A 2-litre Volvo S80 hits 100kmh in 6.5 seconds and sips just 6.2 litres of fuel per 100km
Big sedan, small footprint The Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E has a remarkable drivetrain. Too bad about its design, which is beginning to look a tad dated now. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

The last time Volvo powered its flagship S80 sedan with a 2-litre engine was in 2010.

Now, it is doing an encore with the S80 T5 Drive-E, but you will not find the performance familiar at all.

The new engine has a displacement of 1,969cc, compared with the previous 1,999cc unit.

Just to show how far turbocharging has come, the car produces 245bhp and 350Nm of torque, compared with 203bhp and 300Nm back then. And at slightly lower revolutions this time too.

Not surprisingly, the T5 Drive-E reaches 100kmh faster - 6.5 seconds instead of 8.5. Top speed is unchanged at 230kmh.

Fuel economy has improved. Thanks largely to its eight-speed autobox (versus six-speed previously) and, to a smaller extent, its stop-start system, the car is said to use 6.2 litres of fuel per 100km - down from 8.3 before.

The improvements are remarkable. So remarkable in fact, that the big Volvo moves like it is powered by a 2.5-litre engine, but sips fuel like a hybrid.

Even so, the S80 T5 Drive-E is more of a functional commute than an enthusiast's choice. It delivers speed clinically, with as much emotion as a seal having a siesta.

The engine betrays a hint of turbo lag and the throttle is not particularly linear. Thankfully, its gearbox is pleasantly refined, with blurred lines between shifts.

As before, the S80's steering is effortless but somewhat detached (even if it is speed-sensitive). This trait seals the impression that this Swede is a cold fish when it comes to play.

Its once striking design has also been dulled by the passage of time. It is now so nondescript that it easily disappears in a parking lot.

When it comes to delivering efficiency, comfort and convenience, the S80 T5 Drive-E is very adequate. You can switch on the engine with its remote key from up to 100m away, allowing the cabin to cool down sufficiently by the time you reach it. Doors are unlocked by proximity of the key, as with many cars these days.

Self-release electronic parking brakes, cruise control and dual-zone climate control (with dust filter) are just a few of the modern amenities found onboard.

City Safety emergency braking and whiplash protection are among the features in a smorgasbord of active and passive safety devices.

But strangely, the car does not come with navigation, reverse camera or even front parking beepers.

In terms of comfort, the Swede's suspension system, with anti-dive and anti-tilt functions, meets the mark. Ride comfort is still not far from what other premium cars offer, despite it being now fitted with larger 18-inch alloys. The design is new, but looks as unremarkable as most Volvo wheels.

The S80 has long established itself as a car that has a relatively small footprint, but offers lots of interior space. The doors that lead to that space are distinctly heavier than before. On that count, the S80 feels more German than Scandinavian.

Clearly, this variant of the S80 offers an unbeatable mix of performance and economy. There used to be a 1.6-litre 180bhp version with a similar combo, but now that it no longer qualifies for cheaper Category A COE, it is not offered anymore.

There is a turbodiesel that takes its place, but that is for folks who value economy a lot more than spunk.

It is either that or the T5 Drive-E, which, if you think about it, is far from a shoddy choice given the circumstances.

CAR INFORMATION

Volvo S80 T5 Drive-E (A)

Price

:$180,000

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,969 cc

Horsepower

:

245 bhp / 5,500 rpm

Torque

:

350 Nm / 4,800 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Geartronic

Acceleration

:

6.5 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

230 km/h