320 is more expensive. That’s right, the Volvo S80 T6 costs more than a BMW 530i, a Lexus GS 300, an Audi A6 3.0 or a Saab 9-5 Arc 3.0t.

It wasn’t that long ago that Volvo was making safe, boxy sedans and wagons favored by college professors who disdained more ordinary choices. A Volvo was a nice step up from an American or Japanese sedan.

Volvo still makes those kinds of cars with price tags just north of $30,000 — the S60 sedan and the V70 wagon — but in recent years it has moved downward (the under $24,000 S40 and V40) and upward (the S80) and SUV-ward (the XC 70 Cross Country wagon and the XC 90). There’s even a very expensive convertible, the C70.

Still, despite the product expansion, there’s a sameness to all these Volvos. I’m sure the automaker would call it consistency, and I don’t deny the solid, substantial feel of every Volvo that I drive. But, that trait favors the lower-end models and hurts the upper-end fare, like the front-wheel-drive S80.

Volvo certainly brings a competitive engine to this class. Although the 2.9-liter in-line six-cylinder motor is smaller than its rivals, Volvo installs a turbo-charger that boosts horsepower on the T6 to 268. That’s substantially more than any rival — most of the others have engines that rate in the 220-225 range.

On the road, the S80 T60 feels powerful, but, like its exterior styling, is more subtle than quick. The steering is a bit dull for my taste.

Leather seats and wood trim are expected in this class of car, and Volvo has a nice touch with these materials. Rear-seat passengers have a bit more room in the S80 than in the BMW 530i.

Volvo’s partnership with Dolby results in a very nice stereo syst em. Our test car had the optional ($1,000) 200-watt, Dolby Pro Logic stereo with a four-disc, in-dash CD player. It sounded good when played loud.

On the safety front, Volvo continues to emphasize the trait that brought it to prominence originally. The S80 has front and side air bags for the front-seat passengers and a head-curtain air bag for those in both front and back. The vehicle has head restraints for every passenger, and specially engineered seats up front that helped prevent whiplash in the event of a fender-bender.

The S80 is due for a redesign in 2004.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.9
  • Interior design 4.5
  • Performance 4.9
  • Value for the money 4.6
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.2

Most recent consumer reviews

4.6

High European quality with good reliability

I bought a 2003 Volvo S80 T6 (2.9L 6 Cyl. twin turbo) in 2014 that had 171K miles on it. I drove it for 3-1/2 years and it was solid and reliable. The volvo was very comfortable to drive with nice smooth ride and had a spacious interior. The engine was very powerful with the twin turbo pushing near 270 h.p. The fuel efficiency was decent getting 20 to 24 m.p.g. using premium fuel. The car was well built with high quality materials in the interior and the exterior paint was holding up well for the age of the vehicle. It was a reliable for 3 years until I started to have problems the last few months I owned it with the instrument cluster paneling going out, this is a problem on Volvo's as they age. To replace the instrument cluster panel it would have been $400. Also I suspect the head gasket was going out because the engine was loosing a little coolant and the engine oil was starting to look like chocolate milk. The A/C stopped working within the last year that I had it but this is expected for a 14 year old car at the time. One weakness of this vehicle was the turning radius. The turning was incapable of sharp turns and required many 3 point turn arounds, in other words, it had a wide turning radius.

5.0

Best Used car purchase I have made!

This vehicle was a great condition used car and a great value for 2003 with only 86k miles and I expect to be driving this one for a long time due to the condition and reliability of Volvos!

4.6

Love this car

My husband found my 2003 S80 on line, Only had 117,000 miles on it, when he mentioned that he wanted me to look at a Volvo my first reaction was No, I was picturing a older model squared wagon that I thought were one of the ugliest cars on the road, but he talked me into going and looking anyway,with my mind made up already to a solid No I was taken back when we pulled up to this silver moondust colored car,,this car was sporty, cute and very nicely designed and after I test drove it I feel in love with it. Handles and drives so good and not to mention the safety features it has.. I would recommend this car for the old and the young at heart ,,a great car for a first car because if the safety features and dependability it has. So take one for a test drive and see for yourself....youll fall in love.

See all 11 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Volvo
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Corrosion
96 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
48 months/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance
48 months/unlimited distance
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Less than 5 years/less than 80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
5 years/unlimited miles , upgradeable up to 10 years
Powertrain
N/A
Dealer certification required
170- plus point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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See all 2003 Volvo S80 articles