2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review – Updated Swedish Exec Gets Greener

Super-comfortable, luxurious and refined cabin, D4 engine is superb, lovely drive, safe & tough, well-priced

Exterior still dated, ridiculously-placed lumbar support controls

Volvo S80?

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8354

The S80 was launched in 1998 and headed up Volvo’s range of cars as the leading executive model. It’s big, luxurious and safe and from the beginning sold well as an affordable luxury car. For 2015 the S80 benefits from a facelift and a more sophisticated look, plus two new engines added. We were sent the 2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux to review and find out if it’s as nice to drive with the all-new D4 diesel…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8356

The 2015 S80 exterior design continues on a very similar line to the original first-gen car, although more aerodynamic, less boxy and more sophisticated. There’s not huge amount of difference in appearance to the last version, and the updates are fairly subtle at first glance. Take another look though and you’ll see new bumpers front and rear, with wider upper and lower grilles, chunky styling sections each side of the front which house slivers of chrome trim, while a slatted lower grille holds new daytime running lights.

Aside from this there’s the same big, beefy front end as before. The S80 gives an impression of solidity and strength, and to extent it’s quite a muscular looking thing. For myself and others, the S80’s bulky and strong design emphasises its physical strength in terms of safety – and this is a very safe car. If you want todo a quick test of how solidly-built the S80 is, tap your knuckles against the panels and you’ll hear a much duller thud than most cars, which again reemphasises the fact you’re buying something very well built.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8345

The S80 actually looks best from a rear three-quarter angle. The wide rear has big, shapely (and super-bright) LED light clusters, a high boot lid and twin exhaust exits (on this version) for a sporty look.The C-pillar is massively thick, and a heavy shoulderline runs fully front to rear for a uniform appearance. On the subject of those rear LED lights, while it’s safe to have them nice and bright, I can tell you from the personal experience of being sat behind one in stop-start traffic – and the S80’s driver holding his foot on the brake the entire time – that they are ridiculously, unnecessarily glaring when you are sat a few feet behind. After 15 minutes of their brakes being on, my vision had red spots when I looked away, and I started with a headache. With all Volvo’s tech advancements, surely they can come up with a way limit their brightness when in nose-to-tail traffic?

I can’t describe the S80 as handsome, or particularly striking either, and in actual fact when comparing it with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q50 or Audi A6 it’s really quite conservative. Whilst I realise that Volvo have their own unique and distinctive clearly identifying designs that run throughout the range, I also believe the S80’s exterior needs to be more modern, and perhaps less subtle than it is now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In fairness the Volvo S80 looks better in the flesh than in photographs, and it certainly makes an impression as a big exec car when you’re next to it. To make the most of its looks, choose the colour wisely, and pay the extra for a set of the 18-inch wheels, as they make a world of difference to the appearance.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review front seats and drivers controls

 

I’m almost always impressed by the cabins on modern Volvos, due to their good build quality, styling, and use of quality materials. The S80 is no different, with even the base D2 version getting beautiful full leather seats and milled aluminium trim as standard. Personally, I love the ‘Soft Beige’ (cream) coloured leather as it just adds that extra bit of class.

More standard kit includes electronic climate control with an air quality system and pollen filter, Sensus navigation system with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB and aux inputs, plus a high performance sound audio system. So, even if you opt for the lowest S80 you’re still getting a great interior that looks identical to the higher models.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Opening a door of the S80 and you’re struck by how nicely styled the interior is. Our test car had the optional walnut wood trim, and whilst it might not be to everyones taste there’s no denying it’s well done. The walnut is deep and rich, with a thick layer of lacker to keep it that way. The centre console is edged with beautiful satin-finished trim, and every button and knob presses or turns with such positivity that you can’t help feeling there’s much care and attention gone into almost every aspect of the S80’s cabin.

Only one thing caught my eye as being a little out of keeping and that was the slide-back lid of the storage compartment in the centre console, which in walnut looked like the roller-shutter on Seventies desk.

The steering wheel is just the right diameter, and is extremely comfortable, which may sound  like a strange thing to point out but if you used it, you’d know what I mean. The 11 controls on it are clearly marked and user-friendly – exactly how those controls should be. The aforementioned ‘floating’ centre console looks great but as I mention in our other Volvo reviews there are too many buttons on it and to a large degree it goes against Volvo’s push for having the safest cars on the road as it can be distracting finding what you want.

Back onto positive stuff, and the infotainment screen combines super-sharp, contemporary graphics with intuitive menus and a simple, yet brilliant idea: a digital car user-manual! Why is this not on more cars? The instrument panel features mainly digital gauges and info screens, which are well laid out and highly readable, and they’re also customisable too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Slide into either of the superb-looking front seats and you’ll let out a sigh of contentment. They’re are exceptionally comfortable yet supportive at the same time. Every passenger I had loved the front seats, and there’s only one rather stupid point that I can only see as a mistake by Volvo: the lumbar adjuster wheel is placed on the inner-side of the seats and mostly blocked by the centre armrest thus making using it an absolute pain to turn. Considering Volvo’s high attention to detail, this is a very strange thing to do.

Onto the rear seats, and they are also wonderfully comfortable and you sink into them in a very satisfactory way. The backrest is also reclined at an almost-perfect angle, and any passengers had nothing but positivity for them. Thoughtfully, there are variable air vents in each B pillar which seems like a small point, but it goes a long way to making the journey a more pleasant one for those in the back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Viewing the car from the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking boot space was large. However, it’s not huge at 480 litres, and as this is a saloon the boot is fairly wide and long, but vertically is lacking and therefore much limits what can go in. Picking two people up from the airport, their two large suitcases almost filled the boot, and I definitely wouldn’t have fitted a third in, even if it was a small one. The rear seats do drop down for more room but you’re still very much limited over a hatchback. One redeeming feature is the flip-up partition which stops shopping bags and other gear sliding all over the boot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All said though, I still really like the S80’s interior. It’s clearly high quality throughout, there’s a lot of class about it, and even though it’s maybe not as modern-looking as some of the other executive models out there, it’s nicely styled and there’s a good degree of character about it, which is more than a few of the others can say. I believe it’d benefit from a touchscreen and doing away with a lot of the button on the floating console though.

Engine & gearbox

From 2014 onwards, Volvo’s are starting to go over to their new Drive-E engines. From now on, petrol and diesel engines will be the latest two-litre, 4-cylinder units. Two engines will replace the current eight available, but they will obviously also be available with more or less power. If you’re fearing tinny, gutless engines, fear not, as Vovlo reckon the supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine will be available with V8-like power, and it’ll also feel like a big naturally-aspirated engine. The diesels are also twin-turbo so there’ll be a heaps of smooth torque available too. Drive-E diesels will range from 120 to 230 horsepower, and petrol versions will start at 140 hp and go all the way up to 300+ bhp.

The new D4 diesel engine features world-first i-ART technology that helps to cut fuel consumption. With pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of using a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail, i-ART makes it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel injection per combustion in each of the four cylinders. The new 4-cylinder engines will be 50 kilograms lighter than a V6, and smaller too, whilst providing big power and torque throughout the rev range.

From the ground up, the 2014 onwards Drive-E engines (built at Volvo Car Group’s engine plant in Skövde, Sweden) are prepared for future electrification from the start. Key components, such as the Integrated Starter Generator, can be connected easily – and the compact size of the four-cylinder engines means that the electric motor can be fitted in the front or rear of the vehicle. The battery pack will be located in the centre of the car.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8214

There’s also a new 8-speed gearbox available, and it’s a clever thing too. Above 40 mph (65 km/h) ‘Eco Coast’ mode kicks in, disconnecting the engine brake and allowing coasting. Less resistance means better economy, and not having to accelerate back up to speed as much as before. Neato. The S80 comes with three types of diesel engines: D2 & D4, which are 4-cylinder, and a 5-cylinder D5.Our tester had the D4 diesel with the 8-speed Geartronic ‘box, and the car is driven through the front wheels. Power is 181 hp at 4,250 and 295 lb ft (400 Nm) of torque at 1,700 – 2,500 rpm. 0 – 62 mph is completed in a respectful 8.4 seconds and it’ll go on to 140 mph v max.

Fuel economy (UK mpg) stats are: urban: 62.8, extra urban: 76.3, combined: 70.6.  CO2 emissions are an impressively low 113 g/km (104 with the manual ‘box), which equates to just £30 vehicle tax per year here in the UK currently (Aug. ’14), and £20 for the manual! Plenty of torque to play with then, and it’s rather decent at sipping fuel apparently. How’d it do on a real-life test though?

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8412

If you buy an executive-type car, you’ll be expecting a few basics: comfort and luxury along with a refined ride and competent handling. Gone are the days of executive cars equalling a soft ride but wallow-mobile handling. Drivers now (rightfully) expect their luxury car to transport them to their destination in a deft manner without being thrown all over the cabin.

Whilst the Volvo S80 is in the mid-sector of exec cars, I still expected it to be better the average lower-priced family saloon in terms of cruising comfort and refined ride. The test car we had came with the optional new-for-2014 8-speed Geartronic transmission, which costs £1,550, and it also had the £1,000 Active Four-C Chassis (Continually Controlled Chassis Concept). The Four-C system was developed with Öhlins Racing AB, and each shock absorber is electronically regulated individually, damping from soft to hard in 1:25th of a second, working with the DSTC  (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) and other sensors which read a massive 500 impulses per second to ensure the S80 is fully composed over bad road surfaces. It minimises body roll around corners and and keeps the body level with the road surface under heavy acceleration and braking, avoiding the nose and tail squatting or dipping.

It’s all good on paper, but let’s break it down in a real-life test. In front of the gear selector are three buttons for the Active Four-C system: Comfort, Sport, Advanced. Selecting Comfort mode, we drove down those type of old cobbled roads that’d rattle an old car and its occupants to pieces. Comfort mode soaked up the road remarkably well, and it’s also obviously worth using on a long motorway journey too. Sport worked as it sounds, firming up the suspension, and was best used on those type of country roads with long, winding bends that aren’t quite tight enough use Advanced mode, but where less body roll is welcome.

Pointing the front-wheel-drive S80 down some really tight and twisting roads, Advanced mode puts handling over comfort, firming up the suspension for the least body roll possible, and allowing sharper turn-ins. In any of the 3 modes though, the system will kick into action and react to emergency situations where heavy braking or turning is needed, and keeps the car from rolling around less and keep the tyres in contact with the road.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8241

While it does work decently enough, at £1,000 it is not a cheap option and for the vast majority of time we kept it in Comfort mode anyway, regardless of the road, only occasionally using Sport. You have to think, will the typical owner of an S80 really be blasting their car down twisting roads at high speed enough to warrant having a Sport or Advanced setting? I doubt it. I can see it being used on something more sporty and powerful like the V60 D6 Plug-In Hybrid or the V40 T5 R-Design, or even on Volvo’s XC60 and XC90 as SUV’s do tend to roll about more naturally. But on an S80? Unless they bring out a really powerful version, I reckon the standard suspension will suit just fine.

Put your foot down, and the D4’s 181 hp and 295 lb ft (400 Nm) of torque pushes the S80 down the road well. The torque kicks in low down, and you’ll ride a strong, smooth and steady wave of it throughout the rev range thanks to the twin turbo’s, meaning getting up to motorway speeds and overtaking requires surprisingly little effort. Power at high end rev-range of the rev range is also nicely accessible, with the engine revving easily and freely – and strangely more akin to a petrol than a diesel.

On a motorway run, the S80 turns into a great cruising machine, providing a reassuringly planted, quiet and refined ride at higher speeds, the engine entirely unstressed thanks to the 8-speed gearbox. On that note, whilst for the majority of the time that Geartronic transmission shifts smoothly, I did notice that a few times at lower city speeds that the changes were jerky and slightly hesitant, almost like it was deciding on which gear to select before accelerating again. A good ‘box overall, but there are a couple of gremlins that’ll perhaps be ironed out in future.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8367

The S80 Volvo provided for testing also included the optional £1,900 Driver Support Pack. Whilst this is not exactly a cheap box to tick when speccing your Volvo S80, I definitely believe it’s worth the extra as it takes the car from very safe to super-safe for both passengers and pedestrians. Why? It has Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, DAC (Driver Alert Control) with Active High Beam, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information Display, plus my favourite feature: ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and Distance Alert and Queue Assist (Automatic only).

The adaptive cruise control is one of the best out there, braking and accelerating both intelligently and fluidly, in a way that feels like it’s a really good driver doing it. Whilst the systems on some other cars are overly sensitive and not quick enough to react, the Volvo version inspires trust and confidence in the system. You can also use it in stop-start traffic by simply pressing a button on the steering wheel to get going again. Clever, and cool.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8361

Finally, the D4 engine is touted as being very fuel-frugal, and it is. The fuel gauge has 9 light bars, and after 212 miles it had only dropped off two of those, and at 355 miles we’d only used half a tank. Most of those were mixed driving routes, and without us particularly trying to be frugal. On the said mixed run of town traffic, short motorway hops and country road driving we were averaging 50 mpg, which I though good considering the horses were not spared. The S80 had less than a thousand miles on it when delivered, so I reckon it’ll get better as the engine beds itself in.

The stop/start system is worth a mention, as it’s extremely quick to re-start when setting off again, and you don’t need to move over a certain speed or drive a certain distance for it to cut the engine again, like some cars do.

Price

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8233

(prices August ’14) I only checked out the price of the S80 after I’d had a day or so with it, and was surprised at the £33,770 asking price for our D4 Geartronic SE LUX. That seemed pretty damn cheap for a car that well built and that well-spec’d. Prices for the Volvo S80 start at £30,720 and go to £36,835 for the D5 Geartronic SE LUX.

However, it’s fairly easy to push that price much higher by ticking just a few option boxes: Driver Support Pack: £1,900, Security Pack: £750, 8-speed Geartronic Transmission with start/stop: £1,550, Active Four-C Chassis: £1,000. And the list goes one. In fact, our test car had just shy of £10,000 worth of options on it – a staggering amount on a mid-range car! Personally, my main ticked boxes would be the Driver Support Pack, Winter Pack with Active Bending Lights, the Security Pack, and perhaps the Harmon Kardon sound system if I was feeling flush.

Prices for similar rivals start from: Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 250 CDI: £36,000, Lexus GS 300h: £31,500, Infiniti Q50 2.2D: £28,000, BMW 520d SE: £32,000, Audi A6 S Line 2.0 TDI ultra: £32,000.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux verdict & score

I like the modern Volvos. They’re beginning to pull in a younger generation with cars being slightly cooler thanks to R-Design lines, stylish interiors and Polestar power upgrades. While it’s plain the S80 is aimed at a certain type of buyer – the ‘settled’, let’s say – I still think it’s waning against both rivals manufacturers offerings and its own range. The S60, for example, is more modern-looking and the interior as attractive as its bigger brother, and in the right spec looks executive enough.

The trouble is, the shape and design differs very little to when the second-gen 2006 version landed and it didn’t need another facelift – it needed an entirely overhauled and modernised design. However, on the positive the S80 is competitively priced, the luxurious and refined cabin uses high-quality materials, is very well made, is more stylish and interesting than most of its rivals, and it’s super-comfortable too. The new D4 engine has good torque, power, and economy, and aside from the couple of small hiccups we noticed the 8-speed gearbox is slick. Another factor is that this is a Volvo, and hence hugely strong and safe, thanks to their innovative and advanced tech.

Do you own a Volvo S80? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  6.5
Interior  8
Engine (D4)  8.5
Gearbox  7.5
Price  8
Handling  7.5
Drive & Ride  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested) 2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, full leather seating, ABS, FBS, OHB, HBA RAB, DTSC, hill start assist, dual-stage front, SIPS side, and curtain airbags, electronic climate control with Air Quality System, Sensus nav system, Bluetooth, USB & Aux, See website for more info
Options you should spec  Driver Support Pack: £1,900, Winter pack: £350, Heated steering wheel: £200
The Competition  Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 250 CDI, Lexus GS 300h, Infiniti Q50 2.2D, BMW 520d SE, Audi A6 S Line 2.0 TDI ultra
Price  (Sept. 2014) £30,720 – £36,835
Engine  Diesel D4, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder in-line, twin-turbos
Power, Torque  Power: 181 hp @ 4,250 | Torque: 295 lb ft (400 Nm) between 1,700 – 2,500 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 8-speed automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 140 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: No current rating
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  urban: 62.8, extra urban: 76.3, combined: 70.6 | CO2: 113 g/km CO2 (104 g/km with manual)
Weight (kerb)  1,704 (3,756 lbs)
Websites  Volvo UK, Volvo USA, Volvo global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

One response to “2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review – Updated Swedish Exec Gets Greener”

  1. Peter Jackson

    Its 2016, yet the 2015 S80 D4 SE Lux Geartronic was waiting for me to buy it for a staggering £18k with 10k of mileage and only 10 months old too.

    My previous S80 D5 SE cars in 2003 (163bhp) and the SE D5 Sport 2009 (185bhp) were the pinnacle of my 29 year driving large saloons for commuting. The manual wrought power with a modicum of 40mpg was all I ever expected, with over 180k in the first car and 240k in the second I spent a great amount on servicing and maintenance along the way but never expected this beauty to win me over with the following;

    Geartronic D4 engine 8 speed with the add-ons of Winter pack and Driver support I was taken aback at how quiet, smooth, quick and efficient this new vehicle was. The first tank (70 litres) returned 65mpg with 800miles covered. The next few tanks delivered high 50s with the exceptional few 400 mile round trips giving me a computer recorded 73mpg. Amazing and never to be taken for granted when aspiring to the 70mph acceleration in (non eco drive, sports gear mode) very quick times.

    The only quibble I have is with the gearbox. What is a smooth process of acceleration and deceleration becomes a nightmare when City Safe is used and stops and starts the car. Its not the gearbox’s fault but the braking and engine cut off is jerky and using the accelerator to kick start the car forwards can also be very jerky too.

    The Engine is a little noisy but is better than all of the D5’s before. The car is quieter than the SE Sport and the seats better than that one and the 2003 model.

    I liked the above review. It bolsters my belief in this vehicle. Also I will hold off from the S90 for another few years until it is broken in properly!!

Leave a Reply