Over the holidays, my family attended an annual gathering of old friends, graciously hosted by the parents of one of my wife’s besties from junior high school. A new 2014 Lexus IS250 was parked in their driveway, one still wearing dealer tags rather than official California plates, so naturally I quizzed them about their new car.
After three weeks of ownership, they didn’t like it. You see, they thought all Lexus models were cushy cruisers, but instead of getting the Lexus ES – which likely would have thrilled them – they insisted on the smallest model in the fleet, the one aimed right at the BMW 3 Series. Making matters worse, the clueless salesperson had put them in an IS250 with a Sport Package, and these elderly drivers detested the rough ride quality. Said my wife’s friend’s father in his halting English: “We should have talked to you first.”
Within the luxury car ranks, there are two kinds of sedans: the ones that are trying to be a sport sedan, and the ones that are not. The 2014 Volvo S80 falls into that latter category, competing against a range of models including the Acura RLX, Cadillac XTS, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Genesis, Lexus ES, Lincoln MKS, and Mercedes-Benz E350 Luxury. I’d even throw a loaded Kia Cadenza into the mix (yes, it is that good).
That’s not a very long list, is it? That’s because American consumers have gotten it into their heads that BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes are the best luxury cars, even in cases when they’re neither the best nor are they luxurious. As rolling symbols of wealth and success, people aspire to own them, which means other automakers are frequently working overtime to emulate them. What’s forgotten is that many car buyers still equate the concept of luxury with a smooth ride and a plush interior in addition to a prestigious badge.
While it’s true that the Volvo iron mark stamped onto the S80’s grille might not carry the same cachet as it used to, this largest of Volvo sedans is definitely a luxury car, it certainly isn’t trying to be something that it is not, and it hasn’t forgotten that lots of people just want a comfortable and quiet cabin combined with a plush ride quality. And though the S80 is getting rather old, it remains a surprisingly satisfying package wrapped in conservatively appealing Scandinavian design.