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2011 Volvo XC90 R-Design owner review

Cameron McAlister
  • Versatility
  • Value for money
  • Safety (it's a Volvo, duh)
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Showing its age
  • Did I mention fuel economy?

About the Volvo XC90

Cameron McAlister purchased this Volvo XC90 used for $23,000 (including all on-road costs) in 2021. Cameron McAlister would buy this car again because: “I would 100 per cent buy it again, but perhaps with a different engine. My XC90 was equipped with the transverse mounted 3.2 inline-six. Although a great engine in itself, with a great exhaust note, even for a family SUV. The sheer weight it has to carry around means there’s a lot more to be desired, especially lower down in the rev range. So, if I were to buy another one. I’d choose the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel that also came with the XC90.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

Although I’ve only owned the XC90 for a short period, there has been no faults whatsoever in terms of reliability.

However, I will note the heated seats aren’t working, whether I’m just incompetent or the technology is just difficult. I can’t seem to get them to work. Not a huge deal as of yet as we’ve just barely moved into autumn.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

Ownership has been fairly decent. Every time I get in I look forward to driving it, even if it’s just down to the shops and back. But then I drive it for a bit. And that’s where it starts to show its age.

This generation of XC90 spans back to 2003 when it was originally released. In that period it was a great vehicle, and to a point it still is. But you can’t help but notice the turning radius is atrocious (around 14m) and the materials used in the cabin feel a last decade (because they are).

All this is fairly minor though, despite me sounding nitpicky. I love this vehicle. The thrum of the engine and bank-vault-esque door close sound reminds me of a G-Wagen.

Along with this, it’s an incredibly comfortable vehicle. Quietness is about on par with my dad’s 2012 Lexus RX.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

For the money. You’d be hard struck to find another vehicle with the same features with the same kilometres I did.

I paid $23,000 drive-away for mine. CarSales suggests market value is about $25-26k with similar kms. Either way.

Mine came with heated seats (temperamental as they are), rear parking sensors, bi-xenon lights with LED tail lights. It also has driver and passenger seats with driver three-position memory, and a 12-speaker sound system.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

Performance is decent, and it has a good exhaust note to go along with it. Power to weight is 82kW per tonne, which is about par for the course.

However its transmission is a bit fussy, especially on the hills where I live. Fuel economy is, well, not great. I average about 10.8L/100km on mostly highway driving on 95 octane fuel.

It was manageable originally however, with the sky-rocketing fuel prices is hurting my pocket a bit more than I’d like to admit.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

Technology is okay. Certainly not great though. However it’s mostly a product of its age.

It’s unreasonable to expect the screens to be the fastest or most high-definition. The navigation is easy enough to figure out once you get the gist of it, and the reversing camera is of a decent quality.

The TFT Screen in the centre stack displays graphics clearly and scrolling through the menu options on it isn’t too cumbersome. But some of the interior lighting is a let down. It’s not exactly part of the technology within the car, but it’s a noteworthy mention nonetheless.

It has that awful light green button illumination that plagued early 2000s vehicles, mixed with orange lights for certain controls and a white overhead light that graces the gauge cluster. Makes for an overly busy interior at night.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

Ride comfort and handling is pretty good. Perhaps a bit stiffer than I’m used to, but being an R-Design that’s something you’d have to expect.

It’s by no means an uncomfortable vehicle, and the stiffer rife makes for slightly less body roll which I’ve come to appreciate.

Steering is well-weighted and linear, being hydraulically assisted. And it’s well behaved through even some twistier roads, if you know what you’re doing.

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Show Breakdown
Technology 6.8
Reliability 8.5
Ride & Handling 7.9
Price & Features 8.8
Performance & Economy 6
Ownership Experience 7.5