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Which XC90 To Buy? First Generation: 2.5T, 3.2, V8 or T6

Neil is looking for a XC90, first generation. But which XC90 to buy? Four engines were used in the first generation XC90, which ran 2003-2015.

Which XC90 To Buy? First Generation: 2.5T, 3.2, V8 or T6
Longtime MVS Contributor Neil is looking for a XC90, first generation. But which XC90 to buy? There were no fewer than four engines used in the first generation XC90, which ran 2003-2015.

The problem? The five-cylinder XC90 hasn’t been made for over a decade.

He wants to find a 2003-2006 five-cylinder XC90 for power and durability, and I agree with him on this choice.

I am considering buying an XC90. Previously I had said I would never buy one, but we may need a bigger vehicle as our new puppy looks like she will be a pony!

I know the best ones are supposed to be 2009-, but the newer ones have the crap gutless 3.2 engine or the V8. I am therefore limited to the 2004-2006 I5T engine. It may take some time to find a lower mileage one, but what are the major points I should look out for?

I have heard they have issues with wheel bearings and prop-shafts to name a couple. Anything else to watch out for?

My opinion on XC90 engine choice is this:

  • V8 – expensive long-term maintenance, thirsty
  • 3.2 – weak (but durable)
  • T6 – transmission time bombs
  • 2.5T – durable, relatively efficient, my choice… but good XC90 2.5T samples are hard to find now

MVS forums member ogatrulle adds some great info about owning his 2008 XC90 with the 3.2:

I have an 08 3.2 FWD. Sure, it isn’t a rocket like my 96 Deville, but I have found the power to be quite adequate (for instance, merging uphill onto a 65mph freeway). I avoided the AWD because I equated that with more failure points, lower available power, and I don’t have to deal with snow.

I bought it at 35kmi and now have 93kmi on it. This is only a sample size of 1, but my issues have been:

– some water in the driver’s footwell. I’d rather not have a sun roof, but it is standard. I took off the A-pillar covers, snipped off the + shaped ends of the drains, and added some silicone glue to where the bottom of the drain hose mates with the end. No water in the footwells since.

– Front control arm bushings bad at 85kmi, This seems to be the typical service lifetime. There is plenty of info at this site and other Volvo sites about the replacement procedure. The hardest part about the job was getting the various heavy duty cinch straps set up properly to pull down the new arms to get the ball joint studs into the holes. I replaced the ball joints as well. The Volvo ball joint tool made it very easy (I used a less-expensive equivalent version of the tool from ebay)

– My rear springs started making a kind of pinging noise when I went over bumps. It was still under warranty, and dealer techs could not figure out the issue at first. Eventually they found a TSB and installed a sound insulator on each rear spring. It looks like a rubber or plastic sleeve that was pushed on to the top 3/4 turn of the spring spiral preventing direct contact between the top of the spring metal and the top spring seat.

– A/C condenser leaked at 70kmi

– drive shafts. There seem to be two variants, I think one with straight splines and one with slightly spiral splines. The straight-spline variant exhibits vibration under heavy acceleration; the spiral-spline variant sometimes “clicks” when you let off the brake after a stop. Pick your poison. After a few back-and-forth swaps under warranty, I stayed with the original vibrating variant because the clicking bugged me more.

– The Volvo brake pads seem to be good at stopping but wear quickly (with concomitant dust on the wheels). I installed ceramic pads which seem to work fine.

– I think the rear parking light bulb sockets are flaky. I sometimes get intermittent warning messages indicating that these bulbs are out, but later in the day they work fine. It hasn’t bothered me enough to go at them with electrical contact cleaner yet.

– The sun visors have been a source of irritation because their forward-most position is too low, blocking my view. I am 5’11” and the driver’s seat is positioned low. Maybe the guy responsible for designing the sun visors was only 5 feet tall. I haven’t found a fix for this issue yet.

– The front seat belt buckles hit the fabric on the upper part of the B-pillar if you let them go when taking off your seat belt, leaving numerous small divots. I consider this to be a stupid design flaw because they could have extended the plastic B-pillar cover another few inches upward to prevent the problem.

Overall, I’m happy with the car. I don’t feel unduly burdened by the maintenance requirements so far.

Additional XC90 Buying Opinions and Experiences

VRD: Buying a XC90 – What should I look out for?

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