The new Volvo S80 sedan disproves with finality the old notion that "safety doesn't sell."
It helps if the vehicle adds up to a top European sports sedan that can run with the other alpha-numeric cars for both looks and performance.
Wrapped in a stylish yet recognizably Volvo sheet metal, the S80's zoom credentials include a 4.4L V-8 of a whopping 311 horsepower. Add to that all-wheel drive, independent suspension that goes from "comfort" to "sport" and changeable steering feel.
The standard engine is a 235 horsepower I-6 of 3.2L. It drives the front wheels. The 4.4L V-8 comes with all-wheel drive. The automatic transmission for both is a six-speed.
There's a whole host of safety gear, like collision warning, blind spot alarm, stability control, airbags galore and the use of four different grades of steel for crash energy absorption.
The S80 scoots to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds -- sports coupe time. With the sport setting, the all-wheel drive glues the car to the road in the turns.
Best of all, the Volvo doesn't look like the square Volvo of old. The major Volvo styling cues are retained and straight lines have been gracefully softened.
Early efforts at adding non-mandated safety equipment didn't spur sales the way advocates hoped. Today, safety is taken for granted and efforts to go beyond the ordinary are rewarded.
Volvo S80 pushes the safety envelope hard. It's always been known for an emphasis on automotive safety, but the S80 takes it to an electronically new level with three great options.
The Blind Sport Information System does just that. A camera signals when a vehicle comes up in a blind spot. An orange warning light flashes in the rear view mirror.
•Engines: 3.2L I-6; 4.4L V-8
•Dimensions: 112" wheelbase; 191" length
•Base price: $38,000; As tested $56,025
•Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg
Adaptive cruise control uses a radar sensor to calculate if the Volvo is closing too fast on vehicles ahead. It alerts the driver with a nasty sounding buzzer. Trod on the brake pedal and the system automatically applies full brake force.
A gizmo delight is the Personal Car Communicator. The pocket-sized control communicates with your parked car. Press a button and it will tell you if the car has been unlocked in your absence, if the alarm has gone off or even if there's someone in the car (it detects heartbeats.)
The piece de resistance: there's a grocery bag holder as well.
To assuage the overburdened driver, there's leather upholstery on nicely bolstered seats and real wood on the dashboard, high-end audio control and cruise and radio controls on the steering wheel.
The real joy comes in pressing the loud pedal off the line and slicing through the twisty curves with sports car aplomb.