1st gen Volvo XC90 Off-road Build – Lift, Fender Flares & A/T Tires

Lifted Volvo XC90 with a 3 inch suspension lift kit
Offroading in a lifted Volvo XC90 with 4x4 mods and Falken Wildpeak A/T3W All-Terrain tires sized 285/70/17
Lifted Volvo XC90 with a 3 inch suspension lift kit
Volvo XC90 water fording river crossing
Volvo XC90 with custom offroad bumper and round driving lights +1
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The Volvo XC90 is the biggest, and most capable vehicle in the model line of this famous Swedish manufacturer. Its first-generation has set the high standard for luxury, performance and comfort that other car manufacturers have been trying to match ever since its release in 2002.

With its combination of power, sophistication and Swedish practicality, its no wonder why so many people choose this SUV as their go-to vehicle. From driving through snowstorms to hauling a boat to a lakeside cabin, it has the perfect balance of luxury and performance to get you where you need to go in style and comfort.

Offroading in a lifted Volvo XC90 with 4x4 mods and Falken Wildpeak A/T3W All-Terrain tires sized 285/70/17
Falken Wildpeak A/T3W All-Terrain tires sized 285/70/17.

The premium crossover market is a pretty tough place, in terms of competition, but Volvo XC90 has managed to secure a spot in it as one of the top contenders because of its impressive Yamaha designed V8 engine, top-of-the-line safety features, luxurious interior and advanced technology.

XC90 Off-road Capabilities

Like most of the modern crossovers, the XC90 is equipped with an electronically controlled AWD system with active torque distribution between the wheels. On the roads with normal traction, the front wheels get nearly all the power from the engine, but it instantly gets redistributed between other wheels in case of a wheel slip.

“The electronically controlled all-wheel drive system* (AWD) is optimized to provide superior roadholding and tractive force under all driving conditions. It responds extremely quickly, making it possible to balance understeering and oversteering tendencies with exceptional precision.

Volvo XC90 with custom offroad bumper and round driving lights

For example, during rapid acceleration or fast cornering, power is seamlessly distributed between the front and rear wheels in a fraction of a second to give you maximum driving sta- bility. Behind the wheel, you won’t even be aware that the AWD system is at work – you’ll simply enjoy that superb feeling of total control.

“The AWD system is controlled by an elec- tronic management system that constantly monitors the speed of the wheels, throttle posi- tion, engine torque, engine speed, the optional DSTC system, and the brakes in order to always respond optimally to current driving conditions.

Volvo XC90 water fording river crossing

WHEN THE ROAD IS SLIPPERY

“The advantages of Volvo’s AWD system are particularly noticeable on slippery roads. Since the pair of wheels with the best traction always receives most power, the vehicle is outstand- ingly stable. And making your way on slippery road surfaces is no problem. The AWD system provides immediate power to the wheels that are needed to help get started and maintain control even under difficult conditions. At low speeds, Volvo’s anti-spin system, TRACS, ensures that the wheel with the best traction gets the most power”. – 2004 US Volvo XC90 Sales brochure

Offroading and overlanding in a lifted Volvo XC90

Even though the XC90 was not equipped with the lockers like a 1st Gen VW Touareg, it featured pretty impressive driving capabilities on low-traction surfaces like snow, ice, and mud. Despite this fact, most of these vehicles have never left the paved roads (perhaps the owners simply didn’t want to scratch the shiny paint job of their brand new SUV).

“Most of these vehicles have never left the paved roads”.

Back in the day, these cars were out of reach for many drivers because of the price tag, but fortunately, the 1st gen XC90 prices on the used car market have dropped over the past decade.  It makes these vehicles more attainable for drivers who don’t mind taking them off the paved roads.

Tan volvo xc90 off-road project with Raycharm 7" LED spot lights
Custom aluminum tube front bumper, steel recovery points with shackles and Raycharm 7″ LED spot lights.

The owner of this lifted 1st Gen 2006 XC90 Adam Nonis, from Seattle, WA, is not new to Volvos as well as modifying them, and it’s one of the reasons why he decided to start and off-road project based on this model.

The Interview

How did you become interested in off-roading?
– I’ve always camped with my family as a kid and I wanted to give my (3) children the same.
Why did you choose a Volvo XC90 for your off-road/overland build?
– I’ve been into modifying Volvos for many years and after building a few lifted wagons, I wanted something with a bit more room inside. The V8 also gave me more grunt and better towing capability
What inspired you to choose this modification style?
– I use the XC90 as my daily driver, so I didn’t want to go wild, but I did want to be able to do some dispersed camping. So, getting a bigger tire under it with moderate clearance, but still be able to fit in parking garages was important.

What challenges did you face while putting it together?
– The biggest challenge is that Volvos are not a heavily supported platform when it comes to off-roading. I had to build all the components and make all the modifications myself.

“No one makes stuff for Volvos, you gotta get creative”.

What do you love about your vehicle?
– I love that it’s different. I hear all the time, “I’ve never seen a Volvo lifted like this”. I love the way it sounds. The Volvo V8 was built by Yamaha and it’s the same engine used in the Noble M600 supercar. It’s great in tunnels.
Is it your daily or a weekend ride?
– I daily drive it
Do you take it off road? If so, where and how often?
– Yes. Around WA on forest service roads. Not often enough.

Volvo XC90 fender flares - Modified Rough Country pocket flares
Modified Rough Country pocket flares originally designed for a 2020 Ford Ranger.

2006 Volvo XC90 V8 Specs & List of Mods

Engine

  • 4.4l V8 311HP/325LBFT No mods other than muffler delete

Lift and suspension modifications

  • 3″ Suspension lift
  • Stock replacement front struts with extended lower mounts and converted to coilover
  • Speedway Motors coilover sleeves
  • Modified iPd HD upper spring seat
  • Eibach 2.5″ coilover springs (12″ x 350lb)
  • iPd HD swaybar end links
  • 1″ Subframe spacers
  • Relocated rear spring seats
  • Extended stock replacement shocks
Method Racing MR502 17"x8" +38et offroad wheels
Method Racing MR502 17″x8″ +38et offroad wheels on a custom swing out spare tire carrier.

Wheels

  • Method Racing MR502 17″x8″ +38et wheels
  • Falken Wildpeak A/T3W 285/70/17

Exterior

  • Custom aluminum tube front bumper
  • Custom steel recovery points with shackles
  • (4) Raycharm 7″ LED spot lights
  • Custom steel tube rear bumper
  • Custom swing away tire carrier with modified Pelican iM2620
  • Custom hitch receiver
  • Dual 6″ LED reverse light strips
  • Modified Rough Country pocket flares originally designed for a 2020 Ford Ranger
  • Custom low profile roof rack
  • Thule Force XT Sport cargo box
  • 11 gallon pressurized water tank
  • KPMF Satin Stealth Tundra vinyl wrap (K75531)
Modified Pelican iM2620 storage case.
Modified Pelican iM2620 storage case.

Interior

  • Custom built iPad mount with switch panel
  • iPad with Dual XGPS150A external GPS (running Gaia and On-X-Offroad)
  • Custom hatch drawer system
  • Custom hatch mount for (4) Pelican 1200 cases
iPad with Dual XGPS150A external GPS (running Gaia and On-X-Offroad)
iPad with Dual XGPS150A external GPS (running Gaia and On-X-Offroad).

Custom drawers and storage

What are your future plans about this vehicle?
– I’ll be adding a winch, an awning and a bit more storage in and around the vehicle. I also have an on-board air system to install before spring for airing up tires.

See Also
Lifted Mitsubishi Pajero 1 with 285/75/16 off road wheels

Anything else you would like to share about your vehicle or about off-roading in general?
– I hear a lot, “That’s not a real off-roader. You don’t have lockers or low range” and I think what gets lost is getting off road doesn’t always mean rock crawling or mud pits. Planning ahead and knowing your capabilities are more important, and you can get loads of enjoyment without getting out of hand. The best mod you can make is the driver mod. Just get out and enjoy what you have.

Watch the progress and find out more about this Volvo XC90 off-road project by visiting the Instagram profile of the owner: @ atomdd !

Volvo XC90 with a spare tire carrier and swing out bumper

Related Parts & Mods

– Inspired by this Volvo XC90 build and looking to prepare your own crossover for off-road adventures? Some parts used on this vehicle were sourced from custom shops or custom made, but our team has put together a list of products and accessories available online that may help you to achieve similar results:

Lift Kit

Wheels

Roof Rack

Lights

Hitch

Cargo & Storage

Camping Shower

*Before ordering any part or accessory, it is recommended that you verify its fitment with a qualified professional and/or seller. We are not responsible for fitment or other issues that may arise from using the products featured on our website.

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