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Volvo S80. Driving Experience

Driving pleasure and sophisticated road behaviour come from within and are multi-faceted in nature. Although this is a very individual experience, some criteria for a positive driving experience are rock-solid facts.

The Driver's input must be transformed into the required response at an instant. Quick response, generous amounts of power and torque in an engine that is both quiet and smooth result in good fuel economy. A low-emission engine should be the result of this equation. Difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

A large car must have a large engine. This is correct in principle, but size can be compensated for. The Volvo S80 has relatively large engines, up to 2.9 litres, but sheer size has been replaced by smart technology in order to create the perfect combination - for each specific engine variant.

Large, yet small.
Engines with a "large" feeling in terms of performance and comfort; engines with a "small" feeling in terms of emissions and running costs.

The Volvo S80 can be specified with different versions of the RN generation of engines. RN stands for Revised N. The N series - Volvo's modular engine family comprising four-, five and six-cylinder all-aluminium engines - has now been extensively upgraded and improved in order to comply with 21st century fuel efficiency and performance requirements, hence the R.

Strong, Light, In-line, Multi-valve
One decisive component in Volvo's engine philosophy is to offer a wide performance range, which is achieved by turbocharging. In this context, in-line engines offer another decisive customer benefit compared with V engines.

Volvo normally calls this philosophy SLIM , Strong, Light, In-line, Multi-valve engines - and it offers customers a great many benefits.

These transverse, in-line engines are now fitted in every Volvo car, from the 4-cylinder engines in the Volvo S40 and V40, to the 5-cylinder versions in the Volvo S70, V70 and C70 and the 5- and 6-cylinder engine concepts in the Volvo S80.

The Volvo N series of engines has been very highly acclaimed for this combination and for its characteristics.

With the introduction of the Volvo S80, this has been taken one, or perhaps several, steps further.

In the case of the six-cylinder engine, some 90 percent of the main components are new, whereas the corresponding figure for the five-cylinder engine is 50-90 per cent, depending on the engine version.

The fact that the six-cylinder engine has been turned 90 degrees in order to enable it to be installed transversely, has necessitated many new solutions. Moving components and small details are not the only things to have been changed. The cylinder block and the cylinder head are two of the main parts that have also been redesigned.

The five-cylinder engine variants have always been installed transversely. However, this is the first time a six-cylinder Volvo engine has been installed in such a manner. In fact, this is the first time an in-line six-cylinder with a side-mounted gearbox has been installed transversely in a production car.

Automotive history has previously seen small transverse straight six-cylinders with the gearbox behind and below the engine, but the Volvo S80 features the most complex installation, as well as perhaps both the neatest and most compact - and definitely the most powerful yet!

In order to retain the excellent manoeuvrability, stability and balance which has become the hallmark of front-wheel drive Volvos, the engineers invented several design solutions to make it work, not least the very compact transmissions.

This is also the first time a new Volvo has been introduced with such a wide range of engine versions from the beginning. No matter which engine is chosen, they all have generous power and torque and are very fuel efficient in relation to their size and capability.

Six-cylinder engines
For the combination of smoothness, torque and effortless cruising, few other engines can match an in-line, six-cylinder. This is a fully-balanced and very effective design with one cold side and one hot side, smooth, light in weight and quiet in operation..

The Volvo S80 comes with two different six-cylinder engines, one normally aspirated and one high-performance version with twin turbos, the t6.

Volvo S80 2.9 - 6 cyl, 2.9 litre
The normally aspirated engine is known as the B6304S and has a capacity of 2,922cc. It has a power output of 204 bhp (150 kW) at 6,000 rpm, with maximum torque of 280 Nm at 4,300 rpm. The fuel consumption according to EU comb is 9.7 litres for the manual version and 10.1 for the automatic.
This engine is the revised version of the ultra-smooth three-litre six-cylinder which has already proved itself to be a pleasant companion on the road, longitudinally installed one may add.

Volvo S80 T6 - 6 cyl, 2.8 litre Twin-turbo
The twin-turbo engine, the B6284T, develops some 272 bhp (200 kW) at 5,400 rpm and has maximum torque of 380 Nm between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm. This high-performance Volvo S80 is known as the T6, continuing the Volvo tradition of fast and sporty turbocharged T5s and T4s. The fuel consumption figure for the T6 (EU comb) is 10.9 litres.

The aim when the T6 was developed was to combine the advantages of a relatively small engine - in terms of fuel consumption and environmental load - with the characteristics and performance of a much larger engine, in an appealing and advantageous manner.

The turbocharging is of the parallel type - in other words, two small but efficient turbochargers are each driven by and feed three cylinders. The system has previously been tested by Volvo on a high-performance engine and it is now being applied in standard form.

The T6 engine reaches its full torque far more quickly with twin turbos compared to an engine with one large turbocharger, as there is less inertia in the blades in smaller compressors.

The fact that the ignition sequence and the valve timing in an in-line, six-cylinder are perfectly suited to a turbo concept of this type, is clearly demonstrated by the torque curve. This was also the order of priority when the engine was developed. Outstanding torque and flexibility rather than just a high power output. It is torque that matters in everyday driving.

Five-cylinder engines
In order to enable customers to choose from a wide and attractive model range, the Volvo S80 will be available with five different five-cylinder engines. Two available directly from the start and another three within a year.

The first two versions to be introduced are both turbocharged engines.

Volvo S80 T5 - 5 cyl, 2 litre high-pressure turbo
A high-pressure version, the B5204T3, with a capacity of 1,984 cc yields 226 bhp (166 kW) at 5,500 rpm of power and 310 Nm between 2,700 and 5,000 rpm of torque. The fuel consumption according to EU Comb is 9.6 for the manual, 10.0 for the automatic.

Volvo S80 T - 5 cyl, 2 litre light-pressure turbo
The light-pressure version, the B5204T4, is also a two-litre engine (1,984 cc) and develops 163 bhp (120 kW) at 5,100 rpm and 230 Nm of torque between 1,800 and 5,000 rpm. Fuel consumption according to EU Comb is 9.5 litres for the manual version and 9.9 for the automatic.

The other three variants which are due later are as follows:

Volvo S80 2.4 - 5 cyl, 2.4 litre 170 hp
The largest normally aspirated five-cylinder, the B5244S, has a capacity of 2,435 cc. The power output is 170 bhp (125 kW) at 5,700 rpm, while maximum torque is 230 Nm at 3,600 rpm. Fuel consumption: 9.2 litres in manual version acc. to EU comb.

Volvo S80 - 5 cyl, 2.4 litre 140 hp
The other normally aspirated version, the B5244S2, also has a capacity of 2,435 cc. The power output is 140 bhp (104 kW) at 5,700 rpm, while maximum torque is 230 Nm at 3,600 rpm. Fuel consumption according to EU comb. is a mere 8.6 litres in manual version.

Volvo S80 TDI - 5 cyl, 2.5 litre turbodiesel
The direct injected turbodiesel, the D5252T, which has already been used in the Volvo S70 and V70 for sometime is also being used in the Volvo S80. The power output is 140 bhp (103 kW) at 4,000 rpm, while torque is 290 Nm at 1,900 rpm. Fuel consumption according to EU comb is only 6.5 litres.

Development of bi-fuel technology
Volvo has also developed a special version, an S80 powered by natural gas, a very sensible variant, which runs on natural gas but can also be run on petrol. This version is also due within a year.

RN engines - joint technical solutions
The opportunity to offer so many variants is a result of the design of the modular engine. The basic RN engine concept for all the petrol engines is the same. It consists of five main parts. These main parts are all made of cast aluminium for low weight and high efficiency.

The methods used for design and manufacture ensure very compact and rigid engines, featuring extremely low noise and vibration emissions. The high precision of the cast main engine parts makes conventional gaskets superfluous; liquid gaskets are used and the parts are then joined together with yield-point tightening bolts during final assembly.

This basic concept can be expanded or reduced depending on the needs. In technical terms, the four-cylinder engine is more or less the same as the six-cylinder, but it has two fewer cylinders.

Starting from the bottom, there is the oil sump, made of high-pressure, die-cast aluminium and of a new design compared with that of the n series. On engines with an oil cooler, this is integrated in the engine.

The lower crankcase and cylinder block are also made of high-pressure, die-cast aluminium and they both form a very compact and rigid unit. Both have reinforcing ribbed structures in order to reduce panel vibration and the transmission of noise.

In the six-cylinder engine, the crankshaft runs in seven main bearings, whereas in the five-cylinder it runs in six.

The crankshafts are made of forged vanadium steel. All oil channels and cooling ducts are all cast in during production and require no subsequent machining.

The grey-iron cylinder liners in the block are also cast in during the high-pressure process. These liners offer high wear resistance and reduce the risk of leakage.

The slots between the cylinders at the upper edge of the block are specially machined to minimise the risk of ovality in the cylinders as a result of thermal expansion. The cylinders are very narrowly spaced, giving every engine variant a small overall length.

On top of the lower crankcase/cylinder block assembly sits the cylinder head. It is made of chill-cast aluminium to ensure a homogeneous material.

Efficient gasflow
The combustion chambers are of the pent-roof type, with four large area valves per cylinder, set at a relative angle of 58 degrees. The valve diameters are 32 mm for the inlet valves on six-cylinder engines and 31 mm on five cylinder engines and 27 for the exhaust valves. The spark plug is located in the centre.

The choice of pent-roof combustion chambers permits the use of large-diameter valves and the shape of the chamber helps to create a tumbling motion in the mixture during the intake stroke, thereby making the combustion process more efficient. The tumbling motion helps to create good fuel economy, high part-load stability, high specific performance, and low exhaust emissions.

The strength and velocity of the tumbling motion have been carefully determined by the engineers in single-cylinder test rigs using PTV (Particle Tracking Velocimetry), in order to optimise the combination of properties.

The camshaft bearing housing, which is also made of chill-cast aluminium, has integrated upper bearing halves and forms the top part of the cylinder head. The lower bearing halves are integrated in the cylinder head.

CVVT - Continuously Variable Valve Timing
The double overhead camshafts feature CVVT - Continuously Variable Valve Timing - in order to optimise combustion and improve emission levels. This means that both the cylinder head and the camshaft bearing housing have been redesigned for CVVT.

The CVVT system is used in two different ways.
On the normally-aspirated engine versions, it works on the inlet cam in order to improve low-end torque and driving characteristics.

On the Volvo S80 T6 version, it operates on the exhaust cam in order to cut emission levels still further, especially during cold starts.

CVVT is based on the principle, using the engine's oil flow, that the engine changes the position of the camshafts in relation to the valves by means of a hydraulic control valve.

The opening and closing of the valves is adjusted depending on the situation (engine load, engine speed and so on). No matter whether it is intended to control the inlet valve timing or discharge the exhaust gases at exactly the right moment in the combustion process in order to reduce the HC content, CVVT improves the overall characteristics of the engine by improving driving characteristics and reducing emissions.

While we are on the subject of emissions, the emission control system in the Volvo S80 T6 features twin catalytic converters, one for each set of three cylinders. Each of these catalytic converters has twin oxygen (Lambda) sensors.

One of them is located in front of the catalytic converter to provide information about the oxygen content of the exhaust fumes. The other is positioned behind the catalytic converter, thereby making it possible to control the emissions with greater precision.

The cams are driven by toothed belt for a long and trouble-free service life with accurate and quiet operation. They have plastic covers with rubber cushioning between them to counteract noise emissions and prevent the covers from rattling.

Computer controlled electronic throttle
The engine management system is Volvo-specific, software based and is part of the multiplex system (described later on). Apart from being very sophisticated with a multitude of functions, it is also insensitive to external interference, such as electromagnetic currents (EMC), and is designed with back-up, should a malfunction nonetheless occur.

All the Volvo S80 engines have a computer-controlled electronic throttle, i.e. no physical connection between the pedal and the throttle plate. Instead, the pedal has a sensor that communicates directly with the engine management system.

There are several advantages to this system. Driver input is handled more effectively by the engine, thereby resulting in smoother operation. This is reflected in lower fuel consumption and emissions. Not only does the electronic throttle control engine speed when driving, it also handles the idling speed function and cruise control, among other things. The result is rationalisation, the more effective use of functions, and better reliability.

An undeniable fact which affects the driving experience is the way the transmission deals with engine power and torque and what the transmission is like to handle.

A dynamic car must have the option of a manual gearbox, even if most buyers prefer an automatic.

Although the automatic of today is very active and features a great many functions, the manual gearbox is still the ultimate sign of absolute control. Perhaps this is why sporty cars for active driving are supposed to have a clutch.

In order to offer a selection of transmissions to suit all tastes, the Volvo S80 comes with a manual gearbox or an automatic, or both. The Volvo S80 offers all three types. There is an attractive alternative for every buyer.

Manual gearboxes
Since a transverse, in-line engine installation - especially a six-cylinder - requires a great deal of space and the width of the car must remain within moderate limits, solutions for extremely compact transmissions had to be found. Even if there are other ways to design and install a gearbox for a transverse engine, Volvo prefers the design with the transmission at the side.

When designing the M56 for the 850, the need for a small gearbox called for something unorthodox. Volvo's engineers came up with a three-shaft (one input and two layshafts) solution - instead of a conventional two-shaft (one input, one layshaft) system.

This time, the need for a compact box was even greater because of the larger six-cylinder engine. However, not only did it have to be small, it also had to be able to handle even more power and torque than the M56 was capable of doing.

Once again, Volvo's technicians opted for the multi-shaft technology - successfully applied in the M56 box for the Volvo 850.

The result, the M65, is a technical marvel; the world's shortest manual gearbox for a car and yet one of the most robust, capable of transmitting 380 Nm of torque to the front wheels!

It is only 297 mm long as a result of the multi-shaft solution, this time with not three but four shafts!

This makes the driveline installation in the Volvo S80 the most compact in the world in relation to its capacity and capability.

The compact design with short, sturdy shafts produces extreme torsional stiffness and minimises the risk of deflection even at high loads and the resulting poor meshing of the gears.

As with the M56, the M65 has an integrated final drive and the entire assembly is housed in an aluminium casing and bolted to the end of the engine on the left side of the car.

In order to prevent reverse gear being engaged unintentionally, there is a speed-sensitive blocking device which prevents reverse being selected at speeds of above 25 kph.

The choice of transmission alternatives for the Volvo S80 is:

M65, the manual five-speed for six-cylinder cars
M56, the manual five-speed for five-cylinder cars

Automatic transmissions
When the Volvo 960 was introduced back in 1990, Volvo also introduced the first generation of automatic transmissions that had been developed by Volvo in co-operation with Aisin AW in Japan.

Electronic control went on to play a major part in the different functions and electronics brought with it the opportunity to refine and improve the characteristics, to tailor the transmission according to the specific needs of every single model.

The ingenious design of the four-speed, electronically-controlled AW 4052 transmission for the front-wheel drive Volvo 850 was the equally smart automatic counterpart of the three-shaft M56 manual box.

For the Volvo S80, this design has been taken still further and incorporates more features, in spite of being smaller than its predecessor.

However, two manufacturers have worked with Volvo on the Volvo S80 automatics, General Motors and Aisin Warner.

Although they are similar in visual design and size, the two types differ slightly depending on their task. The gm transmissions are used for the six-cylinder cars, whereas the five-cylinder versions have AW transmissions:

  • GM4T65E four-speed automatic for six-cylinder cars
  • GM4T65EG four-speed automatic with optional Geartronic for the Volvo S80 t6 and later on the Volvo S80 2.9
  • AW5042 four-speed automatic for five-cylinder cars with turbo engines
  • AWY 500 five-speed automatic for five-cylinder, normally-aspirated engines (under development).

Both these transmissions have adaptive gear patterns, replacing the need for the separate e and s driving modes.

The automatic transmission with the Geartronic function combines two transmissions in one. By moving the gear selector lever to the left and locking it in the gate, the Tip mode is activated. The transmission is now like a manual gearbox to operate, albeit without a clutch.

In this manual position, it is operated like a sequential gearbox, i.e. the gears are positioned in a sequence as they are in a racing car (pull/push); push the lever for a higher gear, pull it to change down.

Geartronic also features a slipping lock-up for improved fuel economy and torque-controlled pressure regulation for improved gear-changing characteristics.

Another important feature of this transmission is what is known as driver adaptation - the transmission adapts itself to the driving style of the driver, varying the gear pattern and points of gear change, depending on how the car is being driven. This eliminates the need for selective driving modes, as this is automatically taken care of by the transmission.

However, it still features a winter mode, marked "w" on the selector gate, for safer take-off and driving on slippery surfaces. In the w mode, the car starts in third gear to prevent the wheels from spinning or making sudden movements.

In order to transfer all 272 bhp and 380 Nm of torque to the ground, the Volvo S80 t6 also features a viscous clutch to distribute the power between the driving wheels. The wheel with the best grip on the road surface receives more power than the other wheel, and this continues if the conditions change. The car therefore feels more stable and well-controlled at high speeds on twisting roads, with a noticeable increase in pulling power when cornering.

Steer and stop
A third decisive factor when it comes to the driving experience is the way a car responds to steering input and the way it stops, i.e. steering and brakes.

The very responsive rack-and-pinion steering has optional speed-adaptive power assistance which maintains road feedback and stability at higher speeds and makes it very light at low speeds, when parking or manoeuvring in tight spaces, for example.

Large-diameter, powerful disc brakes all round with ABS and electronic braking force distribution, provide for safe stopping from any speed. The general feel of the brake pedal at any speed is just as important as the braking performance. The system must respond to driver's input in such a way that the driver really feels that the pedal is an extension of his/her right foot, rather than being something separate that has to be manipulated. This is important to enable the driver to precision-adapt the braking force.

The general body and chassis design, the position of the driveline and the battery in the boot, all give the car very good weight distribution with a 57/43 ratio. This makes an important contribution to the fine handling characteristics.

The chassis layout of the Volvo S80 with all its components and features, the STC, DSTC and EBD systems, are described in greater detail under the heading active safety.

The smart electrical system of the future
Although a car is not primarily experienced through its electrical system, the revolutionary new electrical system in the Volvo S80 has a natural position alongside engines, transmissions and chassis performance.

To give you an idea of what has happened to the electrical system in cars over the years, the first Volvo back in 1927 had four fuses, protecting a mere 30m of electrical cable.

Seventy years later, the Volvo of 1997 had 54 fuses for 1,200 m of cables and a host of functions, which were totally unknown in 1927. For example, the total computer power in the car is more than 6 Mb.

By tradition, each function has had its own system and each system has had one supplier. The capacity of the electrical system was measured in terms of the sum of the number of components

But this simply could not continue; the need for a radical change was pressing.

A new totality was needed, one system that could handle everything. All the components had to be able to communicate, "understand" one another's language, integrated within this one system. One specification, one supplier.

The Volvo S80 not only has a new electrical system - many cars have advanced electrical systems, the Volvo S80 features the multiplex system which is a new method for signal communications.

The electrical system is designed as a communication network of 18 computers with central control units and no fewer than 24 modules for most electrical functions. These modules function like computers and control the electrical functions in the car whenever necessary.

Multiplex technology involves only two cables. One of them is able to carry all the signals in the system at the same time. The other is the electrical cable which carries the necessary power. These cables run around the entire car and are known as the databus.

The information travels in digital packages. All the small network modules are able to recognise "their" signal for action and do as they are told.

When the signal "open left front window" arrives, for example, only one module (in the front door) reacts to it, receives it and transmits an "order" to the electric motor to lowen the window.

Signals are able continuously to alert and activate the different modules as a result of the capacity of the system, which also operates at two speeds depending on the function. The engine and transmission management uses a high-speed databus, whereas all the other functions use a slightly slower databus.

The benefits of the multiplex system are considerably fewer cables and connections in the car, improved reliability, communication between all the components and software adaptations, easier and improved opportunities for the retro-installation of electrical functions and so on.

The system also has the benefit of self-diagnosis for all functions, including engine management, making the OBD (On Board Diagnostics) unit even more important than before. Diagnosis is easier, as is servicing. Any information about a fault or malfunction is passed on to the driver by indicator lamps and a message display in the instrument cluster.

All the cables in the system are fitted in well-protected cable ducts.

The multiplex system in each car is programmed according to model specifications and fitted options.

So much for hardware and function. There is, however, something else that is very important in order to create a positive driving experience:

How you sit and feel behind the wheel
No matter how much power you have under your right foot or how quick and nippy the steering is, if you cannot sit in comfort you do not feel good and the driving experience is negative. Physical well-being behind the wheel instantly transforms itself into mental well-being as well. A state of mind that is necessary in order to be a good, safe and alert driver.

The driver's environment must be the optimum combination of correct ergonomics, comfort and pleasure, with harmonious colours and materials. Function and feeling must be well-balanced. Everything must radiate a feeling of high quality. In order to really experience a car and have the best chance of doing so, you have to sit correctly. A fact that is all too often neglected.

For many years, Volvo has had a reputation for very good seat comfort.

In addition to the shape and design, a Volvo seat can be adjusted in all directions for the best possible support and comfort.

The front seats can easily be adjusted for height at both the front and rear and they also feature an adjustable lumbar support. The fore-aft adjustment is even more generous than usual.

In addition, the seats feature the WHIPS system which is described later on under a separate heading. The steering wheel must be comfortable to grip and hold for a long time. It must also be adjustable. In the Volvo S80, the steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and range in order to give every driver the best possible chance to find her or his ideal position. To be able to be at one with the car. Add to this gauges that are clear and easy to read, controls that are easy to reach and pleasant to handle, a cosy feeling in general and a pleasant smell, and the driving experience will be one of joy and pleasure.

Related page: Volvo S80 Original Press Release

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