Volvo is turning itself around. Last year, the company transformed the S40 from a dull 1990s box into a stylish, minimalist, mini-sedan that commands real attention. That car also serves as a template for the elegant new C70 hardtop convertible and the upcoming C30 sport-hatchback. With all its models in the entry-level luxury segment revitalized, Volvo went to work on the S80 flagship sedan, which for years has lagged behind the pack of more exciting, more stylish, and more technologically advanced sedans from Germany.
The new S80 won't feature flamboyant styling or spinning computer knobs like BMW's iDrive or Audi's MMI; instead, it will hold true to Volvo's minimalist design ethos and will be a back-to-the-basics alternative to the BMW 5-series, the Audi A6, and the Mercedes-Benz E-class. Volvo calls this "Scandinavian Luxury," describing it as "clean and elegant lines and intelligent functionality where every single detail has been designed with the user's well-being in mind." This does not mean that the 2007 S80 will be a modern-day Model T, but only that technology won't slap you in the face with the touch of every button. The focus will be on traditional Volvo strengths like safety and security.
Volvo's Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept), which was first seen on the S60 R, is one of many safety-related tech features. Four-C automatically adjusts suspension components for different driving conditions, ranging from smooth highway cruising to rocketing through mountain passes. DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) and a tire pressure monitoring system will also be carried over from existing Volvos. The S80 will be the first Volvo to feature adaptive cruise control, which can maintain a certain distance between the Volvo and the car ahead of it. Japanese and German brands have offered this feature for several years, and like some of those systems, the S80's setup alerts the driver via bells and warning lights when a collision is likely and sends a signal to the braking system, readying the calipers for a quick, ABS-shocking stop. The coolest new techno gear, though, is the world's first Personal Car Communicator (PCC) remote control, a system that monitors the car's security. While walking toward the vehicle, the driver can use the remote control to check whether the doors are locked, whether the alarm has been activated, and there is even a heartbeat sensor that warns if someone is hiding inside the car. This might seem like more security overkill than George W. Bush's secret phone tapping, but like air bags, PCC is there not because you want to use it, but because it will save lives if it's actually needed.
All of those safety systems are tucked away under a sleek and stylish new body, with sweeping lines that finally differentiate the S80 from the way-too-similar-looking S60. Optional all-wheel drive and a transversely mounted V-8 are borrowed from the XC90, making this Volvo's first sedan application of the Yamaha-sourced eight-cylinder. Base power will come from an all-new naturally aspirated 3.2-liter in-line six producing 232 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Both engines will mate to a six-speed automatic.
Volvo is making its most attractive cars since the P1800 went extinct in 1973. The latest understatedly elegant models are easy to love, with great body lines and modern interiors with the hip simplicity of a Bang and Olufsen stereo. Many buyers are fed up with the technological overkill that afflicts this market segment, and that could be the boost Volvo needs to finally come out of the shadows and be a real contender. Pricing has not been announced.