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Luxurious XJLR is one big, hot cat

Full-size luxury sedans such as the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Hyundai Equus, Audi A8, Bentley Flying Spur, Porsche Panamera and the Jaguar XJL are pretty amazing pieces of work. Each of these aspirational vehicles has a distinct personality and each combines all-out luxury with exceptional performance and serious price tags. Think ground-bound private jets and you get the picture.

Jaguar’s flagship, the all-aluminum XJL (long-wheelbase), is aesthetically stunning, technologically brilliant and fast. The XJLR is a new addition to Jaguar’s R performance lineup and it is the kind of car that fools your senses because you don’t expect a car this big and this luxurious to have startling acceleration, giant brakes and firm handling that is on par with top sports cars.

The supercharged, 5.0-liter V-8 cranks out a massive 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission can be shifted with paddles on the steering wheel.

The XJLR’s aluminum structure is at least 300 pounds lighter than steel. Pounce on the throttle, and this big car inhales with a deep, guttural growl as it hustles to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, about half a second slower than the new Corvette. Top track speed is electronically limited to 174 mph.

Needless to say, I only experienced a fraction of its speed potential. As luck would have it, the XJLR from Jaguar’s press fleet came to stay with me during a heavy snowstorm. Big 20-inch wheels shod with low-profile performance tires became ice skates in the snow, and the car was barely manageable. I wisely left the big cat in my drive until the streets were clear. Even then, I had to be judicious with the throttle because the salted streets were still slick.

Folks who live in winter climes will need specific winter tires or another vehicle better suited to snow and ice. An appealing alternative is to select the all-wheel drive model that is available with the 340-horsepower V-6. While this engine delivers enough power to satisfy most drivers, some customers would like to have the V-8’s power and all-wheel drive. Not now, at any rate.

I mentioned that cars in this class have serious price tags, and the XJR starts at $116,000, and the long-wheelbase XJLR, with five more inches of rear seat legroom, begins at $119,000. The test car’s sticker price was $123,870. Clearly this is a car for a very select few.

Styling is the XJ’s hallmark. The bold face and long sloping roofline create a profile that is both delicate and sleek. It always turned heads wherever I drove it, in part because it’s not often that you see one. The rear roof pillar is painted black to give a cantilever appearance, but I think the car would look fine if the pillar were body color. A standard panoramic glass roof is an integral part of the car, and it enables the vehicle to have a lower, more streamlined roofline. It also enhances the feeling of light and space inside the vehicle.

Responsive handling is another benefit of the car’s relatively light aluminum construction. Air suspension, continuously variable shock absorbers and quick-ratio power steering are just some of the XJ’s high-tech features.

The cabin is designed, says Jaguar, to be like a “state-of-the-art living space.” Slip into the deep bucket seats and you feel ensconced in leather. Every surface of the steering wheel is leather, for example. A wide swath of carbon fiber veneer encircles the front passenger compartment in a continuous sweep from the door panels across the instrument panel. Chrome accents are plentiful.

Small things become irritating over time. The seatbelt latch is so close to the console that I scraped my knuckles on the console every time I buckled the seatbelt, and after a few days I winced each time I got in the car. This might be less of an issue for folks who are less broad of beam.

An 8-inch touch screen in the center of the dash displays vehicle functions ranging from audio and video to navigation and climate control. The menu system is not very clear but in time I figured it out. I think simpler is better.

Price

The base price of the test car was $119,000. Options included the carbon fiber veneer, electric rear side window shades, illuminated air vents, doorsills and trunk sill. The sticker price was $123,870.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles.

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