In 2013 I had graduated high school, and decided I was going to attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, about 45 minutes from home. I had been up on “the hill” as locals call the university, and after my first winter up there I decided I needed AWD. The hills in Fayetteville are quite something in some parts, and coupled with snow (yes Arkansas gets snow) it made it impossible to get around. I know, I know AWD isn’t everything, it depends on tires and road conditions, but I wanted AWD for piece of mind as well.
So the search began again to find a car with AWD. At this point I was certain I was going to get another Volvo because I had, I knew, fallen in love with the look, and versatility of the XC90. I knew though that I was going to be picky with this XC90 purchase. I wanted a few things that made it a little hard to find. I wanted: active bending headlights (basically HID headlights that move with the steering wheel), AWD (duh), navigation, and most importantly the V8.
I found a few that fit my budget that were at a dealer, but looking into it more I had decided that I would be better off trying to sell the 2008 XC90 that I had, privately. After not too long, I had found a perspective buyer for the ’08, and they bought it the next day. Giving me little to no warning, I had no car to drive. I was bumming rides for the first few days, and finally borrowed a friend’s third car to drive for a week. This car was a bit different than I was used to, a 1988 Volvo 740 wagon. I liked it, however I was ready to get back into something newer to drive daily.
Knowing I had bought some time, I decided I really needed to get down to business and find a car. One night while searching Craigslist, I decided to hop on Autotrader, and there it was. A 2007 Passion Red XC90 V8 AWD Sport. I knew this was the car, so I reached out to the seller, and within 30 minutes we were talking on the phone. He had told me they were the second owners, and had done most of the maintenance at the dealer, and had the records to prove it. With about 100,000 miles on it I knew this would last me as long as I needed it to.
The only problem with this car was that it was in Louisville, Kentucky, about 10 hours away. I had talked it over with my dad to get his opinion, and he told me if it was something that I wanted I should fly up and get it. So that is exactly what I did. I left on a Friday after work from XNA, landed in Atlanta for about two hours, then reached Louisville at around 10-11 that night. The seller met me at the airport to pick me up, and I remember standing outside waiting, and seeing the car come down the road. The HID’s glowing in the dark, and the bright red shining through the street lights, I was in love. I jumped in the car, and we went to a McDonald’s to do the paperwork. I then drove towards home for about an hour, until I stopped to spend the night.
The next day I woke up early, and headed home. I stopped in St. Louis to meet up with some Volvo friends. Then I made it home still smiling ear to ear with how it drove. My girlfriend (now wife) looked at the car, and says “well it is red”. It was exactly what I wanted, and to this day is in the top three best cars I have owned.
Now, this car is unique because it was the Sport model which was only made from 2007-2008. In 2009 it was called V8 R-Design, which is more rare because it had the dual exhaust. Volvo carried the V8 to 2010/2011 and dropped it from their line.
The V8 is the best engine option in a XC90 hands down. About the only good thing that came from the Volvo-Ford partnership was this Yamaha V8. This engine was used in Ford’s SHO, and I believe their GT in some form. Volvo used it in their XC90’s and S80’s starting in 2007. The sound it would make when you started it, was astonishing, I still love hearing one start up. It was a lazy engine, doing about 80 on the highway it was at around 2,000 rpm. The power that it had was fantastic for what car it was in, a far cry from the 3.2 I had owned. I would own another one in a heartbeat.
The car was optioned exactly how I wanted. It had navigation, and the screen would rise up from the dash, and tilt away from the sun. It had Volvo’s integrated phone system which was an added plus. The HID’s were better than I had expected them to be, especially since I do not drive well in the dark to begin with.
Inside it had black leather, with a white piping down the sides. The seats were also bolstered to fit around you, as if they could make a seat more comfortable. The instrument cluster had blue gauges with LED lighting to give you a sportier feel. Like my other, this one had the flat-folding third row seat, and the split tailgate, which was awesome.
I was not able to get the window sticker on this car, but looking at the Carfax, it was sold in New York City. It somehow made its way to Kentucky I believe via auto auction. It was then sold to the people I bought it from at a Nissan dealer in Lexington.
Upon getting the car, I added an OEM trailer hitch and wiring. I pulled anything with this car I could hitch behind it. I bought a 1969 Starcraft pop-up camper that we enjoyed for a little bit. Then, I started getting heavy into older Volvos, and they would often need a tow. The XC90 pulled very well, up hills or in flat land. I did not have trailer brakes on the trailer I was using to haul, and knowing I should have, it did wear my brakes out faster than normal. The AWD was able to get the car going while pulling heavy loads, and it never complained until the end.
Looking back, I put this car through so much, towing, off roading, long road trips, plowing through snow. I always took very good care of it though. I washed it regularly, and kept up on the preventative maintenance. The car really never missed a beat until the end of our two year relationship.
I took this car to Colorado twice, once to pick up a Scamp camper, and another time to get a Volvo 1800. I also returned to Louisville another time to get a rare Volvo memorabilia piece. Most of the 50,000 miles that were put on it during the two years were going back and forth Clinton, Arkansas where my friend lived that was helping me restore one of my Volvos. It honestly was the best car to take on a road trip, I loved every mile I put on it.
As I mentioned, the end of my relationship with the car was a bit more stressful to say the least. The car remained relatively trouble free. I did have to replace the serpentine belt right after I bought it, and both front strut mounts. Then, at exactly 150,000 things hit the fan. I was parking my car in a steep gravel lot when I would go to class. When it rained it became very rutted, but it was free parking. I had noticed that coming out one day only my front wheels were spinning. I knew what this meant. Volvo’s AWD uses some unique components that always fail. First it has a transfer case right after the transmission with a gear that connects to the drive shaft, which in turn goes to the Haldex unit, and turns the rear wheels. Well, they decided to fit a fail safe collar between the drive and drive shaft, so if something happened to the drive shaft, and it locked up, it wouldn’t destroy the transmission. This collar is very common to get stripped out, thus not turning the drive shaft. I knew that all the weight I had been carrying over the years led to this being stripped. This is no easy task to replace on the V8 because of how tight everything is. They actually have to suspend the engine, and drop the front sub frame, and remove the exhaust to get to this. All I saw was dollar signs, so I lived with it.
Then, one day I got in the car, and the battery light was on. I also knew what this meant, the alternator. This is another common thing on the V8’s as the engine produces so much heat that it will actually burn alternators up over time. Well, this time I had to get it replaced. I had it towed to our Volvo mechanic, and he said it would be roughly $1200 to replace it. I told him while he was up there to please change the collar in the AWD, and I would throw in the towel after that. Well, after a month of it in the shop, he called and said it was ready. I went and picked it up, and was extremely disappointed. The check engine light was on, and every corner I took, there was this grinding sound coming from the drive shaft. I immediately took it back, and they told me they had pinched a O2 sensor wire causing the check engine light to come on, and that my drive shaft was toast. So another few weeks went by, and the new drive shaft was in, and the sensor was fixed.
Before this had happened I was able to take some very detailed pictures of the car, and list it for sale. I was honest in the ad stating the car was getting some maintenance done, and it would be available for showing at a certain date. I got a few hits, but nothing special during the time it was in the shop. Once I got the car back, I suddenly got an interested buyer in Louisville of all places. He offered me $10,000 which was not far from asking, so I agreed to meet him in Little Rock that weekend. The transaction went smooth, and he had done his research on the car beforehand. He, like me, was a Volvo nut so we already bonded. I took one last picture of the car before I left, and was ready to move on.
I had bought it for $11,000 two years prior, but just put $2,000 into the car on top of the other maintenance. Despite the high cost of maintenance, and stressful ending I loved that car. It did exactly what I needed it to do, and it never left me stranded. It stood out from the crowd, and went against the mainstream. I really could not have imagined a better car to have at that time in my life. In the end I owned it for just the right amount of time, to love it trouble free, right before more major stuff would go wrong. If you were to tempt me with another one, I might be having to add onto my garage.