Left with a serious hole in its product line-up following the demise of the Scorpio, Ford's $6.45billion acquisition of Volvo Cars, completed in April, seems a smart move. The marque is now part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group which includes Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lincoln. Disappointing, perhaps, for those who had been hoping to get their hands on a Lincoln LS - it was to have been launched in the UK in right-hand-drive format towards the end of the year but its arrival has been postponed for at least another 12 months to allow Ford to reconsider its European strategy.
Meanwhile, the S80 is charged with doing for Ford what the Scorpio failed to do in the executive sector - chip away at Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Conceived in 1994, the saloon-only range is something of a revolution for Volvo, not just because there's no estate but because the design steps away from 'safe' Swedish conventionality. Project director Hans Wilkman said: 'It would have been relatively easy to copy the majority of our main rivals. However, that would have meant we would never have been better than second, and that's not the way to achieve success as a speciality car manufacturer.'
The S80 range starts from ú22,755 with a 140bhp 2.4-litre five-cylinder model. There's a direct injection diesel 2.5-litre diesel, also producing 140bhp, from ú25,235 and the 170bhp version of the 2.4-litre petrol is from ú24,335. Six-cylinder models are the 204bhp 2.9, normally aspirated and priced from ú27,455, and the range-topping T6 - twin turbo, 272bhp and costing ú36,255 as an SE with Geartronic semi-automatic transmission. Petrol/liquefied petrol gas and petrol/compressed natural gas bi-fuel versions of the 2.4 140 are in the pipeline. Our test car, the 170bhp 2.4 SE five-cylinder petrol, sits comfortably in the middle of the range.