The XC90 was Volvo’s shot at machines like the Mercedes ML, Audi Q7 and Acura MDX. A premium four-wheel drive SUV, it boasted uniquely rugged styling, available V8 power, and a long-lived reputation for safety and occupant protection.

At launch in 2003, two turbocharged engines were available — namely a 2.5-litre turbo five-cylinder engine with 208 horsepower, or a 2.9-litre turbocharged straight six with 268. Look for a five-speed automatic and AWD with both engines.

A 3.2-litre straight-six with 235 horsepower was also available in later years, fitted with a six-speed automatic, and a 4.4-litre, 311-horsepower V8 engine was added to the lineup later in the XC90’s life.

Look for the XC90 in five or seven-seat configurations, and with features like heated leather, premium audio, a sunroof, self-dimming rearview mirror, keyless engine start, heated mirrors, bi-xenon lights and plenty more.

What Owners Like

XC90 owners typically rave about sport-sedan road manners, smooth and refined performance, and a safe and stable road feel with plenty of traction in virtually any condition.

Performance with the V8 engine is also highly rated.

Common Issues

Start your XC90 test drive with an inspection of the interior, ensuring all electronics work as expected, and that no trim pieces are missing or broken. Check for proper operation from the stereo and climate control system.

A full check-over by a Volvo-trained mechanic is also advised. Have said mechanic check for excessive tire and brake wear, the condition of the suspension system, and for any fluid leaks from the engine, transmission, transfer case or differentials.

Note that well-documented transmission failure issues with the T6-powered models should be considered when shopping for a used XC90. Where possible, avoid a used XC90 with the T6 engine.

Higher-mileage turbocharged XC90s should be checked for turbocharger condition by a mechanic or mechanically-inclined friend. A turbocharger replacement will run into the thousands of dollars, so avoid any XC90 that smokes at startup or under hard acceleration, and be sure to check inside the “charge pipe” coming out of the turbocharger for pooling oil. Where maintenance is concerned, the XC90’s naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre engine will likely be the cheapest to run.

The Verdict

Comfort, styling, capability and safety will be the most compelling reasons to check out an XC90 as a used buy. Major issues are well documented, and shoppers avoiding the T6-powered model can likely expect a relatively affordable used premium SUV ownership experience.

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