Hard to knock safety.

Like finding fault with baseball, hot dogs, apple pie or whoever wins American Idol.

Anything that can be added to a car to make life safer, and therefore longer, has to be good.

So when a redesigned Volvo S80 flagship sedan arrived for testing, we looked forward to the experience, knowing it would bring something new in the way of protection.

Volvo, after all, has that reputation to maintain.

It only took a few minutes to find the latest technology designed to improve the quality of life for Swedish flagship buyers -- BLIS.

That's not short for rapture; it's short for blind-spot information system, which uses a side-mounted camera to detect when a vehicle is in your blind spot on either side. The system proved only slightly less annoying than fingernails on a chalkboard.

With BLIS, an orange light in the roof pillar along the windshield flashes to let you know a vehicle has entered the blind spot.

And that's the problem. When in heavy traffic, the light is constantly going on and off and is a major distraction. You can push the button in the dash to render the system inoperable, but then it will not alert you to the vehicles lurking in the blind spot. Hopefully, some real world feedback will help engineers come up with a more effective warning. The system is a $595 option. Can't see a very high take rate.

Another safety system is adaptive cruise control, which a variety of cars now offer. With ACC engaged, it warns when you get too close to the vehicle ahead, either because it slowed down or you sped up. The system applies your brakes or slows your engine to keep a safe interval between vehicles. The system is teamed with collision avoidance control, which doesn't require you to engage cruise control. If too close to the vehicle ahead and an impact is anticipated, a red light in the dash along the windshield flashes and a beep sounds to get you to apply the brakes. Cost: $1,495.

There's another clever safety system called Personal Car Communicator, one of those electronic key fobs with magical and mystical powers.

Say you've just parked in front of the apartment, climbed three flights of stairs and realize you don't know whether you locked the car. As long as you are within 330 feet of the car, press the fob; a green icon shows that it's locked, a red icon that it's unlocked. A tap of the lock button then makes up for the miscue.

More important than knowing whether the car is locked, a touch of the "i" icon on the fob offers added security if alone or with the kids as you approach the car in a dark parking lot or garage. If someone is in the car, the fob detects the heartbeat and flashes red. The fob runs $495.

The S80 also comes with full-time all-wheel drive, which many would consider a safety system because it keeps you planted on the road whether filled with snow or rain. On dry roads it also means pinpoint handling and the ability to take tight corners or turns with confidence because the body sits flat with no lean or sway.

The couple inches added to the wheelbase give it a better stance on the road and put occupants a little farther from the tires' point of contact with the road, for a more pleasant ride. Dynamic stability control along with AWD provides above-average handling.

The sport package adds a choice of three suspension settings, from soft for long-distance cruising to firm for optimum road manners through the serpentine trails.

S80's roughly 3 extra inches of width and 2 added inches in height allow for a little more stretch room. But the center console between the two front seats is so large there's not a lot of room to roam. In back, knee room is tight.

Ventilated leather seats are part of a $2,495 sport package. Perforated to allow for cooling in the summer, they also hold you in place better than solid, yet slippery, leather seats.

Trunk is deep, though not real high. Second-row seat backs fold if you need cargo room. A lever in the trunk releases the seat backs, though you still have to lower them manually from inside the car.

The cargo floor lifts to reveal a spare and an ominous message: "Skyddspase for punkteract hjul." In a car that starts just under $50,000, an English translation wouldn't be too much to ask.

Nice touches include a push-button parking brake, a deep stowage container under the center seat armrest and cup and cell phone holders in front of the armrest along with a power plug.

For the first time Volvo stuck a V-8 under the hood, a 4.4-liter, 311-horsepower rocket that packs more than enough power to embarrass malingerers. It has push-button start and stop.

Takeoffs are quick. The S80 is so energetic that parents who roam the streets in other brands better prepare for the ultimate put-down when the kid in steerage whines: "Dad, you just got passed by a Volvo."

Volvo says owners have been demanding a V-8 to keep up with European rivals.

The mileage rating is 17 m.p.g. city/25 highway. It must have been rated on a really good day because we nearly got carpal tunnel from reaching for gas money.

Base price of the 2007 S80 with AWD is $47,350. Lots of standard equipment, such as side-curtain air bags; anti-lock brakes; power foldable rear-seat headrests; driver/passenger power seats, door locks, windows, mirrors (and heated) and moon roof; dual-zone climate control with second-row air vents; and rear window defroster.

The sport package option ran $2,495, audio upgrade with 12 speakers ran $1,550, ACC $1,495, the magic key fob $495, BLIS $595 and cold-weather package with heated seats/windshield wiper nozzles and rain sensing wipers at $725. With silver metallic paint and a destination charge, the sticker topped $56,000. A navi system will set you back $2,120.

2007 Volvo S80 AWD

Price as tested: $55,280*



THE STICKER

$47,350 Base

$2,495 Sport package with 18-inch performance radials, perforated ventilated leather seats, Bi-Xenon headlamps, speed-sensitive steering and three suspension settings

$1,500 Premium sound system with 12 speakers

$1,495 Adaptive cruise control

$725 Climate package with heated seats/wipers and headlamp washers

$625 Silver metallic paint

$595 BLIS

$495 Personal car communicator key

* Add $695 for freight



THE NUMBERS

Wheelbase: 111.6 inches

Length: 191 inches

Engine: 4.4-liter, 311-h.p. V-8

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway



PLUSES

- Lots of safety systems.

- AWD for above average wet-road security and dry-road performance

MINUSES

- BLIS.

- Sticker price--with or without options.