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2019 Volvo XC90 Departing Review - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

8306 Views 105 Replies 37 Participants Last post by  Big Lebowski
I have one month left on my second XC90 lease, and I am honestly counting the days until it is over. Admittedly, part of that is excitement for my new car which is scheduled to be built early next month, but mostly I am ready to move on. I am on multiple other vehicle forums, and I understand how this can come off. I'm going to share my feedback and let future buyers draw their own conclusions. Flame suit activated for those that do not like my perspective, and I respect that.

Where I came from: My first XC90 was a Momentum, in a gorgeous denim blue. After owning multiple Jeep Grand Cherokees I needed a 3 row utility due to kids, trips, dog, life, etc BUT needed to stay under a certain length and height as I have a car lift in my garage that I store my "summer" toy on. I felt many domestic mid size SUV's were too low rent for my taste and the Germans (Audi, BMW) were too pricey. The Volvo hit a sweet spot, but I admit I NEVER saw myself buying a Volvo.

What I liked: The Good
  • Design: I was attracted to the minimal styling of both the interior and exterior. In a nut shell, I thought it looked very attractive and stylish. I love the Audi's and saw this as a baby Audi. I negotiated a great deal and off the lot I drove.
  • Engine: I was surprised by how peppy the engine was for a 4 cylinder and it met my physical needs.
  • Auto Pilot: I of course was aware of Volvo's reputation for safety but that had little to do with my decision to buy one. I actually learned more about the safety features AFTER I bought it, then prior. My hands down, favorite feature of my XC90 is the AutoPilot feature. We take a lot of road trips, and the feature allows me to take micro-breaks while driving to change a station, talk, get a soda, etc. It does pull weird when an on ramp enters the road, and never centers but all in all it has been a phenomenal feature. It was a big feature I looked for in its replacement.
  • R-Design: I don't remember how long I owned my Momentum, but with a few years my dealer offered to upgrade me for the same payment into an "R-Design" in blue. I still LOVE this blue color and the styling of the R Design.
  • Visibility: Has good visibility, as expected for a Volvo.
  • Sound System: The upgraded Bowers & Wilkens sounds system is a delight.
  • Heads Up: Love it and have it on a few other vehicles, and insist on it whenever available. So handy.
  • App: The app is handy and respect that Volvo doesn't charge a monthly fee, that it comes with the car. I use the remote start from my phone and watch daily in the Winter and the middle of the Summer. Very handy.

What I don't like: The Bad
  • Engine: (Yes, I realize this was a like above...initially). In "polestar engineered" mode, its pretty peppy...surprisingly so at highway speeds, but it lacks low end umph, and at the end of the day I prefer V8 (v6 at a minimum) power AND sound. The 4 cylinder turbo and supercharged engine is very tinny to me. It gets old for this size of vehicle. Some of this is my baggage, and I acknowledge that.
  • Design: What are we at? 7 years? 8 years, with little or now cosmetic refresh? The design looked sharp when I bought it in 2017 / 2018, but now looks a little long in the tooth.
  • Chrome / Aluminum: Its Everywhere. Literally. Mirrors, grille, trim, etc. Tacky plastic aluminum. In fairness, the new ones have more exterior black trim and looks a load better. The aluminum just dates the design IMHO.
  • No cooled seats: The R-Design with its suede interior does not have cooled seats. Lame. This was a big negative on long road trips, especially in the Summer.
  • Seat Comfort: What began as looking tight, crisp, thoughtful and minimal seats are actually hard as a board. 10's of thousands of miles have not softened them...only wrinkled them. For perspective, I'm used to firm seats with bolsters in sports cars. On long trips I am constantly shifting in place. Not a fan.
  • No Buttons: What began as looking like a minimal, elegant designed cockpit, void of buttons is actually a user PITA. I really did like the lack of buttons and dusty spots, but after daily use, having to go through the head unit / touch screen for common tasks related to the radio selection or climate control gets old. The interior needs just a handful more buttons for frequently used tasks.
  • Safety features: Lane keeping assist can be invasive. My wife and daughters refuse to drive the car. Yes, you can turn it off, but they don't like it. So no on drives it but me.

What I REALLY don't like: The Ugly
  • Touchscreen Head Unit: After almost 5 years, I am still not used to the head unit organization. It is slow, it glitches and the swipe left, swipe right feels awkward and unnatural. I always swipe the wrong direction for what I need to do. The vertical orientation is TINY by todays standards and just doesn't work. CarPlay is a postage stamp. Radio channel selection, browsing requires too much time of your eyes off the road. Since almost EVERYTHING the driver needs to control is in this touchscreen it lacks finesse and a rational UI that makes logical sense. The system is just slow. Slow to wake up, slow to respond. Just slow.
  • System Crashing: Both my XC90's had issues with the dash crashing while driving. Now it does it a few times whenever we are on a longer drive. VERY unsettling to have the entire dash (including speedometer), touchscreen everything go blank at 75 mph. Systems goes dark, music off, AC off and drive mode resets. It reboots and we're eventually back in business. The good news is I have never lost vehicle power during this time. Dealer has done "software updates" but obviously we still haven't found the issue.
  • Loud Cabin / Road noise: It is not a quiet sanctuary as they'd have you believe in the commercials. Road noise, wind noise, engine noise... This is not a german by any stretch.
  • Rotors / Breaks: In my 2019, the Rotors are a joke. First ones were warped so bad all 4 rotors had to be replaced. They still vibrate when braking. Again, I am used to sports cars and don't need a cushy Cadillac ride. These brakes are not good and the vibration is horrible braking from highway speeds to an off ramp. If I wasn't returning it in a month, I'd be asking for new rotors again. Now, I just don't care.
  • Suspension: The air suspension went out and the entire rear system had to be replaced. That was a week plus in the shop but covered under warranty. Would not want to imagine paying for that outside of warranty.
  • Rear Axle: Something happened with the rear axle on my momentum, and the ENTIRE rear axle had to be replaced. Seriously.
  • Long-term Feel: It is not a comfortable vehicle. It is rigid, firm, unwelcoming, unemotional and stoic. It is northern European to a tee. If you are an uptight neat freak, you might love it. I hand wash and detail my own cars and this is about as lovable as a cat.
  • Service: I bought into the Volvo also for the service. They would pick up my vehicle and drop off a loaner. This occurred for the first few years but during Covid that changed. I understood during the pandemic but they STILL will not come to me for pickup, which requires me to take a half day from work and go sit in their cold dealership while they work on my car...or get a 40 minute ride back home. Loaners even are hit or miss. This was one of the biggest disappointments and original differentiators that steered me to the brand.

If you own a reliable XC90 and love it, my hat is off to you. I am sincerely happy for you, but I and my family have found in time, this to be a miserable piece of transportation. It gets us from point A to Point B. After considering the X5, Q7, Genesis and Cadillac, I have decided to get a loaded Lincoln Aviator. Should be here late February / Early March and I can't wait. The Volvo experiment is coming to a close. Ironically, I turned my brother in law onto Volvo and he loves it. My sister is in the market too, and she has decided on the XC90. Friends ask me about it, and I share the good, bad and the ugly and let them decide. If you are looking at an XC90, go into with open eyes is my only recomendation. It will not get faster. It will not get softer. It will not get sexier...but it very likely will let you walk away from an accident. So there is that.
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If you buy the Aviator, look into Ford Protect, their extended warranty plan. You do not have to buy it from the dealer you buy the car from, there are a couple of dealers who sell the plans online for a discount. Your car still has to be under warranty to get it, so keep that in mind.
We looked into a couple Ford and Lincoln cars before getting our V60 and they can have some very expensive issues. I am not trying to talk you out of the Aviator, but don't think you are getting a Lexus that never breaks. The plans actually were pretty reasonable last I checked.
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My 2017 XC90 has me believing that there are two companies that make "perfect" vehicles - Porsche and Volvo.

I need your Porsche then, my experience with both brands is "you will be fixing them". Actually need your Volvo too!
Both my Porsche and V70 would have been non-viable if I paid someone to fix them. I got the V70 to be about as reliable as a sledgehammer after a lot of screwing around about three or four hundred dollars worth of parts. Shop rates for all that would have cost me as much as I paid for the car.
Just as I expected your reply to be.....more insults, can't back up what you said and won't explain yourself because you know you are wrong. I've added you to my blocked list and I'm leaving this thread. You are the one that wanted to take my comments and amplify them as somehow being "unpleasant" beyond anything I intended, but you won't let it go. As someone that used to work for Volvo for years it's hilarious to think I can't handle being challenged but someone....OMG, it literally was my life every day for years to deal with people like you at one. You have been on this forum for less than one month and I've been here for more than 20 years, sooo....you don't know me or my work history with Volvo than is pretty extensive (nor do you know the connections I have with upper Volvo management in North America). Sorry my previous work history and experiences cause me to be a lot more knowledgeable about Volvo than you. The vast majority of what you said is true and I agree with you, but you made some very controversial statements. As you can see, many others have agreed with me, not you. You literally can not back up what you said because it's wrong and you know it...but won't admit your inflating some of the problems you had to sound worse than they were. You didn't have your entire axel replaced, and you didn't' have your entire air suspension replaced like you stated. You should own up to that. Enjoy your fancy Ford. Well, likely you won't with that thing's flaws.
Ford vehicles are the worst! I mean look what they did to Volvo :ROFLMAO:
Re the V90 rough engine:
Is it the same I4 Turbo as the V60? I find that engine is plenty for the V60, the car is not slow. My one complaint is the transmission likes to shift early and the engine straining against a tall gear is kind of diesel sounding and feeling. If I spent what a V90 costs I might think more refinement would be nice. My old V70 is slower but the engine is smoother for sure.
Get the Polestar tune. It absolutely transforms the car's shifting.
I may do that. Normal shifts too late and Sport holds the revs too high. Getting right between the two would be great :)
The only differences between the Aviator and the Explorer (which is a very nice car btw) are Ford's profit margin and the ego of the buyer.

Especially true for those who buy lower stripped down trims of the 'luxury' brand (which is most buyers) over the fully loaded and more luxurious versions of the mass market brand, for about the same price. Because their ego requires them to trade off actual luxury features for a superficial luxury badge.
Or.........last time I was shopping Lincoln warranties were longer in time and miles than Ford. Plus at least here the Lexus dealership is so nice you want to buy cars from them frequently so you can hang around, the Toyota dealer that has the mechanical sisters of many Lexi is a grin and bear it experience at best. I can think of a LOT of reasons to shop Lincoln other than ego. Speaking of, is there anyone under about 90 that really cares about Lincoln vs. Ford when they see one drive past?
Having owned Audi, BMW, VW, Toyota, Honda, Infiniti, Ford, Volvo and a Mercedes, and been to all those dealerships - I can't say I care a whole lot. First, you spend so little time there as % overall car ownership life. Second, some differences are barely cosmetic. My current 'Audi' service center has different front offices but the same workshop behind for Audi, VW, Kia and Porsche. Yes, getting a loaner used to be easier at the 'luxury' brands but even that doesn't hold up any more. Yes, the Merc dealership was super shiny and flashy but I cant say service levels were much different.

Lexus is an interesting case. It did start as a completely differentiated brand - sort of like VW vs. Audi - with cars build on entirely different RWD platforms etc. Same with Nissan/Infiniti initially. But over time, everyone has come to realize to cost savings and $$ benefits of the Honda/Acura model. Build the same car, add some padding and slap on a new badge. Honda was even shameless enough for a while to sell the same cars as Honda in US and Acura in Canada.

So now the entire industry has moved to the same model. Toyota probably puts in the most additional work to upgrade the Toyotas to Lexii (?), while the newer Infinitis are mostly worse than their Nissan underlying IMO.

The last holdout has been VW/Audi - and even they have thrown in the towel. Going forward the Audi line will be split with A4/A5 being build on VW platform (A3 already is) and A6+ on the Porsche platform.

The lower trims of 'luxury' brands are absolutely the worst value out there. There is nothing luxury about them - they lack many features available in mid/upper trims of mass market brands. So yes, it is an ego exercise.
Lincoln gets you one more year and 50,000 instead of 36,000 miles warranty. If the transmissions in those things isn't any better than previous years, you are going to need it!
You really need to actually test drive the two. From afar, that was my impression too (and originally true of the Aviator) but that is not the case any more.
Twins are not always twins. The Avalon and Lexus RX3xx series were corporate twins, but they were never identical. Contrary to what you might expect, we always liked the Avalon version better after test driving them back to back. You can have different suspension bushings, different engine tunes, different interior soundproofing, all kinds of little things that make them into fraternal twins instead of identical.
Not sure I understand the point of comparing an Avalon (large sedan) to RXxx (crossover) instead of its direct Lexus variant the ES?

Also, as I pointed out above, there is some disparity between different brands. On one hand you have VWAG that builds Audis off an entire different platform from VW (except the entry level A3, and soon the A4). Toyota no longer goes as far with Lexus but probably puts in more effort than the rest. At the shameless end of the spectrum is GM, where you have to 'upgrade' from Chevrolet to GMC only to get access to some additional package on the same exact car!
BrainFart - I meant the ES300/330/350/etc :oops:
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