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The 2015 Volvo S80 is the brand's flagship sedan.

FAST FACTS

Model: Volvo S80 T5

Exterior color: Bright Silver

Interior color: Black

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo

Horsepower: 240

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 37 mpg highway, 25 mpg city

Dealer: Chattanooga Volvo

Price (as tested): $48,119

Volvo's stated corporate strategy is to ask itself: "What can we do to make the customer's life better, easier or more comfortable?"

The company's flagship S80 sedan has enough features to satisfy the want-list of a whole focus group. It has class-leading safety features, improved fuel economy, a tasteful interior and a flowing silhouette that belies the company's boxy-car legacy.

New for the 2015 model year is the S80 T5 model, which comes equipped with a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine that boosts highway fuel efficiency to a mind-blowing 37 mpg, which was hybrid territory just a few years ago for a car this size. A turbocharged V-6 is available for those who want, or need, a larger-displacement, 300-horsepower engine. All-wheel-drive is also optional on the V-6 models, and it adds another layer of safety and utility to a car that's already a virtual rolling fortress.

Our Bright Silver test car is provided by Chattanooga Volvo product specialist Randy Francisco, and has a stickier price of $48,119, including about $8,000 in options and destination charges.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The body style of the new S80 is carried over from the 2014 model, although a few chrome trim pieces have been tweaked. Still, the S80's exterior design looks fresh. From its contoured hood to the signature rounded shoulder-lines running from headlamps to tail-lights, the S80 projects sophistication.

The kicker is that under all that winsome sheet metal is a nearly impregnable safety cage -- a feature Volvo pioneered nearly 70 years ago. Volvo's safety-first mentality even projects outward. Some top-trim Volvos now offer a virtual safety shield that sweeps radar in front of the car to detect pedestrians and bikers and applies the brakes if needed to avoid collisions.

The interior is a good example of what Volvo calls "tastefully restrained" design. What at first glance looks simple -- almost spartan -- is actually a rich collection of stitched leather furnishings, walnut inlays and ambient lighting accents that work together to make your daily commute a stress-free experience.

Our tester comes with standard Sovereign Hide leather upholstery that wraps heated seats, both front and rear. Speaking of seats, most automotive writers say -- and we agree -- that the big Volvo's seats are among the most comfortable of any passenger vehicle on the road today. Years ago, Volvo started enlisting the help of orthopedic doctors to help with seat design, and the results are an almost magical level of back support.

Other standard features on our S80 tester include a seven-inch dash monitor, a 160-watt high-performance audio system, eight-way power front seats, push-button start and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The Premiere plus package on our test car ($1,500) includes a rear parking assist camera, and the heated seats are part of a $1,550 climate package. Xenon headlights ($800), blind-spot monitors ($700), metallic paint ($550), remote start ($499) and and a power moon-roof ($1,000) round out the options. The blind-spot monitors are especially well designed, with amber lights positioned on the A-pillars that flash when there's another vehicle on your flanks.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The first question to ask when a bigger vehicle comes with a four-cylinder engine is this: Is the motor up to the task? Almost every car-maker has these new turbocharged four-cylinder gas-sippers designed to deliver the acceleration of a V-6.

Why?

Two reasons. Manufacturers are under pressure to meet rising fuel-economy standards set by the federal government. Too, most of these new turbo-equipped vehicles were on the drawing board years ago when gas prices were closer to $4 a gallon than today's $2.50-per-gallon standard.

Still, the bottom line is that the Volvo turbos are quiet, stout and fuel-efficient. What's not to like?

On our test drive covering a stretch of I-75 and lots of driving in downtown Chattanooga, the S80 proved to be a delightful companion. A beefy, leather-clad steering wheel helps communicate Volvo's solid, planted driving dynamics. The 240 horses under the hood provided plenty of thrust to weave in and out of freeway traffic. Downtown, the S80 absorbed potholes and offered splendid cabin isolation.

A new, on-off feature kills the engine at long stop-lights to boost fuel economy, which is a respectable 25 mpg even in city driving. There is a slight shudder when the engine fires up after one of these pauses.

While many larger luxury sedans feature rear-wheel-drive, the Swedish-made S80 comes in front-wheel-drive configuration with the aforementioned all-wheel-drive option available on cars equipped with the V-6. A silky eight-speed transmission is standard.

BOTTOM LINE

Luxury sedan buyers have lots of options. If safety, comfort and value are near the top of your "must-haves" list, you'd be wise to test drive the 2015 Volvo S80.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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