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Move Away, Badge Snobs | Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E

BY Azfar Hashim

Volvo's S80 gets the Drive-E treatment, but the question here is can it now take a slice of the 5 Series and E-Class pie?

Photos by Azfar Hashim

The Volvo S80 is certainly one of the most forgotten model in the luxury sedan segment. While age is the obvious factor, the main thing that obviously slowed down demand for the S80 is the fact that Singaporeans are generally brand-conscious – which means BMW’s 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class are still the order of the day.

Which is why the 520i and E200 are both still doing well in terms of sales despite their respective $240,800 and $ $244,888 asking price.

But for (a) aspiring businessmen venturing into their first European sedan who cannot swallow the thought of forking out more than $200k, or (b) executives whose companies have already set $200k as the maximum amount for a company car, here is one rather clear solution: the new Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E.

Previously, we’ve driven both the XC60 SUV and mid-sized S60 with the updated T5 drivetrain. And what impresses the most is this: Both produces the most horsepower compared to their German counterparts.

And it’s the same case here with the S80. At $190,000 with COE, it not only ‘outpowers’ and undercuts the 520i and E200, but delivers the similar amount of power as the 528i (241 bhp, 350 Nm, 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds) and E250 (208 bhp, 350 Nm, 0-100 km/h in 7.4 seconds). To put it simply, for less than $200k, you get as much power as the two mid-tier luxury Germans. Oh and if you must, must ask, the price difference between this S80 T5 and the 528i Business is a staggering $65,800, while for the E250 Elegance is an equally eye-popping $65,888.

You should understand what I’m getting at here. The S80 T5 is a genuine bargain; plus the recent facelift does make the car more handsome now.

It has 245 bhp with maximum torque rated at 350 Nm courtesy of the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged powerplant that’s mated to an 8-speed automatic. It gets to 100km/h from standstill in 6.5 seconds, which is rather respectable considering it has close to 1.7-tonne worth of metal to haul around.

It definitely is the clear winner at every traffic light grand prix next to the array of taxis and performance sedans, maximizing each and every ratios; unfortunately, a pair-of paddle shifters are missing in here, meaning if the Mad Max streak in you ever awakens, you can only select your own gears via the gear shifter itself.

To be honest though, the engine does get a little gruff when you push it anywhere past 5,000 rpm; this is one part Volvo needs to get sorted in order to be an even bigger threat to both the 5 Series and E-Class.

That said however, the S80 runs up and down the expressway with ease, with ample power constantly on standby. Undeniably, the transmission errs on the lazier side of things when left to run on its own; it’s something you need some getting used to particularly during overtaking.

Handling wise, the S80 is typical Volvo - it remains confident and able even along sweeping bends. Sharper corners however, would reveal the slightly softer springs, which then expose the car to a little understeer.

Then again, the softer springs do make the ride less jarring and delivers more comfort for passengers; even the supersized 18-inch alloys wrapped in high-performance 235/40 R-18 Continental ContiSportContact 3 do not affect the overall ride quality.

Cabin wise, the S80 retains the high build quality with every buttons and controls remaining clear and properly labeled. Compared to the previous S80, this new one gets an ECO+ mode and also engine auto start/stop, along with real time driving performance monitor – the first two features to please Greenpeace, of course.

Thanks to its generous 2,835 mm wheelbase, the S80 is endowed with comfortable seats all around (another Volvo signature), and rear passengers pampered with a generous amount of head and legroom. Even with a third adult in the center, shoulder room remains class leading.

As a whole, the Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E shows its German peers exactly how to deliver quality, space and power all in one package. If you are looking for your first European luxury sedan, you won’t go wrong with this one. Others may opine a Swede is not as prestigious as a German, but looking at the savings - and putting pride aside - it's just hard to ignore.