Volvo's new big car, the S80, has just gone on sale in the UK. Big on safety, and also technically interesting, the new S80 boasts new- style seats that avoid whiplash injury, has improved side protection, and also features an "inflatable curtain" airbag concealed inside the headlining between the front and rear side pillars. It inflates on impact and cushions the head and neck in side impacts. Volvo claims the S80 is the safest Volvo ever and, by implication, is probably the safest car ever made.

The new big car uses a transversely mounted straight-six engine, unlike all other cars on the road. Unlike previous big Volvos, such as the 740 and 940, it is also front-wheel drive. There will also be no estate version - amazing considering the dominance of old big Volvos in the estate market.

Two models are offered initially - a 2.9-litre, costing pounds 27,630, and a sportier T6, which has 272bhp thanks to a twin-turbo engine, and costs pounds 36,230. Bigger selling five-cylinder models go on sale within 12 months.