Volvo S80 V8: Spotted

Writing as the owner of an elderly Volvo S80, I can tell you that the big Swedish saloon cars are the perfect accompaniment to long, continent-crossing journeys. And in five-cylinder diesel form, quite economical too.

Owner of an 850 as well? Bravo!
Owner of an 850 as well? Bravo!
But Volvos aren't simply sold to those who care to keep a reign on their fuel costs. They are sold to Americans also. So when Volvo brought out the second generation S80 based on the P3 platform, having just the standard 3.2-litre petrol wasn't going to cut it. They needed a V8, especially if they wanted to be taken seriously as a luxury car maker.

Trouble is, Volvo's engines have been transversely mounted ever since it made the decision in the 90s to abandon rear-wheel drive set-ups. And, as V8s traditionally have quite a large 'valley', they aren't particularly suited to such a layout. The only solution was to mount the engine in front of the lead axle.

To do this, the team designed a much narrower vee angle of 60 degrees, but that's not great for smoothness - a must for an executive car - so they had to fit a balancer shaft to sort that out. Then there was the issue of where to build it. Enter Yamaha.

Yamaha Motor Corporation has been in the engine development and building game for years. Previous credits include the 1.7 Zetec-S unit used in our Shed Ford Puma. Since it already had a contract with Ford, Volvo's owner at the time, Yamaha seemed like a natural fit.

The result was something of a sleeper. A handsome, solid, if slightly staid, Volvo exterior matched with a raucous exhaust note and V8 power. 0-62 mph was a very un-Volvo like 6.5 seconds and the top speed was 155 mph to match its German rivals. Autocar at the time wrote that, despite the engine's placement, it wasn't some nose heavy monster and had, in fact, a rather 'coherent feel' on twisty roads. Read that as boring - but then it does have all-wheel drive and a reputation for protecting its occupants from danger to uphold.

That's a very strong average figure!
That's a very strong average figure!
The trouble is, if you are looking at one of these, you'll no doubt have one eye on sensible stuff such as running costs, and with fuel economy of just 23mpg and annual road tax costs here in the UK of £530 per year, it's going to make you wince. This is perhaps why they are such a rarity on our roads. The ad claims it is one of only 113 left, which sounds eminently believable.

Is it Spotted material though? Well, since you've read all the way to the bottom, it would only be decent of me to come up with something here. I guess there is always something to having a 'Q' car. The sort of thing you can waft around in as you easy up to the red light in one of the world's most conservative cars, before leaving all those showboating hot hatch owners in the dust of your Volvo saloon. And there's also something quite appealing in being able to claim that you own a saloon with a supercar engine. It's true, after all. Well, kind of. This S80 shares a fair bit of its engine with the 200mph Noble M600. Now that's the making of some good pub banter...

4,400cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 315@5,950rpm
Torque (lb ft): 325@3,950rpm
MPG: 23
CO2: 293g/km
First registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 108,000
Price new: £39,135
Yours for: £8,500

See the full ad here.

Max Adams


P.H. O'meter

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