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Does The Volvo XC90 Require Premium Gas?

Does The Volvo XC90 Require Premium Gas?

For Canadian drivers of the luxurious Volvo XC90 SUV, one common question arises: does this vehicle require premium gasoline, or can regular unleaded fuel suffice? The answer impacts factors like engine performance, fuel efficiency, and long-term reliability. As a premium European brand, Volvo’s fuel recommendations carry particular weight.

This guide aims to provide a definitive answer on the XC90’s fuel requirements, based on Volvo’s official guidance, mechanical insights, and real-world driving experiences. We’ll explore the nuances of using regular 87 octane versus premium 91+ octane gasoline in the XC90, examining how each impacts power output, fuel economy, engine knock risks, and more.

For budget-conscious Canadians, the potential cost savings of regular gas are appealing. Yet many wonder if skimping on premium could harm their luxury SUV’s turbocharged engine over time. This article weighs the pros and cons, ultimately helping XC90 owners make an informed decision on fueling their prized vehicle properly.

Along the way, we’ll cover crucial context around octane ratings in Canada, fuel quality from different brands, the impact of turbocharging and high compression engines, and hybrid/plug-in hybrid fuel considerations. Armed with this knowledge, Canadian XC90 drivers can maximize their driving enjoyment while protecting their investment.

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What Volvo Recommends for the XC90

When it comes to fueling the Volvo XC90, the manufacturer’s official recommendation is clear: use premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher. This applies across the entire XC90 lineup, from the base T5 engine to the potent T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain.

According to Volvo’s owner’s manuals and technical specifications, premium fuel is required for optimal performance, fuel efficiency, and to extract the maximum power output from the engines. The company’s engineers have designed and calibrated the XC90’s engines to run at their best with higher-octane premium gasoline.

It’s important to note that while Volvo recommends premium gas, it is not strictly required for the XC90 to run reliably. The SUV can operate on regular 87 octane gasoline without causing any immediate damage or reliability issues. However, using lower-octane fuel may result in reduced performance, decreased fuel economy, and a rougher engine note or sensation of engine knock under heavy loads.

By opting for premium gasoline as Volvo advises, XC90 drivers can expect smoother operation, optimal power delivery, and the best possible fuel efficiency ratings. The higher octane rating of premium fuel allows the engine’s spark plugs to ignite the air-fuel mixture at the precise time calculated by the engine management system, preventing premature detonation or knocking that can occur with lower-octane fuels.


Regular vs Premium Gas: Effects on the XC90

While Volvo recommends using premium fuel for optimal performance, the XC90 can run on regular 87 octane gasoline without any major reliability issues. However, using lower-octane fuel can have noticeable impacts on the driving experience and overall efficiency.

One of the primary effects of using regular gas in the XC90 is a slight decrease in power output and acceleration. The higher-octane premium fuel allows for more advanced ignition timing and higher compression ratios, enabling the engine to extract more energy from each combustion cycle. With regular gas, the engine computer will automatically retard timing and lower compression to prevent pre-ignition or knocking, resulting in a minor loss of horsepower and torque.

Reduced power and acceleration may not be hugely significant in normal driving conditions, but it can be more noticeable when merging onto highways, overtaking other vehicles, or carrying heavy loads. The XC90’s turbocharged engines are designed to take full advantage of premium fuel’s higher octane rating.

Another potential issue with using regular gas is increased engine noise and a slightly rougher idle. Premium fuel burns more smoothly and evenly, while lower-octane gas can cause sporadic pre-ignition that results in audible knocking or pinging sounds from the engine bay. This knocking is generally not harmful in modern engines like the XC90’s, but it can be an annoying nuisance.

Finally, fuel economy may suffer a small hit when running the XC90 on regular gasoline instead of premium. Higher-octane fuels tend to burn more completely and efficiently, helping to maximize the engine’s rated miles-per-gallon figures. The difference is typically around 1-3% worse fuel economy with regular gas, depending on driving style and conditions.


Octane Ratings and Premium Gas in Canada

When discussing premium gasoline, it’s essential to understand octane ratings and how they relate to fuel grades in Canada. Octane is a measure of a fuel’s resistance to premature ignition or “knocking” during the combustion process. The higher the octane rating, the more compression the fuel can withstand before igniting.

In Canada, the standard octane ratings you’ll find at gas stations are:


  • 87 (Regular): The minimum octane rating suitable for most vehicles designed to run on regular unleaded gasoline.
  • 89 (Mid-Grade): A step above regular, this grade provides slightly more resistance to engine knock.
  • 91 (Premium): Considered the premium gasoline grade in Canada, suitable for high-performance vehicles and engines with higher compression ratios.
  • 94 (Super Premium): The highest octane rating available at some stations, providing maximum protection against knocking for engines specifically designed for this fuel grade.


For the Volvo XC90, Volvo recommends using premium gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher. This is often referred to as AKI (Anti-Knock Index) 91, which is the average of the fuel’s Research Octane Number (RON) and Motor Octane Number (MON).

While premium gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher is widely available across Canada, some remote or rural areas may have limited access to these higher grades. In such cases, it’s generally acceptable to use the highest octane fuel available, though you may experience slightly reduced performance and fuel economy.


The Cost of Premium Gas for the XC90

One major factor influencing whether XC90 owners choose to use premium gasoline is the cost difference compared to regular unleaded. In most parts of Canada, you can expect to pay around 20-30 cents more per liter for 91 octane premium fuel versus 87 octane regular.

To put this into perspective, the 2023 Volvo XC90 has a fuel tank capacity of 71 liters. Filling up from empty with premium 91 octane could cost $10-$20 more compared to using regular 87 octane gas, depending on prices in your area.

Over the course of a year of driving 20,000 km and an estimated 25 mpg or 9.4 L/100km, you’d need around 1,900 liters of gasoline annually for the XC90. Using premium fuel at a 25 cent per liter premium would add roughly $475 to your yearly fuel costs.

For those who plan to keep their XC90 for 5-7 years, the extra cost of premium gas could add up to $2,375-$3,325 over that ownership period. It’s a non-trivial amount, but one many Volvo buyers are likely willing to pay for the potential benefits of using a higher-octane fuel as recommended.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether you want to maximize performance and efficiency by following Volvo’s premium fuel guidance, or save some money by using regular unleaded gasoline. Your budget, driving needs, and how much you value optimal power output will dictate which way you lean on the premium gas question for your XC90.


Hybrid and PHEV XC90 Fuel Requirements

For hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the Volvo XC90, fuel requirements take on added significance. These eco-friendly models combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor and battery pack. As such, the fuel you use impacts not just performance and economy, but also the all-electric driving range.

Volvo recommends premium 91 octane or higher gasoline for all XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid models. Using lower octane fuel can cause pre-ignition issues that damage the high compression turbocharged and supercharged engine over time. It can also reduce MPG and electric range by an estimated 10-15%.

For the non-plug-in XC90 T8 hybrid, premium fuel is again advised. The turbocharged and supercharged engine is under high loads and stresses, so premium gasoline prevents knocking and pre-ignition that could eventually harm the motor. It also allows you to take full advantage of the potent 400 hp output.

Some owners have experimented with lower octane fuel in their hybrid/PHEV XC90s, citing only minor decreases in power and range. However, most experts strongly caution against making a habit of using anything less than 91 octane gasoline. Over thousands of miles, the engine could suffer increased wear and potential damage.


Turbocharging and High Compression Engines

One key reason why Volvo recommends premium fuel for the XC90 is due to the engine designs used in these luxury SUVs. Many of Volvo’s powerplants, including the T5, T6, and T8 engines found in various XC90 models, utilize turbocharging and high compression ratios to maximize power output and efficiency from a relatively small displacement.

Turbocharged engines take advantage of forced induction to cram more air into the combustion chambers, allowing for more fuel to be burned and generating higher cylinder pressures. Similarly, high compression ratios increase the pressure and temperature of the air/fuel mixture prior to ignition. While great for extracting more energy from every drop of gasoline, these high heat and pressure conditions increase the likelihood of pre-ignition or engine knock.

Premium gasoline with a higher octane rating is more resistant to pre-ignition, as the fuel is designed to combust at a precise time when the spark plug fires rather than spontaneously igniting early due to excessive heat and pressure. Using lower-octane regular gas in a turbocharged or high compression engine runs the risk of pre-ignition, which can lead to engine damage over time if it occurs frequently.

To ensure smooth and reliable operation, as well as optimal performance from Volvo’s advanced turbo and high compression engines, the company calibrates them to run best on premium 91 octane fuel or higher. While regular gasoline may be used, drivers could experience a rougher idle, reduced power output, and an increased chance of pre-ignition compared to using the recommended premium grade.


Fuel Quality and Top Tier Gasoline

Beyond just the octane rating, the overall quality of the gasoline you put into your Volvo XC90 can also impact performance and long-term reliability. While all gas stations in Canada must meet minimum standards, there can be variations in detergent additives and other factors that affect how cleanly the fuel burns.

One way to ensure you’re getting high-quality gas is to look for the “Top Tier” certification at the pump. Top Tier gasoline contains a higher level of detergent additives that help keep vital engine components like fuel injectors and intake valves clean from deposits. This allows the engine to operate at peak efficiency.

Many major Canadian gas retailers like Petro-Canada, Esso, and Shell offer Top Tier certified fuels. While they cost a few extra cents per litre, using Top Tier gas in your XC90 can provide some valuable benefits:


  • Better fuel economy and performance from a clean engine
  • Reduced risk of spark plug fouling and cylinder misfire
  • Protection against intake valve and fuel injector deposits
  • Potentially improved long-term reliability and longevity


Volvo recommends using Top Tier gasoline meeting their specifications in the XC90 for these reasons. While it’s not absolutely required, the added detergents can help your premium SUV’s turbocharged engine maintain optimal operation over higher mileages.


Owner Reviews: Drivers’ Experiences with Fuel Types

Online forums and owner reviews offer real-world insights into the debate over regular or premium gas for the Volvo XC90. Many XC90 drivers in Canada have experimented with different fuel grades to assess the impacts.

On the XC90 forum at, one Toronto owner shared their experience: “I’ve used both regular and premium in my 2018 XC90 T6 over the past few years. With regular 87 octane, I definitely noticed a bit less punch from the engine, particularly when accelerating hard or climbing hills. There was also a slightly rougher engine note. Switching back to 91 premium brought back that smooth, effortless power I expect from the turbo engine.”

A Regina driver on the SwedeSpeed forum had a similar take: “I ran a couple tanks of 87 through my ’19 XC90 T6 to see what would happen. While it ran okay, the performance and responsiveness were noticeably diminished compared to premium 91. I also averaged about 2-3 mpg worse fuel economy. For my driving needs and style, premium is a must in this vehicle.”

However, some owners felt the differences were negligible. A Vancouver XC90 owner on Reddit commented: “With the 2021 T5 engine, I really can’t tell much difference between 87 and 91 octane. Maybe a tiny bit more punch with premium, but it’s so marginal that I just stick with regular for the cost savings.”

For those seeking maximum performance and efficiency from their XC90, the consensus seems to be that premium 91 octane or higher is the way to go. But some drivers feel regular gas is an acceptable compromise, particularly with the T5 engine, if you can live with slightly diminished power and mileage.


The Long-Term Reliability Perspective

While using regular 87 octane gas in your Volvo XC90 may not immediately cause any major issues, the long-term effects of running lower octane fuel than recommended are worth considering. The XC90’s turbocharged and high-compression engines are designed to operate optimally with higher octane premium gasoline.

Over time, using regular gas can potentially lead to increased engine deposits, carbon buildup, and pre-ignition issues. This can reduce engine efficiency, power output, and fuel economy. In more severe cases, detonation or engine knock from low-octane fuel may contribute to increased wear on pistons, rings, bearings, and other internal components.

While Volvo’s engineering and modern engine management systems aim to minimize the risks, consistently using a lower octane than specified could impact the longevity and reliability of your XC90’s powertrain over higher mileages. Frequent maintenance and timely repairs become even more crucial to offset potential issues down the road.

Many Volvo enthusiasts and mechanics recommend sticking with premium fuel as a preventative measure, especially if you plan on keeping your XC90 for the long haul. While the short-term savings of regular gas may seem appealing, protecting your investment by following Volvo’s recommendations could pay off with a smoother running, longer-lasting engine.


Ways to Improve Gas Mileage in the Volvo XC90

Regardless of whether you choose to run premium or regular gasoline in your Volvo XC90, there are several steps you can take to maximize fuel efficiency and get the most out of every tank of gas. Adopting smart driving habits and keeping up with routine maintenance are key to achieving optimal MPG ratings.


Driving Tips for Better Fuel Economy:


  • Avoid excessive idling and aggressive acceleration, which can significantly increase fuel consumption. Accelerate gently and maintain a steady cruising speed.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to maintain an even, fuel-efficient pace. Varying your speed up and down burns more gas.
  • Anticipate stops and coasting to red lights instead of hard braking. This reduces wasted energy from acceleration and deceleration.
  • Remove unnecessary weight from the vehicle, such as leaving the cargo area empty when not hauling gear. Extra weight reduces efficiency.
  • Combine errands into one trip to avoid excess cold starts and warmup periods that consume extra fuel.


Maintenance for Top MPG:


  • Stick to the recommended service schedule for oil changes, filter replacements, and inspections to ensure peak mechanical condition.
  • Inflate tires to the recommended PSI to reduce rolling resistance. Underinflated tires create excess drag.
  • Use the recommended grade of motor oil and keep levels topped up to avoid increased friction.
  • Have the wheel alignment checked periodically, as misaligned wheels impact MPG due to increased tire scrubbing.
  • Replace worn spark plugs, which can negatively impact combustion efficiency if they misfire.


By combining good driving habits with proper maintenance, you can stretch every gallon of gas further in your Volvo XC90 and spend less at the pump, no matter which octane rating you choose.


Does the XC90’s Engine Size Matter for Fuel Grade?

When it comes to the Volvo XC90’s fuel requirements, the engine size and configuration can make a difference. The XC90 is available with several engine options, including the turbocharged T5, the turbocharged and supercharged T6, and the plug-in hybrid T8 Twin Engine.

The T5 is the base engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 250 horsepower. While it’s the smallest and least powerful engine in the lineup, Volvo still recommends using premium 91 octane or higher gasoline for optimal performance and fuel efficiency.

Moving up to the T6, you get a more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with both a turbocharger and supercharger, delivering 316 horsepower. This higher-output engine benefits even more from the improved combustion qualities of premium fuel, so Volvo’s recommendation for 91 octane or higher is even more important.

At the top of the range is the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, which pairs the T6 engine with an electric motor for a combined 400 horsepower. While the gasoline portion still requires premium fuel, the hybrid system’s electric power can reduce your reliance on gas and the associated costs of always using premium.

Across all engine options, using a lower octane fuel like regular 87 is possible without damaging the engine. However, you may experience some performance decreases, such as reduced power output, rougher operation, and potential instances of engine knock or pre-ignition. So while premium gas isn’t absolutely required, it’s highly recommended to take full advantage of the XC90’s capabilities, especially with the higher-output T6 and T8 engines.


Advice from Volvo Mechanics and Experts

When it comes to fueling the Volvo XC90, seeking advice from experienced Volvo mechanics and experts can provide valuable insights. These professionals have extensive knowledge about the intricacies of Volvo engines and the impact of different fuel grades on performance and longevity.

Many Volvo technicians recommend using premium gasoline in the XC90, as it is designed to operate optimally with higher-octane fuel. The advanced engineering and turbocharging in Volvo’s engines benefit from the increased resistance to pre-ignition and detonation that premium gasoline offers.

“While the XC90 can run on regular unleaded gasoline, using premium fuel can improve overall performance, smoothness, and fuel efficiency,” explains a seasoned Volvo mechanic. “The higher octane rating helps prevent engine knock, which can potentially cause damage over time.”

However, some experts suggest that for short-term use or in areas where premium gasoline is significantly more expensive, using regular gas is acceptable, as long as the vehicle is driven conservatively and without excessive load or high-rpm operation.

“If you’re planning a long road trip or frequently carry heavy loads, it’s wise to stick with premium fuel,” advises a Volvo expert. “But for around-town driving, regular gas can be a cost-effective option, provided you don’t push the engine too hard.”

Ultimately, many Volvo professionals recommend following the manufacturer’s guidelines and using premium gasoline whenever possible. This approach ensures optimal performance, fuel efficiency, and long-term reliability for the sophisticated engines found in the Volvo XC90.


Conclusion: The Best Fuel Choice for Your XC90

When it comes to fueling your Volvo XC90, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The ideal fuel choice depends on your priorities and driving needs.

If you want the absolute best performance and fuel efficiency from your XC90, following Volvo’s recommendation of using 91 AKI premium gasoline or higher is the way to go. The higher octane rating allows the engine to extract maximum power without risk of knocking or pre-ignition. You’ll enjoy a smoother, more refined driving experience with premium fuel.

However, if cost savings is your top priority, using regular 87 octane gasoline in your XC90 is an acceptable option according to Volvo. You may experience a slight decrease in power and fuel economy, but the engine’s reliability won’t be compromised. Many drivers report no significant issues when running on regular gas.

For hybrid and plug-in hybrid XC90 models, premium gas is still recommended for optimal efficiency and performance from the gasoline engine component. But with the added electric power, you may notice less difference compared to running premium fuel in the purely gas-powered versions.

Ultimately, you should weigh the pros and cons based on your budget, desired driving experience, and how you use your XC90. If you frequently tow, carry heavy loads, or want maximum power for merging and passing, premium fuel could be worth the extra cost. But for routine city driving with light loads, regular gas may suit your needs just fine while saving you money at the pump.

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Questions About Volvo XC90 Gas Requirements

Yes, Volvo recommends using 91 octane or higher premium fuel for optimal performance in the XC90. Regular 87 octane fuel can be used without affecting reliability.

Using lower octane regular gasoline instead of premium may result in decreased performance and acceleration, rougher engine operation, and reduced fuel economy in the XC90. However, it will not cause any engine damage.

In Canada, premium fuel is usually rated at 91 octane or higher. Octane ratings at Canadian gas stations typically include regular 87, mid-grade 89, premium 91, and super premium 94.

No, Volvo allows the use of regular 87 octane fuel in the XC90 without voiding the new vehicle warranty. However, for best performance, premium 91+ octane gasoline is recommended.

On average, drivers pay 10-15 cents more per litre for premium 91 octane gasoline compared to regular 87 at Canadian fuel stations. Over the course of a year, that can add up to a few hundred dollars depending on mileage.

Yes, Volvo recommends using 91+ octane premium fuel year-round for optimal performance. Winter and cold weather can increase the risk of engine knocking, making higher octane gasoline more important.

It’s possible fuel economy may decrease slightly when using regular 87 octane fuel instead of premium in the XC90. Expect a possible difference of 1-3 mpg depending on driving conditions.

Yes. The turbocharged engine in the XC90 T6 model is designed to take advantage of higher octane premium fuel for maximum horsepower, torque and acceleration. Lower grades may reduce output.

The XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid runs on premium 91+ octane gasoline for the gas engine component. It also has an electric motor powered by the battery pack that drives the car partially on electricity.

Some locations of Petro-Canada, Shell, Esso, Sunoco, and Chevron carry 94 octane super premium gasoline options in Canada. Premium 91 is more widely available nationwide. Use station finders to locate.

No. Volvo states that continually using the minimum regular 87 octane gasoline in the XC90 will not damage the engine or affect reliability. However, low-grade fuel may result in subpar vehicle performance.

Volvo recommends opting for top tier gas station brands like Petro-Canada, Shell, Esso or Chevron in Canada to help maximize performance and minimize build-up in the XC90 engine. Off-brand gasoline may have more impurities.

With a 19.2 to 21.7 gallon fuel tank depending on configuration, the 2023 Volvo XC90 models offer total driving ranges between 640 – 800+ kilometres when fully fueled up. Real-world figures vary.

Volvo called for premium 91+ octane fuel in the second generation XC90 models sold between 2016 and 2022 for optimal operation. Owners can also safely run these SUVs on 87 octane gasoline, if required.

It’s unlikely switching gasoline octane by itself will dramatically change fuel consumption rates in the XC90. Driving style, road conditions and vehicle maintenance impact efficiency more. But premium fuel optimizes operation.

Volvo recommends refueling the XC90 before the gas gauge drops below 1/4 tank to help prevent condensation and fuel system contamination issues. Filling up each 400-500 kilometres is ideal for most drivers.

Common causes include using lower octane gasoline than recommended, carbon buildup on spark plugs and valves, incorrect ignition timing, and extreme engine temperatures in the XC90. Upgrading to premium fuel often eliminates knocks.

No. Using regular gasoline instead of premium in a Volvo XC90 will not negatively impact the future resale value or trade-in amount on the vehicle later on. Condition, mileage and maintenance records matter more.

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