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Click for pictures“The best thing
  from Sweden
  since IKEA”

CUE THE T6, THE HOTTEST VERSION of Volvo’s flagship S80, and the first ever Volvo to be built and designed solely as a saloon. With its low-key but coolly stylish Scandinavian design, the S80’s looks have quickly found favour with buyers everywhere. One thing’s for certain — stationary or on the move, it’s the best-looking Volvo to come out of Sweden since the P1800 sports coupé driven by Roger Moore in the Seventies’ TV series The Saint.

Easily as satisfying to live with as a BMW “5” or Mercedes “E”, the S80’s strength is not just its ultra-safe bodyshell, but what’s inside the user-friendly cabin. Space, for one thing. Lots of it. And the fact that everything is exactly where it should be.

Especially cosseting seats support in all the right places and a distinctive, well ordered fascia houses clear instruments and switch-gear. Straightforward driver’s aids include a car phone that automatically calls the emergency services for you if the car’s involved in an accident, body-shaped climate control buttons, and a phone speaker built into the driver’s headrest.

Mix all this with automatic climate control, an excellent stereo/CD, hands-free phone with message system, and a SatNav mounted on top of the dash within the driver’s peripheral vision, and you have a driving environment that really takes some beating. The SatNav, incidentally, can even be controlled without the driver having to take his hands from the wheel.

There’s something reassuring about travelling in a car manufactured
by people for whom safety is almost a religion. It’s like wearing a bullet-proof vest. However bad the conditions, you know that whatever happens on the road you’re in the safest place. Feelings of invulnerability are well founded: the S80 is the first car in the world
to achieve top results in both European (Euro-NCAP) and American (US-NCAP) crash tests.

Naturally, one hopes never to call upon any of the S80’s comprehensive array of passive safety features, which include airbags, crumple-zones, side-impact bars, and whiplash resistant, anti-submarining front seats. In a rear impact they move backwards to provide extra cushioning protection for the head and upper body.
And there are inflatable curtains — effectively airbags that run the length of the side windows and offer extra protection from head
and neck injuries in a side impact. But just knowing they are all there gives a degree of confidence that makes undertaking a journey anywhere in even the most awful of wintry conditions seem as harmless as a stroll in the park.

Given all the emphasis on safety it’s gratifying to discover that the
S80 T6 is also unexpectedly good fun to drive — thanks to the 280lb ft of torque and a storming 272bhp generated by its twin-turboed
2.8-litre, transversely-mounted, in-line six-cylinder engine. Controlling all that power is a Tiptronic-style automatic transmission that Volvo calls “Geartronic”, offering a manual alternative to the automatic programme: snap the lever to the left into manual mode and you can make sequential up- and down-changes manually.

Acceleration to 60mph takes 7 seconds and top speed is an autobahn politically correct 155mph. But a word to the wise. Regularly use that much power and the T6 will swallow unleaded as quickly as the Dome swallowed taxpayers’ money. Well, perhaps not quite! Our test took in a lot of hard-charging, stop-start urban driving, which explains
our consumption of just 13.7mpg (Volvo claim 17.2mpg). However, our combined figure of 24mpg wasn’t that far off the T6’s “official” combined figure of 25.9mpg.

Body roll is well contained, road shocks well cushioned, and the ride surprisingly supple. Push hard and you’ll find the T6 sails through the bends, with the limit safely signalled through the helm in good time by mild understeer. Surprisingly nimble for such a large front-wheel drive car, the S80 also provides an excellent ride at sustained high speeds.

But the T6 is no one-trick car, rated purely by its ability to pick up its skirts and go. Many owners will buy it more for the ambience of its fabulously well-considered cabin, and its unquestioned ability to protect and serve them and their families. Not to mention that folding the rear seatbacks creates almost as much load space as an estate — handy given that the S80 is only available in saloon guise!

Priced at £29,400, the S80 T6 is a genuine and worthy European alternative for the executive keen to opt out of the usual two-choice Mercedes/BMW company car culture.

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Volvo S80 T6 SE
| £29,400
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-60mph: 7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 24mpg | Power: 272bhp | Torque: 280lb ft
Visit Volvo's website Click to go there now

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Volvo S80