Last weekend I met a software company honcho at a tony restaurant in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, where our discussion centred around luxury cars. “I believe the German brands—Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi—are the finest,” he said. When I told him about the cars made by Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo, the man, the owner of a BMW 5 Series, said, “My first choice would still be either of the Germans.” Giving me lessons on brand-building, he added, “The three Germans may be rivals, but they are often seen together; look at the side-by-side displays they had at the Auto Expo.” Later, I took him to the parking lot and showed him the Volvo S80 that I had for review. “Impressive, but this car has to be really special for me to consider buying.” Ah, the power of branding!
The S80 is Volvo’s flagship in India and recently the new generation S80 was showcased at the company’s lounge at Delhi airport’s Terminal 3. By displaying its cars at premium locations in India, Volvo is taking all the required steps as far as brand-building is concerned. Today, we find out how good its top brand is.
Most new Volvo cars are attractive, but the S80 adds an aura to that attractiveness. First, the car, which is 4,858 mm long and 2,106 mm wide, has a massive road presence. Add to that the LED daytime running lights and a wider grille, and it ensures the S80 gets second glances—it is not any usual luxury car. At the rear, the new integrated dual tailpipes look dapper. There is chromium finish in the front spoiler and grille, and around the windows. There is chrome moulding on rear bumper, trunk lid and lower side, and chrome trim below the rear lamps. Overall, the new S80 balances prominence and style.
Similar to what you get in the V40 Cross Country, the S80’s digital thin film transistor (TFT) instrument cluster now comes with three modes—Elegance (amber colour), Eco (green colour) and Performance (red colour). The steering wheel is equipped with paddle shifters, these turn the automatic gearbox into a manual one with the benefit of gear shifting with both hands on the wheel. The paddle shifters also bring out the enthusiastic driver in you, especially on twisty roads. The wood finish on the dashboard is old-school but looks good. The dashboard is user-friendly, too, and all the controls are easy to reach. The seats are supremely comfortable and cushioning is just right. The cabin is roomy and a large window area adds to the feeling of space. The front curvy head restraints are a work of art and the rear middle head restraint can be fully retracted into the backrest to improve the driver’s rearward visibility. There is even a coat hanger.
No review of a Volvo car can be complete without talking about the safety features its cars come equipped with. The S80 gets ample of these, such as the City Safety feature, anti-locking brakes with hydraulic brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, reinforced passenger compartment, airbags all around the cabin, active bending lights, collapsible steering column and so much more. Of these, a few deserve special mention.
City Safety: Volvo’s technology called the City Safety can sense an impending collision at speeds of up to 50 kmph. But how does this work? When your Volvo S80 approaches too close to an object in front, say a car, the City Safety prepares the brakes so that they respond faster when you press the pedal. And if you fail to brake, the City Safety applies brakes for you and switches off the throttle to lessen the effects of a collision. This feature is activated as soon as you start your S80.
Water-repellent front side windows: The S80’s front side windows get a hydrophobic surface treatment that turns water into small drops that get blown away by the force of the wind when the car is in motion.
Active bending lights: Driving on turns at night produces some blind spots because the headlights are pointed straight. The S80’s headlights turn up to 15 degrees in either direction, left or right, following the way you steer.
Powered by the 2.4-litre diesel engine that produces a maximum output of 212 bhp and a torque of 440 Nm, the Volvo S80 D5 Summum is a powerful car and goes from 0-100 kmph in less than 8 seconds. Although at low speeds the engine is silent, at higher revolutions it tends to get louder and that sound enters the cabin. But in normal driving conditions, the cabin remains silent. On a twisty road, the car’s heavy weight starts to show and there is some amount of body roll. But, again, that body roll doesn’t really make the ride uncomfortable. The suspension set-up is well-tuned and absorbs most bumps on Indian roads, making the car almost glide over bad surfaces. The company-claimed fuel-efficiency for the S80 D5 Summum is 14.7 kmpl.
The Volvo S80 D5 Summum is a very premium car, no doubt. But given the segment it is in, the S80 runs right into the territory ruled by Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. For any car, that can be a challenging spot. At R44.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the S80, despite being a CBU, is priced competitively. It remains to be seen if the new S80 is able to attract the Indian luxury car buyer who is already spoilt for choice.
Vikram Chaudhary | Financial Express