Posted on 12/16/02
Vehicle Overview
Volvo’s front-wheel-drive flagship sedan was introduced for the 1999 model year, and it carries on with only minor changes for 2003. During the 2002 model year, a 75th Anniversary Edition with a roomier rear seat, flat-screen TVs on the backs of the front-seat headrests and a DVD-based entertainment system debuted. A refrigerator was optional in that model. A few of the 500 cars built might remain at dealerships into the 2003 season.

The S80 was the first model to mix traditional Volvo styling cues with rounded corners and sharp creases in an attempt to establish a more modern image for the Swedish automaker. The 2.9 model has a 2.9-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, and the T-6 edition has a 2.8-liter inline-six with twin turbochargers. All S80s are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission.

Partly because it was designed specifically as a sedan, the S80 looks dramatically different than its squared-off predecessors. In the past, Volvo designed its boxlike wagons first and then changed the rear sheet metal to create the sedan models.

The S80’s compact grille reaches forward and is accented by a prominent V shape that is molded into the hood. A sharply raked back window has nearly the same steep angle as the windshield. Large taillights and crisp creases give the rear end a sharp contrast to the trimly rounded front of the car.

The S80 is categorized as a midsize vehicle because of its interior volume, but it features a spacious interior that makes some other luxury sedans look small inside. Even with an optional sunroof, headroom is ample for tall passengers. Rear-seat occupants enjoy generous legroom and useful space for their feet under the front seats. Large side windows provide an excellent view to the front and sides.

Even though the trunk lid opens more than 90 degrees, the opening isn’t particularly large; but the cargo floor is long, wide and flat. The S80’s cargo volume measures 14.4 cubic feet. Split, rear seatbacks release from inside the trunk and fold flat without removing the headrests. The rear headrests fold down with the push of a dashboard button so the driver has a clear view directly rearward, which is a handy feature.

The rear doors on the Executive Edition open wider for easier entry and exit. An Elite Option Package for the T-6 model also has the wider doors and extra rear legroom, but it includes a bench seat and fewer posh amenities.

Under the Hood
The 2.9 model holds a 194-horsepower, 2.9-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. The high-performance T-6 and Executive models get a 268-hp inline-six with twin turbochargers. Both engines are mounted transversely and team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Geartronic transmission on the T-6 and Executive versions permits manual gear changes by pushing the shift lever fore and aft.

Safety has long been a byword at Volvo. Antilock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. All five seating positions have three-point shoulder belts with pretensioners. Curtain-type airbags drop down from above the side windows in a collision to protect the heads of passengers. A Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) moves the front seatbacks and headrests rearward in a rear-end collision to help minimize whiplash.

Reported by Jim Flammang  for
From the 2003 Buying Guide