So Vegas was baking once again - though slightly cooler on the tables - but the hottest thing in the surrounding desert was undoubtedly the brand-new Volvo S80.
Far from the frigid ice-tracks of Sweden, the 2007 luxury mid-size sedan proved it could bolt round bends with the best of them during last week's test run through the Nevada desert.
And hard-charging is a whole lot of fun in the S80, which I hadn't realized when I took it on a soft-pedal jaunt to the Hoover Dam the night before. But free from tourist traffic on the 515, on empty twisting park roads, you could feel every ounce of effort that the Scandinavians have put into keeping up with the Joneses, or indeed the Schmidts.
in the S80, Volvo now has another reason to sit apart from its predominantly Germanic competitors as well as being known as a brand that has always shunned uber-confidence in favor of the more discerning customer.
And though angled, box-like cars previously made by the prestigious import marque do tend to lodge in prospective customers' minds, the S80 is all fluid, flowing lines, swoops and curves, with a reworked nose and headlamps, and wind-efficient roof and sides. Just check out it sister, the new C30, for a look at how far Volvo has come design-wise.
Safety is as reliable as ever, though, which could be one reason I pushed this refined beast a bit harder than I would most other cars, taking corner after corner safely at speed, giving its stability and traction controls a workout though, obviously, with no danger to anyone on the road, or off.
Knowing all too well that temperatures hitting 90 during the afternoon could also plummet in November nights and through winter to those resembling Stockholm or Gothenburg, it was a relief to know I was in a car that is well and truly dependable in heat or on the slippery stuff.
It's the first V8 in the sedan range, a 4.4 liter, an improvement on the underpowered T-series and it precursors, replicating the engine in the popular XC90. You can wring out every ounce of it 311 horsepower and 325-pounds-per-foot of torque through all four wheels, and the car reacts responsively going into and coming out of corners. The base front-wheel drive model has the six-cylinder 3.2 liter engine; both feed a six-speed box.
And both versions I drove were enormous fun and offer a serious dint at the achievements of Cadillac and Bimmer. One thing about the Scandinavians, though, and this goes for SAAB too - there are touches which while meaning to set the car apart, can drive you batty.
The central dash console, for example, resembles an elevator panel in the Empire State Building. With so many buttons mixed into each other - a full phone dialing pad beside all the heating controls and the stereo - it's almost impossible to find the button you're looking for at speed, a big no-no in my book (though the 160-watt stereo sounds great through its 13 Dolby speakers).
But safety-wise otherwise is excellent, as expected: there's a blind-spot information system, which when a car is annoyingly hovering back there -- there should be a law against it -- the car "senses" it and will alert you accordingly through a big red bleeping six-inch bar on the dash. It also alerts you when it feels you are driving too close to the car in front at a certain speed. So it's not foolproof, and is downright aggravating at times, but it works, as do all other things in this well-put-together car.
Other nifty features include a heartbeat sensor inside, which tells you if there is anyone left in you vehicle courtesy of its nifty handheld key fob - also practical if you're constantly checking the back of your car for an intruder, probably as many times as you check the stove - which also enables the doors and keyless startup. You'll also find rear-park assist, which is great for when you're uncertain of a new car's length.
Apart from that it's all leather and luxury, something Volvo has made great strides in for the simple reason of market forces, though it's still just not there: a little too much plastic up front and off-white trim which looks like once it gets dirty from a little one's hand or suchlike, chances are it'll stay dirty.
But there's definitely enough reason to contemplate switching over to Scandinavian's finest, though again it's in the segment of ultra-loyal consumers. Then again, if you want something a bit different, then a base price of $38,700 then upwards is pretty decent for a luxury import.
It may not be one for the high-rollers of Vegas, as you could never accuse the Volvo of being a pimping car, but at least it'll keep you out of casinos and loving life on the straight and narrow.