2021 Volvo XC90 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Brakes, electrical system and software issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The Volvo XC90, launched in North America in 2003, won awards before it even hit the road. These were made after the new SUV was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2002.

Promoting the importance of the SUV of the Year award from Motor Trend motoring magazine, Volvo Car Corporation’s president and CEO, Hans-Olov Olsson said it has “definite commercial significance.”

Click on other model year to view more problems:   2018   2020   2022

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2021 Volvo XC90

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Service Brakes
Seat Belts
Fuel/propulsion System
Power Train
Back Over Prevention: Warnings
Lane Departure: Warning

But two decades later, the Matthews Volvo Site that hosts an active Volvo Forum reports that model years 2003-2005 had automatic transmissions that fail early and often. “The parts guys at my Volvo dealership told me recently that it’s the XC90 T6s that are the ones to avoid at all costs.”

And it doesn’t get any better. Consumer Reports, an independent nonprofit founded in 1936, gives the 2021 model a reliability rating of 1 out of 5. In one of our articles, Lemberg Law highlights problems experienced by drivers of the 2020 model. These are substantial, even though Consumer Reports ranks its reliability a little higher than the 2021 model at 2 out of 5.

Consumer Reports rates reliability according to problems described by more than 300,000 XC90 owners in a subscriber survey. They identify 17 potential trouble spots for vehicles. Of these, their categories, brakes, body hardware, the climate system, and drive system (drivetrain) are the biggest problems in the XC90, they say.

We are going to focus on complaints made to the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Most Common Problems with the 2021 Volvo XC90

So far, there have been 6 complaints to NHTSA about the 2021 XC90. It is impossible to predict how many more there will be in the coming months and years. NHTSA records show that there were 6 complaints about the original 2003 model. But now this figure stands at 95.

2021 complaints are varied and report problems about 7 components and systems. These are back-over prevention, the electrical system, forward-collision avoidance, the fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, and brakes. The electrical system problems top the list of complaints.

There are also a total of 58 manufacturer communications on file with NHTSA. These documents are warnings to dealers of potential problems and malfunctions. Some include technical reports or even technical journals. A total of 26 of these are “equipment” issues, including software problems, and 21 relate to the electrical system.

There have also been 3 recalls of this model.

Additionally, NHTSA carries out crash and rollover tests to assess the safety of vehicles. The 2021 XC90 has a five-star rating for frontal and side crash tests, but only 4 out of 5 for rollover. NHTSA assesses it has a 19.10% rollover risk if the driver loses control of the vehicle.

2021 Volvo XC90 Electrical System Problems

There are 3 complaints about the electrical system. All have safety implications.

Pop Sounds followed by Silence

The first describes loud “pop” sounds from the sound system speakers resulting in a total lack of sound, including those relating to parking sensors, turn signals, and the phone.

“The dealer provided a ‘fix’ with a software update described in a technical journal.” But, the complainant maintains that “this software update had nothing to do with the problem I had.” The problem has recurred several times, always after a “feeling of static electricity.”

The complaint adds that there are multiple reports of this same issue on a reputable Volvo forum.

The second electrical system complaint is specifically about the 2021 Volvo XC90 Hybrid model. It is also listed as being a back-over prevention, and lane departure problem. The complaint states, “This has safety implications.”

It is essentially the same as the first complaint. After a loud pop from the speakers, there is no sound from the radio, turn signals, parking sensors, no “lane-keeping beep”, or anything else. The problem clears after the vehicle is shut down for about 15 minutes.

“Because of its intermittent nature, dealers are unable to diagnose.”

This complaint also draws attention to multiple complaints in online forums.

Inverter Electronic Module (IEM)

The most recent electrical system complaint starts with the check engine light coming on at 11,000 miles. “Diagnostics showed a software update was needed but the software update did not fix the problem.”

At this point, “Volvo corporate said the IEM module needed to be replaced. The IEM module controls the rear axle/propulsion and this is a serious safety issue because (of a) sudden loss of propulsion while driving at high speeds increases (the) risk of having an accident.

“After replacing the IEM module, the mechanic cleared the DTC codes, test-drove the car, and re-ran the DTC (diagnostic trouble code).” But the code indicating a software update was needed was still showing. “Also, the hybrid battery doesn’t keep its charge and depletes at an extremely fast rate.”

2021 Volvo XC90 Brake Problems

The reported brake problem is also listed as a forward-collision avoidance problem. The complaint states that the electric parking brake has engaged “violently” at highway speeds. The car then stops abruptly.

According to the complaint, the dealer is “arrogant” and “in no hurry to repair,” stating it is a software problem. Additionally, the dealer reportedly says that the “violent and abrupt stops” have “caused damage to other components.”

The complainant says he plans to notify Volvo and the dealer that “they will assume all liability for injury or death for this defect and lack of concern in repairing.”

2021 Volvo XC90 Software Problems

The manufacturer communications reveal several software problems. These include the identification of software that “may not be robust enough to handle the large number of signals transmitted to the audio amplifier. This can result in a pop noise from the sound system.”

Two communications to dealers state that Volvo has launched Service Action S10090 on 8 2021 Volvo models. They say the corrective action is to perform a Total Upgrade software.

As mentioned above, two complaints about electrical problems and pop noises were, indeed, diagnosed by dealers as software problems. But software updates didn’t help. The brake problem described above has also been diagnosed as a software problem.

The complaints to NHTSA about popping noises are dated 14 January 2021 and 16 April 2021. Service Action S10090 was launched on 28 April 2021.

What to do if your 2021 Volvo XC90 is a lemon? Your Lemon Rights

If you have issues with your Volvo XC90, we recommend that you contact an experienced lemon law firm like Lemberg Law. We will assess your problems and see how we can help you.

We have negotiated many settlement deals for our clients running from refunds to trade-ins and replacement vehicles. So call our Helpline now.

Complaint Data

CategoryEngine, Steering
DateMar 13, 2023
On two separate occasions, while driving car on highway at high speed, the car has gone into a special shutdown mode, where a turtle icon lights up on the dash and the car begins to shut itself down rapidly, limiting maximum speed of vehicle to 35mph. There is no warning or advanced alert. Suddenly the car reduces speed and feels like it is dead, and the systems begin to alert you that they are going into a reduced function mode. This was extremely scary thing to happen at highway speeds with flowing traffic. I had to crawl to side of rose at very low speeds. I could have been injured. I took the car to dealer for service and they said it was a software issue. A few months after, this happened yet again, also while at highway speeds. I have read that others are having similar issues with the volvo xc90 model. This is so dangerous and the dealerships are writing it off as a software matter! It is extremely dangerous.
DateMar 12, 2023
Vehicle is lurching on slow acceleration in hybrid mode. For example, lurching occurs when pulling away from a stop sign, pulling out into traffic, pulling into a parking spot. Issue started beginning of january 2023. In february fields volvo service diagnosed issue as a software problem (code iem-p287100) and that volvo hasn't written the software yet. Fields volvo service said software update should be available in quarter 2. Advised that I do not drive my car in hybrid mode. I own a hybrid vehicle that I have been told not to drive in hybrid. Unfortunately, hybrid is the default mode so upon each start I have to manually change mode to awd. There is also lurching in awd on slow acceleration (not as bad as in hybrid). On several occasions while driving in awd the vehicle will spontaneously change the mode back to hybrid resulting in decreased or no acceleration and lurching. This has happened several times in parking lots (minimal fear for safety) but also several times while pulling into traffic (e. G., making left hand turns which require acceleration) and acceralerating on onramps to the freeway (definite fear for safety). Problem has been experienced by sales staff at fields volvo because we are trying to get rid of the car because it is still under warranty (36,000 miles). Fields volvo has not gotten back to us as to whether they will buy back the car. Volvo usa has been contacted via phone and email about the issue. I have received no response.
DateNov 15, 2022
I brought a 2021 xc90 volvo on 8/18/2022 with 12861 miles on it. The attached photo will show the current mile on the vehicle is 17421, so you can see I have only put 4560 miles on the vehicle. This vehicle was only brought 3 months ago. It's very concerning that I was driving down interstate 530 on sunday 11/13/2022 and for the first time ever the low-pressure light comes on and then seconds later the vehicle starts the shakes and I almost lost control of the vehicle. I managed to get to the side of the highway to find that my back passenger rear tire had separated around the rim (pictures are attached). Perelli 275/40 r21 107v m+s scorpion verde all season
CategorySeat Belts
DateNov 02, 2022
Took my car in because one of my backseat seatbelts no longer retracted properly and was so loose that I couldn't possibly buckle my daughter in safely in her car seat. I had noticed the seatbelt on the other side was also starting to retract more slowly. When the service center did the test they said the one that no longer retracted was covered under warranty but the other was not broken enough to be covered and that I could come back when it was. So basically I should keep buckling my child into a faulty seatbelt until it is completely broken. When I asked why the seatbelts were like this they told me it was “wear and tear” and when I said it's a new car they said it's because of the car seats. When I got home I did some googling and found that thousands of other volvos have already been recalled because of the exact same problem I am having and when I told them this they said I would have to contact volvos head office. When I did that volvo had me wait for weeks and then finally agreed they would fix my other seatbelt as a gesture of goodwill. Even though this is obviously they same problem as the recalled cars neither the company or the service place is going to tell anyone else. There are clearly more cars affected and they are lying to people and saying the seatbelts are safe when they are not and they do not care that children are being buckled into their unsafe seatbelts. I am appalled and hope you will take action asap. Who knows how many kids are being buckled into these seatbelts that won't save them.
CategoryService Brakes
DateSep 27, 2022
My xc90 is shuttering at interstate speeds as well as below. When I purchased, they had to machine the rotors and said they balanced the front tires. It did not help much. The brakes shake less. I'm sure the entire rotors are warped. All this with 12k miles on the vehicle.
CategoryFuel/propulsion System
DateJan 04, 2022
With 2700 miles my xc90 has the emission control system light is on. The engine noise is considerably louder than normal (being a hybrid the suv is pretty quiet) and it is not using the electric option.
CategoryElectrical System, Power Train
DateNov 10, 2021
Check engine light illuminated at 11,000 miles. Diagnostics showed a software update was needed but the software update did not fix the problem. Volvo corporate said the iem module needed to be replaced. The iem module controls the rear axle / propulsion and this is a serious safety issue because sudden loss of propulsion while driving at high speeds increases risk of having an accident. After replacing the iem module, the mechanic cleared the dtc codes, test drove the car, and re-ran the dtc - and the code indicating a software update was still needed was present. Also the hybrid battery doesn't keep its charge and depletes at an extremely fast rate.
CategoryBack Over Prevention: Warnings, Electrical System, Lane Departure: Warning
DateApr 16, 2021
Vehicle in motion with turn signal on - a loud pop from the speakers is heard - then all audio in the vehicle is silenced. After this situation, no audio works from either radio, turn signals, parking sensors, lane keeping beep, etc. After shutting the vehicle down for ~15 minutes and restarting the problem will clear. Because of it's intermittent nature, dealers are unable to diagnose - but this problem is impacting many users - see this forum thread https://www. Swedespeed. Com/threads/speakers-cut-out-with-a-pop-came-back-after-vehicle-off-for-a-few-minutes. 630447/page-5 - this has safety implications and none of the audio cues for vehicle safety systems work once the vehicle goes into this state. Please get volvo to address this problem seriously.
CategoryForward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking, Service Brakes
DateJan 20, 2021
Electric parking brake engaging violently at highway speeds at least. 3 times. Resulting in abrupt stop in moveing traffic! Dealer in no hurry to repair suggesting bring back when they are able! Am notifying volvo, dealer , they will assume all liability for injury or death for this defect and lack of concern in repairing ( told a software problem , but also told caused damage to other components due to violent and abrupt stops! Very uncomfortable especially since repair mgr is so arrogant!
CategoryElectrical System
DateJan 14, 2021
*with the bowers & wilkins sound system* twice within 1400 miles, there was a loud "pop" sound from the speakers followed by no sound from any portion of the vehicle. The pop sounded like a window or the sunroof shattered. All sound was lost: sensus feedback, turn signals, parking sensors, phone, etc. The only thing that worked was the bass. After the car was parked and off, and re-started, everything worked as normal. Oddly, there was the feeling of static electricity just prior to each pop. These pops were caught on dash cam for proof. There was static heard in the dash cam video too. The dealer provided a "fix" with a software update described in technical journal. Tj 35554. 20-2020 (ihu volume restrction with orange key). This software update had nothing to do with the problem I had. The orange key was no where near the car during any occurrence. Since the update, there have been several identical loud pops, but the audio continued working. The same static electricity feeling occurred milliseconds before the pop. All incidents occurred while on a freeway or merging on a freeway, with my phone on the wireless charger and the audio on at least around 50%. Multiple reports of the same issue on a reputable volvo forum.
CategoryBack Over Prevention: Sensing System: Camera
DateDec 28, 2020
Tl* the contact owns a 2021 volvo xc90. The contact stated that while operating the vehicle in reverse, the backup camera display appeared very blurry and distorted causing a visibility hazard to the driver. The cause of the failure was not determined. The manufacturer was notified of the failure but, no assistance was offered. The local dealer was not notified. The failure mileage was 200. *ln*jb

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 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.

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