What goes wrong with Volvo XC90s?

Volvo is a car manufacturer known for its safety and reliability, but like most brands, it’s not without its faults. So, what are some of the common problems the spacious and comfortable Volvo XC90 commonly deals with?

Engine, fuel and transmission issues, as well as premature tire wear are some problems associated with the Volvo XC90. While some models have faced engine issues, others have had electrical issues and overheating problems. There have even been some cases where Volvo recalled certain models to be brought back to dealers for free inspections and repairs.

Off-road driving leaves scratches

Even though the Volvo XC90 looks like a cool SUV, it’s actually not very good for off-roading, as the lower bumper corner and door sills can easily get scratched. This especially true for XC90 models produced between 2003 and 2015. So, if you want an adventurous XC90 with better off-road capabilities, you may want to go for newer versions.

Wheel arch intrusion in front passenger seat

While the XC90 promises enough space for the driver and its occupants, the wheel arch intrudes and occupies some space in the cabin meant for the front passenger’s feet. This narrow passenger legroom can lead to discomfort and is a common complaint.

Front tires wear down quickly

Rough riders of the XC90 will need to change the front tires often. This is because the front tires do all the work, and the rear tires only come into play when the front tires begin to lose grip. However, if driven carefully, the tires, including the front tires, can last longer than usual.

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Engine and transmission issues on older models

The 2006 and 2009 versions of the Volvo XC90 had issues with their engines. Many drivers reported that the D5 diesel engine injectors failed too quickly and this part was quite expensive to fix.

Owners also reported issues with the transmission and the electrical system overheating in the 2009 model. The 2002 to 2008 models also faced reports of suffering from severe transmission failure that was often accompanied by annoying noises before the car stopped running completely.

If you buy an older XC90, experts advise drivers to service the transmission regularly. It’s quite an expensive fix, but it’s the only way to reduce transmission failure.

Sunroof leaks

One general problem with all versions of the XC90 is sunroof leakage, which is quite expensive to fix. If, however, you choose to ignore it, water can find its way into the cabin. Destroying both the cabin and other electrical components.

Dangerous pre-tensioner seatbelt problem in 2017 model

The 2017 XC90 also had a rather serious problem that led to a recall.  It had an issue with the seatbelt pre-tensioner of the right-hand side third-row seat. This fault doesn’t cause any problems in normal conditions, but it’s very dangerous in the event of a crash.

During a crash, a small part of the pre-tensioner may come off and bounce inside the cabin, hitting passengers, leading to injury. This was why Volvo Australia recalled 58 pieces of the 2017 7-seat XC90 for free inspections and repairs.

Potential fire hazard

Volvo also noted a possible fire hazard in various versions of the XC90 due to leaking coolant that could build up over time on the catalytic converter. When heated, this buildup could cause an explosion, Volvo said. About 571 examples of XC90s sold between June 2016 to April 2019 were recorded with this fault.

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Issues with the 2021 XC90

The 2021 XC90 model is also not left off of people’s complaint lists. Some consumers have cited issues with the brake systems, drivetrain, body quality, and power buttons. In fact, it seems that since the introduction of the second generation of the XC90, the problems have been never-ending. And most of the XC90 problems are on important, yet expensive car parts.


Which version of the XC90 should I avoid?

According to Consumers Reports, the 2016 XC90 has the most issues. Several drivers complain about the emergency brakes engaging by themselves, especially at high speeds. They noted that this usually occurs after reaching about 12,000 miles, while few already noticed this after covering only 900 miles.

Despite the complaints about emergency brake issues happening to many drivers multiple times, fortunately no occupants sustained serious injuries. However, none of the drivers were able to find a permanent solution to this issue.

Volvo later made a recall that included the XC90 included. According to the recall, the issue arose due to a software code that was omitted which could be rectified with a computer upgrade. Volvo owners could take their cars for checks to resolve the issue for free.

Which Volvo XC90 has the most severe repair problems?

The 2003 XC90 was noted to have the most repair problems. Many drivers complained they experienced power loss while driving. Others cited loud engine noises followed by lights fading out, and windows failing to respond, even after several attempts.

Other drivers reported the car’s electronics all suddenly stopping at once while the engine kept running. Drivers said they could fix the problem by turning off and on the engine, but that it was very alarming and scary. Updating the XC90 software also seemed to help for a while.

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Others also reported tires wearing off too quickly. Weak tire tread often decreases fuel economy and can cause a tire to blow up while driving– leading to a crash. So, most drivers are forced to go for a new set of tires which is quite expensive. A complete set of these will cost around $1,700.

Which Volvo XC90 should I opt for?

Generally, newer car models solve the previous models’ inefficiencies. Newer models have more sophisticated features, better engines, more safety features, better interior and exterior designs, and better performance.

The 2020 and 2021 versions of the XC90 are a good pick. That is not to say some older models can’t give you what you may want from an XC90, or that the newer models don’t still have some issues.  Yet, producers tend to learn from the mistakes of the past versions and produce better modern ones.

Muhammad Arifeen

Muhammad has a broad knowledge about cars. On Luxury Cars A2Z he mainly write about Volvo and BMW.

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