2020 Volvo XC90 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Brakes and engine issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

Luxury SUVs continue to grow in popularity, with the 2020 Volvo XC90 at the top of the Volvo charts. The automaker claims that this is “the SUV with first-class comfort and world-class safety.” However, current owners are complaining about all sorts of problems, but mostly those that affect the brakes and engine.

Click on other model year to view more problems:   2021   2022

Most Common Problems

Complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2020 Volvo XC90 relate to many components and systems. These include the engine, forward collision avoidance, the fuel/propulsion system, powertrain, service brakes, steering, structure, suspension, vehicle speed control, and several issues filed as unknown or other problems.

In terms of volume and severity, engine and brake issues top the list, even though they don’t focus on the same problems. Also, several complaints refer to more than one component or system.

There are also a growing number of recalls that include the 2020 Volvo XC90.


The first recall, issued in March 2020 is recorded as a forward collision avoidance issue. It warns that the automatic emergency braking system may not engage as intended. This can increase the risk of a crash. In the U.S., 121,605 vehicles have been recalled. But, according to an article in Automotive News Europe, more than 700,000 vehicles were recalled globally.

The most recent recall, issued by Volvo in December 2023 warns that the second-row seat belt buckles of nearly 3,000 Volvo vehicles may not tighten properly. This means that occupants may not be restrained as they should be — increasing the risk of injury if the SUV crashes.

Another relatively recent recall, issued in January 2023, alerts 74 owners of XC90, XC60, and V60CC Volvos that the steering wheels of their vehicles might lock up. This is due to incorrect steering gear assembly and it increases the risk of a crash.

There are two recalls listed as electrical system problems. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V273000 warns that 162 Volvo 2016-2020 XC90 vehicles have potentially dangerous front seats. Liquid or condensation can cause the rear seat control display to cause the front passenger seat to move right back. This can result in a passenger being trapped by the front seat, introducing an injury risk factor. The other warns of low-pressure fuel pump fuses that can fail. If this happens, the SUV can stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In this case, 85,550 Volvo vehicles are affected, including the 2020 XC90.

A recall issued because of a hydraulic brake problem warns that some Volvos have a rotor and shaft that could separate. This would cause brake malfunctions, including a loss of the antilock brake system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC), which increases the risk of a crash.

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2020 Volvo XC90 Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Service Brakes
Unknown Or Other
Air Bags
Electrical System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Fuel/propulsion System
Power Train

Engine Problems

A dramatic NHTSA complaint describes how a 2020 Volvo XC90 caught alight and was destroyed. The owner was driving the speed limit on the highway at the time.

“The vehicle lost acceleration power and then an engine performance light came on, then a check engine light. I pulled over immediately, and my car engine caught fire under the hood. The entire front of (the) vehicle was engulfed in flames within minutes. There were approximately 11k miles on the car and it had never been worked on in any way that would have caused an engine fire. It was clearly a fuel line fire, and Volvo did not properly investigate. My insurance company said it was a fuel line fire but could not get information from the black box because it was destroyed. This car is incredibly unsafe and should be recalled.”

Another complaint describes a random shudder which, according to the complaint, is very common. This states that the “vehicle shudders randomly when taking off from a stopped position around 18mph. The vehicle shudders randomly when slowing down to make a right turn. The vehicle shudders when driving at higher speeds. It’s not a violent shudder, but those riding in the vehicle feel it as well.”

The owner’s safety concerns are that it might cause the driver to lose control of the SUV and/or it might damage other parts of the vehicle, particularly the engine. “The dealer replaced collapsed engine mounts on (the) left and right side and considered it resolved.” Additionally, the dealer’s foreman stated “it is common with XC90s to have engine shudder, as if this should be accepted. Because the engine shudder is happening at higher speeds now, we’re going to return (it) to (the) dealer, but I do not expect a solution.”

Problems with the Brakes

The ability to brake is vital. When the brakes don’t work, the vehicle risks crashing, as has happened to several 2020 Volvo XC90 owners.

But faulty brakes cause other problems too. For instance, one owner complained to the NHTSA that he needed new rear brakes and rotors at 26,296. “I have leased cars for the past twenty plus years and never had to replace brakes/rotors after a year and a half.” While there is no mention about the recall prompted by the rotor and shaft separating, this recall was in September 2021, five months before this incident. Perhaps there is a connection.

An owner from California complained that the brake sensor on the dash turned on and stayed on. They took the SUV to the dealer and were told that “they will not fix it because they can see coffee stains on the sensor. Basically they have brake sensors right under the center console where people drink coffee and the brake sensors are exposed so this can happen to any customer. Now they want to charge us 1,600 dollars even though the SUV is about 2 years old and under full warranty. They want to screw their customers and don’t care about their safety. This is the brake system of the car, and now it’s having issues with the adaptive cruise control in which the system turns off while in use. We are concerned about our safety and don’t know what to do.”

Faulty Brakes Cause Crashes

An owner from Florida states in another complaint that the SUV was “involved in a minor fender bender” after driving off from a traffic light. “The car in front of me did not take off and I hit it in the rear at a very low rate of speed.” The auto brake didn’t engage, but the airbag deployed causing the driver “slight concussion.”

According to the complaint, there was little, if any, physical damage to the SUV. However, the owner contacted Volvo to report that the auto brakes hadn’t engaged and that the airbag deployed. They told him there were “no prior reports of this issue” and wouldn’t acknowledge his concern. He was told to claim on insurance.

“I now have received a recall notice for this exact issue which I had reported.” Adding that he is now “afraid of the car,” the owner asked the NHTSA how to “address the fact that I will not use this car any longer.”

While most of the complaints about brakes are filed under Service Brakes, an owner from Illinois filed a complaint that relates to brakes under vehicle speed control. The complaint states that while his wife was driving at an undisclosed speed, “the vehicle experienced unintended acceleration while the brake pedal was depressed, causing the vehicle to crash into a parked vehicle.” Luckily the driver wasn’t injured, however they did file a police report. The failure mileage was approximately 25,000.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Do you think you may have bought a lemon? If your 2020 Volvo XC90 has issues that affect your use of the SUV, or its value, you could be right.

You are welcome to contact the Lemberg Law Helpline or fill out a contact form and we will assess your problems at no cost to you. The law makes Volvo pay the legal fees of lemon law cases.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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