The 5 Best Volvo XC90 Model Years to Consider! [And 7 to Stay Away From!]

The 5 Best Volvo XC90 Model Years to Consider! [And 7 to Stay Away From!]

The name Volvo has been associated with adjectives like “safe”, “luxurious”, and even “reliable”. But many people may wonder how true this remains for the Swedish automaker’s gas-powered flagship SUV, the XC90.

The short answer is that it really depends since model years aren’t exactly peas in a pod, especially if we’re talking about secondhand examples of the luxury SUV in question.

As followers of the Swedes’ take on elegance and utmost security on wheels, we’re on a mission to give you the best model years of the Volvo XC90 you can trust while steering you clear of the worst of the lot as well!

What are the best and worst years of the Volvo XC90?

The best Volvo XC90 model years are 2009, 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2021, while its worst model years are 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2016, and 2017.

The best and worst Volvo XC90 model years are determined by using consumer/expert ratings, reliability reviews, and complaints about any reported issues.

Volvo is well-known for its safe and reliable fleet of vehicles, and that includes even secondhand examples of its XC90 SUV.

But as with any used car, you’d preferably want to aim for the most polished example to get the best value for money, which can be quite tricky considering there are about 2 decades’ worth of model years of the Swedish luxury SUV to sift through.

Luckily, we’ve done our homework and narrowed down the best and worst model years for both 1st and 2nd-generation Volvo XC90 models so you don’t have to!

Based on stats from experts, owners, and even complaints posted online, your best bets for the 1st-gen XC90 include 2009 and 2014, while the best 2nd-gen models to consider are from 2019, 2020, and 2021.

In contrast, you’re better off avoiding any 1st-gen Volvo XC90 models from 2003 until 2007, and the same goes with 2nd-gen models from 2016 and 2017.

To understand why these Volvo XC90 years are considered the best and worst, let’s take a look at each of them in more detail in the next few parts! 

What are the best years of the Volvo XC90?

The best model years of the Volvo XC90 include 2009, 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2021. These years have lots of favored features, have high consumer/expert ratings, and received the fewest complaints compared to other model years.

2021 Volvo XC90

2021 Volvo XC90

When it comes to choosing the best years of a particular vehicle model, you generally can’t go wrong with one of the newer and more “refined” model years. In the Volvo XC90’s case, this would be the 2021 model.

First off, the 2021 Volvo XC90 already has tons of world-class safety features that come as standard, such as Pilot Assist, Blind-Spot Monitoring, and Forward Collision Mitigation, which is Volvo’s version of automatic emergency braking.

It’s also no carryover from the previous year either, as Volvo made it a point to add even more standard features such as wireless charging, front parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights, and more.

The 2021 model year also renamed the previous “T8” powertrain to “Recharge”, which is a twin-charged 2-liter I4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine that makes a combined output of 400 hp.

Now, not only is it a quick luxury SUV, but it’s also been praised for having greatly improved handling and comfort compared to older model years.

Consumer and expert ratings are also looking quite respectable for the 2021 model, such as 4.1/5 from KBB experts, 4/5 from Edmunds consumers, 9.5/10 from Car and Driver, and 75/100 from J.D. Power.

2020 Volvo XC90

2020 Volvo XC90

One of the most reputable 2nd-gen Volvo XC90 model years that you can get goes to the 2020 facelift model thanks to consistently high ratings, stellar reliability, and a cool arsenal of tech features all around the vehicle.

Now it might not have as much under its sleeve as the more updated 2021 model, but the 2020 Volvo XC90 is the more reliable year overall due to having fewer complaints than the former.

Moreover, it also received slightly higher ratings on average than its 2021 rendition. These include a 4.6/5 on KBB, 4.2/5 on Edmunds, 9.5/5 on Car and Driver, and 78/100 on J.D. Power.

Whether you opt for the T5, T6, or T8 (Plug-in Hybrid) version of the 2-liter I4 powertrain, you’re getting smooth and luxurious performance coupled with competitive fuel economy that bests V6 and V8-powered rivals.

Though if we were to choose the best bang for your buck, the “T6” model and its turbocharged 316-hp 2-liter I4 will be the happy medium that can answer both your fuel-sipping and power-hungry needs for the 2020 XC90.

Improvements have also been made to this model year’s brakes and suspension, making it not only handle like a truly comfortable luxury SUV but also further testifies to Volvo’s knack for safety. 

2019 Volvo XC90

2019 Volvo XC90

Older doesn’t necessarily mean worse, and the 2019 Volvo XC90 proves this by being one of the best model years of the SUV in terms of reliability and overall features worth taking advantage of at lower prices.

The 2019 model is up there together with the 2020 and 2021 models for having one of the fewest complaints about any major mechanical flaws or electrical gremlins.

As with the more recent years, the 2019 XC90 also offered the T5, T6, and T8 hybrid powertrains for its trims, giving you more room for building your XC90 the way you want to.

Speaking of room, this model year also comes standard with a spacious 3-row/7-passenger seating arrangement for most of its trims, all while being flanked by a new optional 19-speaker Bowers&Wilkins audio system.

However, expert and consumer ratings are a bit mixed for the 2019 Volvo XC90, with KBB giving it a 4.5/5, Edmunds a 3.6/5, Car and Driver a 9/10, and J.D. Power a 75/100. Take these into consideration when opting for a 2019 model.

2014 Volvo XC90

2014 Volvo XC90

For fans and future owners of the 1st-generation Volvo XC90, the 2014 model is undoubtedly one of the best years that you can get given its proven track record for reliability and innovative features for its time.

Let’s not forget that this is the last model year of the 1st-gen model, meaning that Volvo already had enough time to polish all of its known flaws since way back in its 2003 debut.

This is evident in the fact that it has decently high consumer ratings on average even to this day, including a 4.3/5 on Edmunds and a 76/100 on J.D. Power. They’re not quite as high as the newer 2nd-gen models, but still impressive nonetheless.

Mostly a carryover from the last model year, the 2014 XC90 adds on a few updates such as a passenger seat you can fully fold flat and other packages.

However, top-notch safety and comfort can still be expected from this model year through its wide array of standard features like rear sonar parking sensors, a 3rd-row dual-zone automatic climate control panel, a power moonroof, and more.

2009 Volvo XC90

2009 Volvo XC90

As dated as it may seem, the 2009 Volvo XC90 made it to this “best years” list even as an older 1st-gen model for plenty of good reasons.

Despite its age, the 2009 model displayed impressive longevity and good value for money throughout the years as evident in good consumer ratings of 4.2/5 on Edmunds and 73/100 on J.D. Power.

As far as the number of complaints goes, there’s not much separating it from the 2014 model year at all, making it a very reliable model notwithstanding the 5-year difference between them. 

But since numbers can only tell so much, let’s talk about how numerous reviews write about its practicality in that it has a ton of trunk space with the option to fold up a perfectly comfortable 3rd row of seats.

You obviously still get lots of safety and driver-aid features as expected of a Volvo, such as stability control, antilock brakes (ABS), a sliding 2nd-row center child seat, rear parking sensors, and just about every airbag on every corner you can put one in.

Suppose you’re a family man who still likes getting rowdy at times, then the added R-Design trim for the 2009 model year paired with the Yamaha-built 4.4-liter V8 option will just about scratch that itch.

While it’s definitely no fuel-sipper with the V8, the interesting thing is that it still gets very similar gas mileage to the 3.2-liter straight-six (SI6) option, which is considered a bit underwhelming performance-wise for some people.

What are the worst years of the Volvo XC90?

The worst model years of the Volvo XC90 include 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2016, and 2017. 

Apart from having mixed ratings from consumers and experts, these years also received the highest number of complaints about a variety of problems.

2017 Volvo XC90

2017 Volvo XC90

There have been quite a few bad iterations of the XC90 over the years, and in the case of the newer 2nd-generation model, one to avoid would be the 2017 model year.

Not only did the 2017 model receive low reliability scores, but consumers and experts also gave it lower ratings of 3.6/5 on Edmunds, 8/10 on Car and Driver, and 69/100 on J.D. Power compared to its more successful model years.

Owners and expert reviewers were not fond of its overall ride feel especially when going over bumps, describing the experience as rather “busy” and unrefined for a luxury SUV.

Some of its other undesirable traits include a noisy engine for what it is, problematic climate control, and subpar handling compared to its competitors.

While not the worst-off, it still received a fair amount of complaints on CarProblemZoo and CarComplaints that total 71, with the majority of them relating to either the engine, cooling system or different electronics.

In more specific reports, the 2017 model exhibited delays in acceleration, smoke or fire coming from the engine bay, increased exhaust fumes, a broken coolant hose, the collision avoidance system randomly activating, and the list continues.

2016 Volvo XC90

If you were ever curious to know what a truly unreliable Volvo sounds like, then read on to what we have to say about the 2016 Volvo XC90 and its myriad of mechanical and electrical faults.

For starters, the 2016 model has the highest amount of complaints for any 2nd-gen XC90 model, which total 237 on CarProblemZoo and 41 on CarComplaints. Again, most of them concern the engine and electrical system.

This is further backed up by some of the lowest consumer ratings received by this generation, such as 3.1/5 on Edmunds and 71/100 on J.D. Power.

Some of the most common engine issues that plagued the 2016 model are excessive oil consumption, coolant leaks, smoke from the engine bay, and sudden loss of power.

This particular model year is also known for its faulty autobraking system, which is at the expense of owners experiencing the sudden slamming of the brakes with nothing in sight, making it a far cry from the Volvo standard for safety.

The interior features aren’t any better, either, being riddled with issues including the instrument panel going blank, the rear doors not unlocking, the nav system not working, and the sunroof leaking.

2006/2007 Volvo XC90

20062007 Volvo XC90

Moving over to some of the worst model years of the 1st generation, the 2006 and 2007 Volvo XC90 models are better off skipped due to several different reliability concerns.

These two model years are so similar to each other in a bad way that you’d think the latter is just a carbon copy, what with both having the same electrical issues, such as the vehicle suddenly shutting off and various interior and exterior lights malfunctioning.

Statistically, however, the 2006 model reigns as the worst of the two with its CarComplaints and CarProblemZoo complaints totaling 75 versus the 2007 model’s 61.

Choosing either model year would have been great with the number of features they both carry, though numerous engine and transmission problems easily put the 2006 and 2007 models on the bottom tier. 

The 2006 model year had instances of engine failure and shutdowns, whereas the 2007 model had a troublesome transmission that wouldn’t go into park (P) and jerked between gears.

In addition, you may also encounter tire-related issues such as premature tread wear, which was mostly reported in the 2006 model. Most owners have had to replace their tires in less than 20,000 miles.

2005 Volvo XC90

Imagine the problematic 2006 and 2007 model years and make them twice as bad. You’ll get the 2005 Volvo XC90 and the over 300 complaints from upset owners posted to its name.

Most of the problems of the 2005 XC90 are a three-way mashup between engine problems, transmission problems, and a whole plethora of electrical issues.

The list of headaches the 2005 model’s engine can throw at you includes an illuminated check engine light (CEL), increased noise and vibrations, counterbalance shaft bearing failure, reduced acceleration, and even complete engine failure.

As for the transmission problems, owners reported that the transmission can shift quite roughly and get stuck in a particular gear. Transmission failures are also quite common with this model, with others almost getting into accidents when driving in traffic.

It’s important to note that these issues can happen even without the presence of any warning light, making it a very big risk to be driving around in this specific deathtrap of a model year.

On top of that, you’ll also have to potentially deal with fuel leaks, starting difficulties, faulty headlights, non-working windshield wipers, a dead radio, and an assault of warning messages that keep popping on the screen.

2004 Volvo XC90

2004 Volvo XC90

Further cranking it up a notch, the 2004 Volvo XC90 takes the cake as one of the worst model years out of any XC90 generation with its notoriety for expensive and downright unsafe reliability problems.

With a hefty total of 683 complaints on CarComplaints and CarProblemZoo combined, this alone is enough of a reason to run for the hills when somebody tries to sell you a used Volvo XC90 from 2004.

Not only does this make it the XC90 model year with the most complaints, but it also makes for one of the most unreliable samples of the luxury SUV to date.

A good chunk of the reported problems center around the electrical system and powertrain, a pattern that has continued on even several model years later, as discussed.

Electrical issues varied from overheated CEMs (central electronic modules) and various warning lights coming on to stability control malfunctions and random power shutdowns.

Engine stalls and transmission failures were also fairly frequent occurrences for the 2004 model, which often left owners stranded and had to fork out thousands of dollars on repairs or replacements due to the lack of recalls.

If that wasn’t bad enough, this model year has also been reported to have faulty airbags that don’t deploy properly and fuel pumps that are prone to cracking and leaking.

2003 Volvo XC90

Although not the worst of the bunch, the 2003 model year, which was the debut year of the 1st-gen XC90, made it to this list on account of having a considerable amount of reliability complaints compared to better model years.

Despite being one of the most affordable years of the XC90, the 2003 model year can easily rack up maintenance and repair costs if you’re unfortunate enough to not keep its known powertrain issues at bay.

The long trend of powertrain problems that persisted until the 2007 model year first started with this model, and that means you can also potentially deal with shifting issues, getting stuck in one gear, and transmission failure.

But since powertrain problems only make up about a third of the 149 total complaints posted on CarProblemZoo, you can also run into other issues with the electrical system, suspension, and fuel system albeit not as widespread.

Volvo XC90 Best and Worst Years Per Generation

Generation/Model YearsBest YearsWorst Years

1st Generation (2003 to 2014)

2009 2014
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
2nd Generation (2016 to 2024/Present)2019 2020 20212016 2017

Consumer/Expert Ratings for All Volvo XC90 Model Years 

Honda Ridgeline Model YearKBB Expert RatingEdmunds Consumer RatingCar and Driver RatingJ.D. Power Consumer Rating
20244.1/5 3.5/5 9.5/1073/100
20234.1/5 3.4/5 9.5/1073/100
20214.1/5 4/59.5/1075/100
20204.6/5 4.2/59.5/1078/100

What are the common problems of a Volvo XC90?

What are the common problems of a Volvo XC90

Common problems of the Volvo XC90 are engine problems like sudden stalling or shutdowns, and transmission problems like jerky shifting and transmission failure.

The Volvo XC90 is also known to develop braking problems as well as different issues with the electrical system.

Engine/Transmission Problems (Powertrain Problems)

Powertrain problems, or in other words, problems that involved the engine and transmission, were quite commonplace in certain model years of the Volvo XC90.

In particular, 2nd-generation models from 2016 and 2017 were known to exhibit acceleration problems and leaks from broken coolant hoses.

These coolant leaks can be tied to another notorious problem, which is that these two model years received reports of smoke and even fire breaking out of the engine compartment, a tell-tale sign that the engine has overheated.

Excessive oil consumption has also plagued the 2016 model year, with plenty of owners complaining about receiving “oil level low” and “reduced engine performance” messages after just having changed the oil several weeks or a thousand miles prior.

1st-gen models from 2003 to 2007 weren’t any better off with their unreliable powertrains judging by the large number of reported engine and transmission issues.

2004, 2005 and 2006 models were most prone to engine and transmission failures, though shifting issues were also observed even in the 2003 and 2007 models.

Furthermore, the 2005 model was infamous for its counterbalance shaft bearing failure, which was one of the main culprits that contributed to engine failures for this model year.

Brake Problems

Brake-related issues were also a hot topic for the Volvo XC90, with even newer model years with their automated braking systems not being spared from the flurry of complaints.

The 2016 model was the worst off due to its malfunctioning automatic braking feature, which reportedly slams on the brakes despite no object being detected in front of the vehicle.

This sudden braking has been reported to occur at just about any speed, making it a significant safety concern especially when driving in highway traffic. 

Being part of the XC90’s “Collision Avoidance System”, the faulty auto-brake feature is very much an electrical or electronic issue by nature, and the luxury SUV has plenty of that to go around as well.

Other reported brake issues include the ABS (antilock braking system) light turning on, loss of braking power, a non-functioning parking brake, and grinding or squealing noises.

Electrical System Problems

If you manage to get a bad sample of the Volvo XC90, then it can be an absolute electrical nightmare of issues that can affect just about anything on the vehicle.

As one of the top-reported categories of problems for the XC90, electrical problems can vary from minor annoyances like faulty interior lights to more major ones that can cause the engine to run badly or even stall.

Owners of 2nd-generation models from 2016 and 2017 had to bear the brunt of malfunctioning interior bits, like a blank instrument panel, a faulty nav system, doors that refuse to unlock, and many other features being inaccessible.

Older model years also suffered similar bouts of random power loss, which rendered both the engine and electronics inoperable. In the case of the 2004 model, it was also known to have issues with its central electronic module (CEM) overheating.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which year Volvo XC90 is most reliable?

The most reliable model years of the Volvo XC90 include the 2009, 2014, and 2020 models owing to high ratings from consumers and experts as well as having the fewest reported complaints out of any model years.

Going for the 2nd-gen 2020 Volvo XC90 gives you all sorts of innovative safety and comfort features with none of the drawbacks associated with more unreliable years and their numerous mechanical and electrical problems.

The 2014 Volvo XC90 is one of the most reliable, polished, and well-equipped examples from the 1st generation with it being its last model year.

The 2009 model, in comparison, has an impressive track record for long-term reliability due to having very few complaints despite being the oldest of the three model years in discussion.

What is the weakness of the Volvo XC90?

Some weaknesses or “cons” of the Volvo XC90 include limited cargo space with the third-row seats up, certain model years being prone to powertrain and electrical issues, a lackluster base engine option, and complicated touchscreen controls.

Is the Volvo XC90 high maintenance?

According to stats by RepairPal, the Volvo XC90 has an annual maintenance cost of $851 on average, making it $82 more expensive than the $769 average for all Volvos and $44 more expensive than the $807 average for all midsize luxury SUVs. 

What is the most powerful XC90 engine?

The most powerful Volvo XC90 engine currently offered is the T8 powertrain, which is a twin-charged 2-liter I4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine combined with an electric motor that produces performance figures of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.

However, if we’re including Polestar versions, then the optimized Volvo XC90 T8 by Polestar increases the stock engine’s power output to 421 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.