Cruising the B-roads of Hampshire in a Jaguar XE
PUBLISHED: 12:38 24 March 2016
This month's drive in a Jaguar XE cruises the B-roads of Hampshire, from a tranquil stroll in the countryside to a wonderful museum that brings our county's rich military history to life says Mark Whitchurch
Located on Hampshire’s westerly border is Martin Down Nature Reserve, one of the largest chalk grasslands in the country and with extensive views over the Hampshire countryside. Enjoy a morning stroll, admire the swaths of wildflowers and keep your eyes peeled for a plethora of butterflies and birds, including skylarks and yellowhammers.
Cared for by Natural England and Hampshire County Council, the down is rich in archaeology, dating from the Neolithic right up to its use as a rifle range in the Second World War.
Leave the car park on the A354 and head towards Salisbury, at the end of the short dual carriage way turn right with signposts for the village of Martin. Follow this network of lanes as it negotiates the undulations of the landscape and traverses through woodland sections. Upon reaching Fordingbridge, maybe have a break and enjoy a coffee at the riverside kiosk with views over the bridge from where the town takes its name.
Join the B3078, through Godshill and over Deadman Hill with spectacular views over the plains of the New Forest National Park. How many different animals can you spot as you cruise towards Bramshaw on the B3078? We spotted cows and pigs as well as the Forest’s resident horses!
At Brook Hill, hook up with the B3079 that took us north to the A36, where a short jaunt towards the M27 enables you to pick up the network of lanes in the direction of Sherfield English, where the gothic-styled St Leonard’s Church will undoubtedly catch your eye.
On reaching the A27 turn right to enjoy this fast flowing road as it winds its way to the A3090, where we head towards Romsey and past Broadlands, once the home of Earl Mountbatten.
Negotiate the Romsey one way system to join the A3057 in the direction of Stockbridge. Within a mile or so, turn left onto the B3084 to enjoy more of the backroads of our county.
Cruise through Dunbridge and Mottisfont to reach Broughton - we enjoyed an excellent Thai meal in The Greyhound Inn.
Rejoin the B3084 to cross the A30 and arrive at the A343. Hang a right and our final destination, The Museum of Army Flying is just up the road on the right. Located on an active training base, this fascinating museum is dedicated to the airborne history of the army.
With Jaguar’s fortunes continuing to soar, it was time for this most British of marques to once again take on the established German competition in the compact executive car class. Whilst the Jaguar X-Type, the company’s last attempt didn’t go quite according to plan, now with fresh investment, how will the newly launched Jaguar XE fare?
Tested in the R-Sport guise, first impressions were encouraging. Very much a modern Jaguar design, with DNA shared with the XF and XJ saloons, the XE is instantly recognisable as a Jag. An undoubtedly handsome machine, the XE offers the right combination of sleek Jaguar lines and the aggressive stance pioneered by its Germanic rivals. The F-type rear lights add to the drama, confirming you are driving something a bit special.
Unlike the X-Type of a decade and half ago, Jaguar has invested heavily in the XE, constructing an entirely new platform for its baby executive offering - of which 75 percent is aluminium, ensuring the bare bones of the XE are lighter than its rivals. The steel elements are there in the doors, boot and B-pillars for safety.
Clasp the driver’s door handle to enter the cabin and instantly there is a feeling of quality and premium materials. The door automatically unlocks, sensing the key is in your pocket. Get comfortable in the leather-lined fully adjustable seat and grasp the chunky sports steering wheel. The clean and minimalistic dashboard is dominated by an eight inch touch-sensitive screen which can be used to control all creature comforts and driving aids. Contrasting stitched leather trim and alloy detailing create an interior ambiance equal to, if not better than its rivals.
Rear legroom is marginally tighter than you might have expected but boot space, accessed via a narrow aperture, is more than ample for a family weekend away with all the clutter that comes with two small children.
With all the static exploration complete, it’s time to thumb the pulsating starter button and find out if the Jaguar XE is as good to drive as it is at rest. Tested in manual guise and with four-wheel-drive capability, the initial perception is of a solid, reassuring driving experience, much like the build quality.
The 2.0 litre four cylinder diesel motor tested might not be the most exciting of the range, which is currently reserved for the petrol V6 S variant, but it is the most frugal and compelling to own. This 161bhp motor produces plenty of torque for swift overtaking manoeuvres and whilst performance is respectable, it will return 74.3mpg combined and emitting just 99g/km of CO2.
The sports orientated suspension setup, complete with double wishbones upfront and an integral link set up in the rear, really helps to take the XE ride quality and handling dynamics to compete with the class-leading BMW 3-Series.
With the R-Sport’s standard specification, which includes sat-nav, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors, Jaguar have compiled a compelling case to buy British with the XE.
With the BMW 3 Series comfortably leading the compact executive car class for the past three years, its safe to say the launch of the Jaguar XE is a game changer, a car that takes the fight to the 3-Series and in some aspects, particularly within the cabin, the XE is clearly ahead. It’s great to see that Jaguar have buried the demons of the X-Type and have really built what could arguably be seen as a new class leader. Prices for the Jaguar XE start at £29,775.
• Great Drives in Hampshire: 2 - Isle of Wight - The second in our series, Mark Whitchurch heads across the water for a regal experience in a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé