Volvo XC90

A broad overview of the Volvo XC90 SUV, its features, price, problems and what to look for when buying Volvo's big SUV.

Volvo XC90

A mid-size luxury crossover SUV, the Volvo XC90 made its debut in 2002 at the Detroit Motor Show. Recognized for its safety, practicality, and comfort, the XC90 is a popular vehicle around the world. The top selling Volvo model in the United States, the model was the best-selling car for Volvo worldwide in 2005. The XC90 was recently awarded the title of 2016 North American Truck of the Year. It is the second time the XC90 has won the North American Truck of the Year award. The first was in 2003, when the vehicle was originally introduced.


Volvo XC90 History

The Volvo XC90 is Volvo’s first SUV offering, and came late in the SUV game. In a market where some manufacturers have 4 or more models, Volvo for years made just one. It debuted as a 2003 model, and sales have been higher than Volvo predicted.

Discover the Volvo XC90 Forum
Get free help, advice and opinion. Registering is free, and we don’t ever spam you.

Premiering with two model choices, the original debut featured the 2.5T and the T6. The 2.5T was a standard, entry level model with a 2.5L, 20 valve turbocharged in-line 5 engine. The T6 offered a 2.9L 24 valve twin turbocharged in-line 6 engine, along with all-wheel drive (the 2.5T came with front wheel drive.) In 2005, a Ford/Yamaha V8 engine was introduced.

Seating up to seven people, the SUV is roomy and offers removable seats for additional cargo spacing.

Winning North American Car of the Year and Motortrend’s Sport/Utility of the Year award in 2003, the XC90 is well respected for its performance, comfort, and safety features.

2016 Volvo XC90:2016-Volvo-XC90
The Volvo XC90 gets a full redesign for 2016, with fresh, new exterior styling, a new interior and a brand new engine. The outgoing XC90 had been on sale for a long time when it finally ceased production in 2014 and Volvo wanted to take a full year off to figure out how to make its replacement as competitive as possible. The result is a thoroughly modern SUV that borrows very little from its predecessor, while still remaining unmistakably a Volvo.

2013 Volvo XC90:2013-Volvo-XC90
For 2013, the XC90 receives its first major update since its launch in 2002. The 2-tone look of previous XC90’s is now a thing of the past– Volvo instead went with a more monochromatic theme for 2013. The front fascia is updated with the addition of new daytime running lights while new 18-inch alloy wheels round out the more noticeable exterior changes. Inside, there’s a new leather wrapped steering wheel, walnut overlays and improved interior lighting. The R-Design has also been updated with new 19-inch wheels and a black mesh grill.

2012 Volvo XC90:2012-Volvo-XC90
For 2012, the Volvo XC90 loses its V8 engine option and reconfigured all of the trim levels. The lineup now includes Premier Plus and Platinum models in
addition to the performance-oriented R-Design. The base XC90 loses its optional navigation. It is now standard on the Platinum trim.


Volvo XC90 Safety

In keeping with Volvo’s reputation for safety, the XC90 performed the best in the world in roll-over tests, and the front end is specifically designed to absorb impact and a roof reinforced with high impact steel to protect the passengers in a roll-over accident. Volvo strengthened and perfected the XC90 to do very well in this type of crash, if not avoid it altogether with its Roll Stability Control. RSC is a system designed to predict and actuate brakes and throttle to eliminate rollover accidents.

The Volvo XC90 has an inertia sensor that monitors the SUV’s attitude and its acceleration. The sensor can determine the difference between an impending accident and steep terrain. Working in concert with the inertia sensor are sensors that watch the body’s lean and measures its roll movements. But if there is a rollover, the airbags will deploy and remain inflated for up to seven seconds, or 4 rolls.

A concern over the potential for batteries to short circuit and fire resulted in a recall in 2007 of the 2005 year XC90 models. While many vehicles were recalled due to this concern, there were no reports of short circuts in the vehicles.

The 2008 model saw upgrades to the trim and additional features such as an automatically dimming rear view mirror.

Setting new safety standards in 2016:

The Volvo XC90 is debuting with two “World First” safety technologies.

The first world-first safety feature debuting on the 2016 XC90 is Safe Positioning, which is aimed at reducing injuries in crashes where the vehicle leaves the road. When the system detects that the XC90 is running off the road, it cinches tight the seatbelts, locking occupants snugly into the seats. This is important because the seats have energy-absorbing material between their outer layers and the frame designed to cushion occupants’ spines in the event of an extreme vertical impact, such as a hard landing at the bottom of a ditch.


Next up is an automatic braking feature that can stop the car before it turns in front of oncoming traffic. This is a common sort of crash, where the driver of a car turning left, for example, misjudges the velocity of—or simply doesn’t see—an oncoming car and makes a turn in front of it. Our home state of Michigan is so paranoid over the prospect of such accidents that it designed many of its roads without left-turn lanes, choosing instead to route traffic through a so-called “Michigan Left,” which is where cars wanting to turn left instead turn right or go straight at an intersection, then more or less pull a U-turn using designated lanes on the left to avoid crossing two directions of traffic. Volvo’s mistrust of left-turners elevates the automatic-braking game from a simple detection of largely stationary objects in front of a vehicle (as executed by the automaker’s own City Safety feature) to a more complex decision-making process that can consider faster-moving targets not directly in front of a vehicle.

Volvo XC90 Future

The XC90 is rated high for value within its class by Consumer Reports, and Volvo plans to move toward hybrid technology with newer models of the XC90, and future models are expected to grow slightly in size and be designed to compete in a more luxury market.

While the XC90 was originally slated to move into a third generation version in 2010, this plan has been scrapped in favor of a facelift for the vehicle, and the intention is to sell these production models through the year 2012.

The XC90 shares Volvo’s P2 platform with the V70, S60, XC70, and S80.


  • turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 20-valve 2.5-liter 5-in-line, 208 hp, 236 lb-ft
  • twin-turbo-charged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 2.9-liter 6-in-line, 268 hp, 280 lb-ft
  • DOHC 32-valve 4.4-liter V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection, 311 hp, 325lb-ft
  • Transmissions 4- or 5-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
  • Wheelbase 112.6 in
  • Length 188.9 in
  • Width 74.7 in
  • Height 70.2 in
  • Curb weight 4450-4800 lb, depending on engine and FWD vs. AWD
  • Zero to 60 mph: 6.5 – 8.2 seconds, depending on engine
  • Top speed (governor limited) 128 mph
  • Fuel Economy: low teens (city) to mid-20s (highway)


Subscribe to the MVS Newsletter!

All MVS email complies with the CAN-SPAM Act. You can unsubscribe here from the MVS Newsletter at any time.