Best & Worst Volvo XC90 Years

Are you considering a Volvo XC90 but not sure which model year you should buy? Here's the ultimate guide to help you make the right choice (with graphs).

In this guide, I’ll break down all Volvo XC90 generations, highlighting the best XC90 years to buy and the worst Volvo XC years to avoid.

Our insights are based on extensive research and reliable sources like NHTSA and J.D. Power, ensuring you get accurate and up-to-date information.

I’ll spotlight key aspects like engine performance, safety features, technological advancements, common owner-reported problems, recalls, and average resale values, defining the best and worst model years for the Volvo XC90.

Let’s jump right into it.

Related:Best & Worst Volvo XC60 Years

Table of ContentsShow

Volvo XC90 Generations

The Volvo XC90, introduced in 2002, quickly became a benchmark in the luxury SUV segment.

Known for emphasizing safety, comfort, and Scandinavian design, the XC90’s first model set high standards with advanced safety systems, a spacious interior, and a robust engine lineup, establishing Volvo’s strong presence in the global SUV market.

Here’s an overview of the Volvo XC90 generations, showcasing the evolution of this iconic SUV from its inception to the present day.

1st Generation2003-2014
2nd Generation2016-Present

Each Volvo XC90 generation encompasses significant changes, particularly in design, technology, and performance, which might be crucial factors in your decision-making process.

Volvo XC90 Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When evaluating the Volvo XC90’s best and worst years across different generations, our categorization considers a diverse range of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

Next, we present a graph consolidating these ratings, visually representing the XC90’s journey through the years.

Volvo XC90 Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Below, you will see a table categorizing each model year of the Volvo XC90 into best, neutral, and worst years based on the combination of the factors listed above:

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st Generation2009
2nd Generation2018

“Neutral years” indicate models that, while not outstanding, did not experience significant issues or recalls, offering consumers a balanced and reliable choice.

It’s important to note that factors like NHTSA recalls can significantly impact a vehicle’s reliability rating – the more complaints and recalls, the lower the dependability.

Let’s dive into the Volvo XC90’s best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Volvo XC90 1st Generation (2003-2014)

Volvo XC90 1st generation 2003 model
The 2003 Volvo XC90

The first-generation Volvo XC90, debuting in 2003, was a trailblazer in the luxury SUV market. It combined Volvo’s safety pedigree with advanced features and various engine options.

The best Volvo XC90 years of the first generation span 2009 and later, while model years between 2006 and 2008 are the worst Volvo XC90 years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

What is the best first-gen XC90 year? Model years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 are Volvo XC90’s best years to buy in its first generation.

These years marked the peak of the first generation, with Volvo offering sturdy engine choices like the 3.2L SI6 I6 and the 4.4L B8444S V8. The V8 engine was praised for its power and smoothness, offering an average of 13 city/19 highway mpg.

These models featured higher trim levels, including the R-Design, with enhanced sporty aesthetics, and the Executive trim with premium interior finishes.

Technologically, these years saw advancements in infotainment and the integration of safety features like the BLIS system and reinforced roll stability. The 2014 Volvo XC90 earned the Top Safety Pick award from IIHS.

Notably, these years had fewer reported issues than their predecessors, making them reliable choices.

The Neutral Years: 2006, 2007, 2008

The 2006, 2007, and 2008 Volvo XC90 model years offered a balanced performance with fewer issues than the earlier models.

The engine options included the reliable 3.2L I6 (2007 and 2008), known for its adequate power and decent fuel efficiency of around 14 city/20 highway mpg.

These models also saw the introduction of upgraded safety features and modest technological improvements.

While not as advanced as the later years, these models stood out for their improved stability and reliability.

The Worst Years: 2003, 2004, 2005

Like in almost every brand, the earlier models are always problematic. Similarly, 2003, 2004, and 2005 are the worst Volvo XC90 years to avoid in its first generation.

The 2003 Volvo XC90 faced significant transmission problems, including slipping and jerking, leading to failures and expensive repairs.

The 2004 and 2005 Volvo XC90 models struggled with electrical issues, including dashboard malfunctions and engine stalling caused by water leaks.

The 2005 Volvo XC90 also faced counterbalance shaft bearing failures, a severe concern for engine integrity.

Necessary recalls for these years concerned fuel pump leaks, tie rod ball joint fractures reducing steering ability, and inoperative windshield wipers.

These models, while innovative at their time, demonstrated significant reliability issues, making them less desirable in the used car market.

See NHTSA 2003, 2004, 2005 Volvo XC90 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Volvo XC90 2nd Generation (2016-Present)

Volvo XC90 2nd generation 2016 model
The 2016 Volvo XC90

The second generation of the Volvo XC90 marked a significant leap forward in luxury, technology, and performance. It embraced Volvo’s vision of combining elegance with safety and efficiency.

The second-generation Volvo XC90 – 2016 and 2017 introductory years are the worst years to avoid, while 2018, 2021, and onwards are the best and most reliable XC90 years.

The Best Years: 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

What is the most reliable year of the Volvo XC90? Our research concludes that 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 are Volvo XC90’s best and most reliable model years in its second generation.

Volvo offered refined powertrains like the T5 and T6 Drive-E engines and the advanced T8 twin-charged Plug-in Hybrid, improving fuel efficiency by up to 27 mpg combined and a 19-mile pure electric range.

The Inscription trim offered heightened luxury with Nappa leather and fine wood inlays, while the R-Design emphasized a sportier aesthetic.

Safety features included a Pilot Assist system, City Safety collision avoidance, and a 360° camera for enhanced visibility. The 2020-2023 Volvo XC90 models received the Top Safety Pick+ awards from IIHS.

Technological advancements were notable, with a 9-inch Sensus touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration.

The Neutral Years: 2019, 2020

The 2019 and 2020 Volvo XC90 models continued to offer solid performance with minor issues.

While not as advanced as the later years, these models maintained high standards of safety and comfort.

Engine options remained consistent with the best years, delivering adequate power and efficiency.

These models also included advanced safety features like lane-keeping aid and oncoming lane mitigation.

Though the 2019 and 2020 Volvo XC90 models saw some recalls, like those for the low-pressure fuel pump and automatic emergency brake failures, they were generally well-received and reliable.

The Worst Years: 2016, 2017

Which Volvo XC90 to stay away from? Avoid the 2016 and 2017 Volvo XC90 model years, as they have many recalls on NHTSA and the lowest reliability scores on Consumer Reports.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 was particularly problematic, with issues like electrical malfunctions, inoperative dashboards, coolant leaks from cracked plastic coolant lines, and excessive oil consumption.

The 2017 Volvo XC90 struggled with similar issues, affecting overall reliability.

Recalls for these years included concerns over airbags and coolant leaks.

While these models showcased Volvo’s commitment to innovation and luxury, they faced significant reliability issues, making them less favorable in the used car market.

See NHTSA 2016, 2017 Volvo XC90 recalls and complaints.

Volvo XC90 Resale Values

See this graph for insights into the Volvo XC90’s average resale values across different model years.

Volvo XC90 Average List Price


As we conclude the guide, it’s clear that the 2009-2014, 2018, and 2021-2024 models are Volvo XC90’s best and most reliable model years to buy.

It’s also clear that the models from 2003-2005, 2016, and 2017 are the worst Volvo XC90 model years to avoid.

Which Volvo XC90 feature is most important when considering a purchase or recommendation?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.