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2004 Volvo S80 Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

New Car Review of the 2004 Volvo S80 mid-size luxury sedan

Base MSRP Range: $37,000 to $45,000

Base Invoice Range: $34,857 to $46,324
Price Quote

MSRP As Tested: at least $45,000

Versions: 2.9, T6, T6 Premier

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

Engine Location: Front

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: 2.9-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 4-valves per cylinder, inline 6-cylinder, 194-horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 207 lb-ft torque at 3,900 rpm

Optional T6: 2.9-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, Twin Turbochargers, 4-valves per cylinder, inline 6-cylinder, 268-horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 280 lb.-ft. torque between 1,800 and 5,000 rpm

Transmission As Tested: 4-Speed Automatic with manual shift mode.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 2.9: 20/28. T6: 19/26.

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger, front and side airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, ">Antilock Braking System, Traction Control, In-Trunk Emergency Trunk Release, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Remote Keyless Entry.

Competition: Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Lexus ES300, Lexus GS300, Mercedes-Benz E Class.

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia – Automakers love to bring journalists to Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia as the roads in the region are spectacular for test drives. The persistent rains of 2003 turned this region into a verdant wonderland making the drives all the more pleasurable.

The winding, empty country roads were a perfect test for the updated 2004 Volvo S80. Despite a variety of road conditions – gravel, dirt, mud – the 2004 S80 handled very well, drove smoothly and was a pleasure to drive. In fact, I'd like to still be driving it now.

Vehicle History:

The S80 was introduced in September of 1998 and is Volvo's flagship model. It is a mid-size sedan, but it is Volvo's largest product. The changes to the vehicle represent the first major refreshing the X80 has received since the car's introduction.

The S80 is built on the P2 platform, the same one used for the S60, V70, XC70 and XC90. S80 was the first product launched on the platform and using Volvos new 'Design Language.' Their 'Design Language' presented a new look, feel, technologies and philosophy for the entire product line and a further departure from their old boxy designs toward more sleek, rounded, European structures.

Many industry and Volvo firsts came with the introduction of the S80 including; the first and only sedan to receive four NHTSA 5-Start ratings, the world's first front- and rear-seat side-curtain airbags, the first full-seat whiplash protection system, the largest EPA interior capacity of any European luxury sedan in the segment, and the first factory-installed entertainment system.

Unfortunately sales of the S80 have declined steadily since its introduction in 1998 going from approximately 36,000 in 1999 (the first full model year) down to less than 16,000 in 2002. It is hoped that the revision will reverse the trend, giving the model new life.

Changes Over the Previous Model:

According to Volvo they have made over 700 changes to the new S80 – most which would be difficult to ascertain if you were unfamiliar with the product. Most changes have been to the exterior of the car with the new front bumper and the brightwork (chrome like accents) being the most significant.

The most significant technology addition is the inclusion of the FOUR-C 'active chassis' suspension system.

Vehicle Exterior:

The most significant changes to the exterior are in the front of the car. There is a new grill and front bumper with a larger air-intake giving the car a much sportier appearance than before. In the rear there are smaller taillamps with LED brake lights for faster following-driver response.

The side moldings and bumpers are now color coordinated. They used to be black. This change gives the vehicle a more cohesive and upscale look. The side mirrors were redesigned to reduce wind noise.

Brightwork, which is the vehicle's jewelry and increases its luxurious look, was added to the front lower air intake, rear-trunk lid and door handles. These 'chrome look' accents are manufactured from more environmentally friendly materials that prove as delightful as their metal predecessors.

The S80 has always been a distinctive vehicle with its luxurious face, hood contour, gently sloping roof and notched rear lights. All of this remains with enhancements that only improve the distinctiveness of the design.

Vehicle Interior:

Some of the interior changes include redesigned door handles that provide better grip for easier opening and closing. The door panel and the dash designs are now more cohesive. The instrument panel has been updated with brightwork accents around the gauges. The light grey plastic center stack and console have been replaced with charcoal ones giving the interior a richer feel. We clearly preferred the lighter color interior to the darker one as they were significantly more elegant. I really like they way the center stack containing the climate and audio controls looks now. The refined buttons and knobs, combined with the new charcoal color and multi-tone interior is quite elegant. I like the layout. It isn't cluttered.

There is a reflection on the windshield from the top of the dash and the defrost/defog vents that is distracting. The light color interior makes the reflection more intense.

There is a new 3-spoke wooden sport steering wheel available. It really looks and feels like wood and is a worthwhile addition to any S80. We recommend it with the light color, two-toned interiors. It looks lovely.

If you really want the most luxurious S80 on the market consider the Premier version with special leather upholstery and piping, genuine walnut accents on the dash and doors, thicker carpeting and the optional rear seat entertainment system.

Ride, Handling and Performance:

Volvo has introduced the new FOUR-C active suspension system and it is mated to their Dynamic Traction and Stability Control (DTSC) to improve the ride and handling of the S80. FOUR-C stands for 'Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept.' These were first introduced in the 2004 S60 and V70R performance models. The FOUR-C system in the S80 uses sensor fed computers to control the ride of the vehicle on uneven road surfaces or to provide a stiffer setting for sportier driving on twisty roads. And it works!

The system uses a large number of sensors throughout the vehicle and on all four wheels to measure the car's speed, acceleration, lateral acceleration (sideways movement), suspension movement, steering wheel position and driver's input, the engine's torque, and degree of braking. About 500 pieces of data a second are fed into the computer. The computer then sends adjustment information to each shock absorber changing the dampening (stiffness) to suit the specific conditions. The result is an extremely comfortable ride, regardless of road conditions, and a sense of confidence when you want to push the vehicle on a twisty road. It's a lot of fun!

The FOUR-C system allows the driver to select from two settings in the S80, 'Comfort' for a smooth ride and 'Sport' for a stiffer more energetic ride. The change can be made while the vehicle is motion with the push of a button on the center console.

Volvo has improved the steering in the 2004 S80 by changing steering system providers. They now use ZF of Germany who provide systems for many of the world's top luxury cars. (ZF also makes wonderful transmissions.)


The Volvo name is synonymous with safety and we see no reason that the 2004 S80 will diverge from this reputation. It contains driver and front passenger airbags, front and side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for both the front and rear passengers. It also contains Volvo's WHIPS whiplash protection seating system and the newly required ISOFIX baby seat attachment – which Volvo has had in their cars for ages. Dynamic stability and traction control are optional on the S80 2.9 and standard on the T6 and Premier versions.

Front and rear, disc brakes are on all four wheels. An antilock braking system is included with electronic brake distribution for better control during panic stopping.

In Conclusion:

The changes made to the S80 for 2004 are all good ones that improve the caliber of the product and make it sportier at the same time. Anyone looking at competitive products should certainly consider an S80 – it is more luxurious, a more sophisticated design and has some wonderful technology.

Volvo believes that it has a tremendous opportunity with accomplished, professional women to expand the buyer base. This is probably the case as it should be a very attractive product to sophisticated women. However the company's marketing efforts to women will focus on direct mail. So, if Volvo doesn't have your name and address, you won't hear much more about the S80.

Editors' Ratings

Pros: Comfortable for long distance drives. Light color interiors are the best. Cavernous trunk. Rear seat space. New front facia is a big improvement making the vehicle look rich. Novel and versatile 'small package' holder in the trunk.

Cons: Some cheap plastic parts and surface textures in the interior diminish the automaker's luxury claim. The S80's interior feels cheaper than some of its competitors.

Annoyances: Wind noise from sunroof.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 8
  • Performance: 8
  • Price: 9
  • Handling: 7
  • Ride: 8
  • Comfort: 8
  • Quality: 8
  • Overall: 8

More Data

Where Built: Gottenberg, Sweden

Major Options: Bi-Xenon Headlamps, DSTC, DVD entertainment system, FOUR-C chassis, navigation system, premium sound, reverse warning system, sunroof, telematics, warm weather package.

Seating: 5

Number of Rows: 2

Crash Test Ratings:

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: Not Yet Tested

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Not Yet Tested

Length in Inches: 189.8

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper 4 years/unlimited mileage free Roadside Assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 2.9: 3,576. T6 and T6 Premier: 3,653.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not Applicable

Maximum Cargo Capacity in Pounds: 1,110

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not Applicable

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 21.1

Destination Charge: $685