People are going to miss the Town Car. Though Lincoln’s land barge and its beamy cohort, the Ford CrownVictoria have been discontinued, people will not feel the hurt until all taxis and limousines are phased out in favor of Toyota Camry Hybrids, Ford Transit Connects, and the all-newNissan NV200 minivans. That plush, floaty ride will soon be a thing of the past, and you’re going to miss it.
So what does that have to do with the 2013 Volvo S80 we drove this week? In 1999, Ford purchased Volvo, adding to its Premier Automotive Group, which included Jaguar and Land Rover. At the time of the purchase, the S80 had been on the road for about a year. The secondgeneration S80 came in 2007, as a refined evolution of sedan. The new model was the product of Ford’s decision to move the S80 upwards in the market to take on the BMWs and Mercedes of the world, giving the Swedish brand a stronger stake as a Premium Automaker.
Ford would not enjoy the sight of the new S80 in its stable for long. During the economic crisis, Ford unloadedVolvo to Chinese automaker Geely. In short, Volvo is a Swedish automaker, once owned by an American company, and now under Chinese control. Get it?
But the S80 endured the ordeal, constantly improving through different ownerships, and receiving the latest in-car tech. Under Ford’s leadership, Volvo brought to market significant safety measures, culminating in the City Safety and Pedestrian detection programs. The latter uses radar and infrared to detect pedestrians in the road. If you can’t see the likely jaywalker, this system will alert the driver and actually apply the brakes in an emergency.
These safety features are tucked neatly below the surface, allowing the driver to fully appreciate the car’s stupendously gushy seats. And, sweet mercy, these are comfortable seats! Not just comfortable for a luxury car. Comfortable for anything I’ve ever had the pleasure of gracing with my derrière. The perforated leather of the heated/ cooled front seats could give the best recliner a sit for its money. Perhaps that is what the CrownVic and S80 share—seats that would be as much at home in a La-Z-Boy showroom. There is more to it, however.
When taking a turn in haste, the similarities with the old luxury barge continue to reveal themselves. The floaty suspension that conspires with the Barcalounger seats results in a satin-smooth ride that does have a downside: Steering is certainly not dialed in and the responsiveness of handling just is not there. But if a planted, performancetuned ride is your thing,Volvo has the S60, which will corner with the best of them.
Yet just like a classic American highway cruiser, the S80 can go in a straight line like hell.While the base S80 (MSRP $38,950) features a 3.2-liter inline-6 with 240 horsepower, the 300-horsepower T6 AWD (MSRP $42,950) is the only way to go. When accelerating in normal Drive, a click to the left of the backlit shifter engages Sport mode, and the combination of gearing and all four wheels clawing at the tarmac simultaneously rocket the S80 forward abruptly enough to whip your head back.
Calling a sedan’s ride “floaty-soft” in the modern luxury market may seem derisive, but it is not.You have to remember that not everyone looks for the hard-nosed performance hauler. Many luxury brands are trying to go after the market cornered by the M5, with mixed results. Hell, BMW jumped its own shark with the X5 M and X6 M.The clean lines and comfortable cabin of the S80 are a refreshing reminder that not everyone with money is a day trader getting table service at Rumor, District, or some other haughty nightclub. Rather, the S80 looks right at home parked in a marina, while the owners are out on their Hinckley making the most of their well-planned nest egg.
That’s not to peg the Swedish flagship as a geezer’s sedan. It is rife with superior connectivity and entertainment features. The Premium Sound is developed with several different stereos.The voice control provides access to a crisp and intuitive navigation system, and unlike many other vehicles, the car does not lock you out from functions when the vehicle is in motion. In just about any other car with navigation, drive more than 5 mph and try to enter a new destination in the navigation system—it will prohibit you from doing so, as well as using a myriad of other functions you may need while on the road in a strange place. While other automakers block these features for “safety reasons,” the reality is you are probably going to whip out your Smartphone the moment the NAV denies you access—so which is safer? Continued...