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Volvo S80 D5 2007 Road Test

Tue, 12 Dec 2006

It used to be called ‘Carriage Trade’. Now ‘Private Hire’. Those Middle Eastern guys in sharp suits, sunglasses and E220 CDIs who show up to take you to a TV studio. I wondered what they would think of the new Volvo S80 D5.

It’s a big, comfortable car that feels immensely strong, cruises at 2,000rpm at 70, yet definitely keeps you in touch with the road both through the steering and the seat of your pants.

Soft it isn’t.

It’s a full five seater with plenty of head and legroom even for piggy in the middle in the back. The boot is huge, with a flap that folds up from the floor to divide it in two and hide an illegal immigrant.

The six-speed autobox is slurry with no paddles behind the wheel and a back-to-front ‘Geartronic’ function. The steering wheel is one of the nicest I’ve very held. It’s the right size and right thickness, and rightly Volvo has restricted the number of buttons on it. Those on the left control the cruise and those on the right the radio volume and station and the phone. You do it all by rule of thumb and, since most of my 420 miles with the car were on motorways with road works and speed restrictions, I found myself using the cruise quite a lot. Maybe it was the nature of the car as well as the sort of journeys I made, but, despite getting stuck in one of Surrey’s monster M25 accident traffic jams for a couple of hours, it did a very creditable 39.6mpg. Better than the official EC combined figure.

That experience, and driving into Fulham, gave me ample opportunity to use the electric parking brake. It’s a long reach forward to apply, but because it releases as soon as you press the accelerator, you can leave the car in Drive with the brakes on, without imposing a red light zone on the driver behind. I also liked the way it steers. It doesn’t communicate in the same manner as a Porsche. You’re aware of the road surface but not of every nuance of grip. There’s no fightback. And since the car grips very well, it doesn’t irritate in any way.

The quality of the fixtures and fittings put most other prestigious cars to shame. Everything not only looks good, it feels strong and beautifully made. Though a strange omission on my £34,139 S80 was satnav. That’s part of a Communications Pack that costs an extra £2,375.

It did have front and rear park assist, which was fine at the back but cried wolf when the front was still a metre from the door. I understand the warning would enable you to brake safely if a small child got into its area of detection, but for getting this 4,851mm car into a 5,000mm parking slot it wasn’t very helpful.

That said, the basic D5 SE Lux, with standard leather and Geartronic auto but no other extras lists at £32,150. An E220CDI Elegance auto without leather lists at £32,327. So the S80 is the price of a few cows cheaper for a car that is easily as good.

Whether the private hire guys see it that way depends on how their customers view a Volvo badge against a three pointed star.

But 39.6mpg in a lot of traffic would certainly sway me.

(238PS straight six and the 315PS V8 driven in the XC90 at
www.honestjohn.co.uk/road_tests/index.htm?id=225)

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