By Nigel Wigmore
Another country – that place that might occupy our hearts and minds – often appears more attractive than the one we live in.
And yet there are many unexplored parts of our own country of which we remain blissfully ignorant.
I have been trying in recent months to put this right by taking road trips to places I should know but do not know at all.
Take the wonderful Shropshire Hills, designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but somewhere that I have steadfastly remained ignorant of all my life.
That is until now. The car despite facing many environmental challenges these days is still a great way to travel and explore Britain.
And there could be few better cars to tour in than this week’s drive, the Volvo V90. Actually this was no “ordinary” V90 estate car but the T5 R-Design the one with all the bits on, including a 250hp petrol engine under the bonnet.
This meant a performance capability that you would not necessarily associate with motor tourism: a potential top speed of 140mph and acceleration figures of 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds.
But of course engines with that kind of oomph in my experience are always graceful at low and cruising speeds.
Besides what was the hurry? Certainly there was none on this trip. When travelling through the countryside made famous by A E Housman in his collection of poems, A Shropshire Lad hurrying by in a fast car was the least favoured option.
More, a gentle cruising was called for once we had left the busyness of the M5 motorway at Worcester and headed towards Ludlow and beyond into the Shropshire Hills.
We were actually travelling to a place called Chirk north of Oswestry and our trip was too short time wise to take in the area properly. Another visit will be a must.
Housman’s evocation of the “blue remembered hills” of Shropshire might have been presented in “an idealised pastoral light” but viewing those hills from the road for the first time, I got the message loud and clear.
The Volvo V90 of course is the epitome of a car served well by the benefits of new technology.
It bristles with connectivity capability controlled from its nine-inch centre console touch screen, that includes Sensus Navigation – handy for the most ambitious motor-car tourism – and Sensus Connect that allows you to access a range of web apps and browse the Internet.
Most of all what I liked about touring in a Volvo such as the V90 was the feeling of comfort and safety, that is apportioned to everyone in the car and not just the driver.
Of course these days you “build” the V90 you want to buy and with a starting price of around £37,500 and petrol, diesel and hybrid versions available the scope is wide.
In the summer Volvo introduced the performance and efficiency of its T5 turbocharged petrol engine across its large-car range in Britain, adding the T5 powertrain to the S90 saloon, V90 estate (the car I took to Shropshire) V90 Cross Country and XC90 SUV.
Tuned to deliver 250hp, the T5 is matched as standard to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The T5 is further evidence of Volvo’s continued focus on petrol engine technology. Aluminium and aluminium alloy are extensively used in the construction of the lightweight 2.0-litre engine.
The V90 mirrors its sister saloon, the S90, in terms of the availability of the T5 within the range, with the addition of the Cross Country all-road estate models. The fuel economy figures are from 41.5mpg and 157g/km in the standard V90, and from 38.2mpg and 172g/km with all-wheel drive in the Cross Country. T5 prices are from £43,120 for the V90 R-Design and £44,685 for the V90 Cross Country.
So if you want it, the T5 brings big power plus economy, that is top performance for advanced motorway driving. For anyone like me – a born-again tourist in his own country – you can also be quite happy in the V90 T5 pootling along the by-roads of Shropshire reimagining A E Housman’s inspiration for his poetry.
Volvo V90 T5 R-Design Pro
Model as tested, including options: £56,320
Engine: T5 (petrol) 250hp
Combined fuel economy: 41.5mpg
Increased petrol powertrain choice across the S90 saloon, V90 estate and XC90 SUV model ranges
Strong and efficient 2.0-litre 250hp four-cylinder turbocharged unit
Paired as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive formats