For 2014, the Volvo S80 – along with the S60, V60, XC60, V70 and XC70– has been treated to a striking facelift. Some clever trickery has made the nose look lower and wider while at the rear the S80 gets LED lights. The interior also boasts even simpler switchgear and a new multimedia screen. Does this make it worthy of consideration over the usual premium-exec contenders? We took to the wheel to find out.

What is it?

Only car buffs really know of the S80’s existence. That’s because it competes in a segment entirely dominated by German offerings. Want a fine-driving executive car? You buy a BMW 5 Series. Want something posh and comfortable? You buy a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. You want something to tailgate other road users with? You buy an Audi A6. The S80 has always been the thinking man’s alternative and it’s rare as a consequence. There are just three models to choose from: SE, SE Lux and Executive, and even the entry-level bristles with kit. Meanwhile, on the engine front, there are just diesels: A 113bhp 1.6, a 134bhp 2.0, a 179bhp 2.0 or a 212bhp 2.4-litre – these are badged D2, D3, D4 and D5 respectively.

What’s it like to drive?

If you’re expecting Volvo’s luxury-barge to handle like a 5 Series, then you’ll be disappointed – it just doesn’t. But that’s no bad thing as what you do get is a beautifully capable wafting machine. Our SE Lux test car had the optional Active Four-C Chassis which costs £1,000. It allows you to switch between three driving modes, namely Comfort, Sport and Advanced, and while it does stiffen things up the S80 is a comfortable car at best. Our car had the range’s most powerful engine, the 2.4-litre D5, mated with Volvo’s smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. Its distinctive five-cylinder bark is charismatic and it gives reasonable economy and emission figures too – you can expect mid-40s mpg and 159g/km in CO2 emissions.

What’s it like inside?

This has always been Volvo’s trademark – comfortable and well-made interiors that make you realise how complicated its rivals’ cabins are. The S80 uses the V70 estate’s interior so that means a beautifully laid out centre console, good quality plastics and soft leather upholstery. The seats deserve special mention as they have to be the finest in the business, and while our car had a number of pricey options, they were all desirable. Heated steering wheel for £200? Check. Premium sound system for £400? Check…

Is it practical?

The S80 may look a little small compared to the German exec saloons, but inside there’s plenty of space. Up front it’s easy to get the perfect driving position thanks to the electrically-operated driver’s seat on SE and upwards models, while in the back there’s decent head and legroom. Boot space is ample too at 480 litres.

Should I buy one?

As much as we love the S80, there’s little reason to go out and buy one new, unless you desperately want to avoid the brand associations of the big three German marques. As a consequence of BMW, Audi and Mercedes having this sector wrapped up, residual values are poor. The S80 is a very fine car, and while it’s starting to age a little, it makes a cracking used car proposition.

The facts

Volvo S80 D5 SE Lux

List price: £34,870 (£44,650 as tested)
Engine: 2.4-litre, five cylinder, diesel
Power: 212bhp
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Fuel economy: 33.6mpg (urban), 60.1mpg (extra-urban) 46.3mpg (combined)
Emissions: 159g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not tested