Published on August 1st, 2023 | by Subhash Nair


Volvo S80 Turns 25 Years Old This Year

The Volvo S80 was launched two and a half decades ago today.

Way back in 1998, the first ever Volvo S80 was introduced, propelling the Swedish brand into a new high-performance luxury segment. The S80 replaced the 900 Series of cars (which were briefly called the S90 and V90 towards the end of production).

Volvo S80 rear end

Start Of The Revolvolution Years

The S80 was a huge leap forward for Volvo and represented what came to be known as the Revolvolution. This was cemented in the public’s mind by an effective ad campaign and a restyling of other Volvo models such as the S60 and V70.

The S80’s design was modelled around the Volvo Environmental Concept Car, which featured timeless and iconic styling from the late, great Peter Horbury. This was the car that brought Volvo away from its boxy looks and into the clean, minimalist lines and curves we still see on them today.

The engineering behind the S80 was unlike anything the company had tried before. The engine was mounted transversely and sent power to the front wheels. While that doesn’t sound like anything out of the norm, you have to also factor the types of engines Volvo put into the S80 – they were all inline-5 and inline-6 motors!

This necessitated a new manual gearbox design, as Volvo could not find a unit that would fit off the shelf. On the high end of things, Volvo fit a 2.8L inline 6 twin turbo petrol ‘T6’ motor with a generous 272PS and 380Nm of torque, making this one of the fastest large sedans available in its segment. There were also other detuned, naturally-aspirated petrol and turbo diesel options for those looking for an economical setup

The P2 Platform underpinned the Volvo S80 and this was the final in-house developed chassis by Volvo before Ford Motor Company made its acquisition of the company. It served from 1998 to 2006 for the S80, but worked on the XC90 well into the 2010s.

Tech and Safely Pioneer

The Volvo S80 debuted in spring 1998 and was made to show the company’s pioneering spirit in the realm of safety solutions. It introduced advanced safety solutions, such as inflatable curtain airbags (Inflatable Curtain), Side Impact Protection System, and built-in protection against neck injuries and Whiplash Protection System. All five seat belts featured inertia-reels with pre-tensioners and head restraints. All of this was standard on the S80.

There was also the Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS), which delayed incoming phone calls if the traffic situation was too complex. Passive safety innovations were present too, including a passenger cell that protected occupants by ensuring a controlled deformation of other components outside the metal cage.

Today, Volvo Car talks about how taking care of the climate is a big part of safety. It’s interesting to note that way back in 1998, they were already thinking about this in practical terms for the planet and their customers. They designed the S80 to have as little impact on the global environment as possible. Petrol engines featured low internal friction and exhaust filtration technology. All upholstery used was certified according to ÖKO-TEX 100, an international standard that ensures that the interior trim is free from allergy-producing and hazardous substances. A special catalytic radiator coating known as PremAir was offered to convert ground level ozone into pure oxygen in dense city traffic and in strong sunlight. Volvo’s Interior Air Quality System was also featured to reduce the amount of particles, pollen, odours and gases that entered the cabin.

Volvo S80 cabin

The Volvo S80 Today

The S80 lasted two generations and then was replaced by the Volvo S90/V90 series under Geely stewardship. The company made 388,595 units between 1998 and 2006, even locally assembling the vehicle here in Shah Alam. Today, you can find the S80 on used car sites, often priced between RM5,000 and RM20,000 depending on condition. The facelifted models and 2nd generation S80 seem to be more common in Malaysia. These are robust vehicles, though parts are getting harder to find and more expensive. Try to get advice from a Volvo mechanic on the reality of ownership before diving in.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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