GENEVA -- At first glance, the redesigned Volvo S80 sedan looks like an evolutionary step forward for the Swedish premium brand. The big sedan's basic lines are similar, including the distinctive curving broad shoulders that were penned by designer Peter Horbury for the current S80 in 1998.
But beneath the skin, the latest version of Volvo's flagship sedan represents a major step forward. Although it is the same overall length as the current S80, the new generation has a wider track, longer wheelbase and more sweeping lines.
It also incorporates many features never seen in a Volvo, including several optional active safety systems. It is the first Volvo sedan to be offered with an optional V-8, and it gets a new standard inline six-cylinder engine.
Volvo is convinced that the S80 will lure new customers.
"We expect that as much as 70 percent of the average volume of 50,000 cars a year will go to buyers who do not drive a Volvo today," Volvo Car Corp. CEO Fredrik Arp said at the Geneva auto show.
U.S. customers will have a choice of two engines in the S80: a transversely mounted 4.4-liter, 315-hp V-8 designed by Volvo and Yamaha; and a new 3.2-liter, inline six-cylinder engine rated at 238 hp. European customers get three more engine choices, including two diesels and a five-cylinder gasoline engine.
The S80 comes with several active safety options, including adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system with support from the brakes and blind-spot detection.
Volvo has not set a U.S. price but says it will be similar to that of the current S80, which starts at $37,585, including shipping.
Volvo officials say the new S80 is much more agile than the old one.
"The joy to drive was maybe not the best on the old car," said Silvia Gullsdorf, S80 program leader. "We wanted to add performance and pleasure to drive."
Volvo got a hand in that department from Richard Parry-Jones, Ford Motor Co.'s global product development chief. Parry-Jones has worked to make "driving dynamics" a core brand characteristic of all Ford products.
You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at [email protected]