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Volvo has a decent reputation globally as the safe vehicle. Marketing back in the eighties and nineties allowed the Volvo to occupy a niche space as the car market all about safety. The XC90 is no exception however the pay off was mechanical reliability.
We do not advise buying, owning or being seen in the possession of an XC90, don’t even let people see you thinking about one. Deny ever having googled it or come across this article.
The first generation was known primarily for transmission problems. The automatic transmission is known to give a plethora of faults including but not limited to flaring, bearing noises and indecisively selecting gears at random. The cost for these transmission repairs is astronomical. Removal of them alone is the best part of a days work and then there is the cost to strip and rebuild them. Its not unusual for the repair bill for a transmission on the first generation to exceed $10K. Equally its not uncommon for every second one of them to need this repair.
The first generation diesel is known for injector faults too. An expensive repair that many a secondhand car buyer has been left with. Hard to start on a cold morning is the first sign you are having these issues. Additionally the diesels have a plastic diesel fuel filter housing located under the vehicle, its perfectly located to be collected by debree on the highway or any minor off roading, often sees a XC90 owner stranded as their diesel fuel leaks out into the bush after a bit of foliage ripped a hole in the plastic set up.
They are also known for springing leaks from the rocker cover, which on the diesel engine is part of the cam girdle making this repair, require special tools and to be expensive. The Diesel also run plastic inlet runners with a butterfly valve on them, that are known for breaking inside the inlet manifold, again an expensive repair that if not repaired leaves the vehicle in limp mode and underpowered.
The second generation of the XC90 seems to have substituted the transmission fault for clock spring issues and an electric hand brake system forcing the rear brakes to be replaced almost every single service. There is a huge number of software campaigns currently active of the new models and cost of servicing these is very expensive.
The clock spring fault is an issue in the wiring behind the steering wheel causing issues with horn, steering wheel controls and airbag operations. This fault is generally covered by manufacturers warranty.
Overal reliability is an issue for both the first and second generation XC90. Many owners reporting a need to return to workshops and dealerships far too frequently on the back of a tow truck or for software campaigns. Its all good and well if its cover by warranty, however you’re still out of a car whilst this is done and many owners are frustrated at the frequency of which this happens especially in the first few months of ownership .