The Jaguar XJL is traditional English luxury with sexy catlike curves

For nearly 50 years, the Jaguar XJ has been one of the finest luxury sedans money can buy. It’s been a torchbearer for old-world British luxury and style. Unfortunately, by the early 2000s, the XJ’s relentless evocation of Jag’s design lineage caused the car to become staid. Which is why in 2010, Jaguar design boss Ian Callum unveiled a new XJ that broke the mould and took Jag’s flagship four-door in a modern and controversial direction.

The current generation XJ is already half a decade old, but its eye-catching looks remain as fetching as ever. So when Jaguar let Business Insider borrow a 2015 XJL Portfolio all-wheel-drive test car, we jumped at the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of this automotive icon.

From 1968 to 2009, the Jaguar XJ's appearance represented a steady evolution of ...

.... a clearly....

.... defined ....

.... design theme.

The traditional Jaguar XJ design formula features a blend between athletic curves and dignified British style.

In that sense, the current XJ isn't exactly shocking. In fact, from the side, the car echoes the outline of the leaping cat from the company's logo.

But the boundary pushing aspects of the design are by choice. Sir Ian once told me that a Jag should make you want to look twice.

In fact, the XJ blends old and new well enough that it's landed a role as the official ride of British Prime Minister David Cameron and ...

... as the car of choice for James Bond's boss -- 'M,' played by Judy Dench -- in 2012's 'Skyfall.'

As sleek as the XJ's exterior may be, it is when you slip inside the big luxo sedan's cabin that you really get the full Jag experience.

The interior is stunning. A fine blend of new and old. But unlike its German competitors, time spent in the XJ's interior is a more soulful experience. It's uncluttered, stylish, and fills you with a warmth like a pair of worn-in loafers or a friendly pub.

In the back, passengers are treated to an optional entertainment system ...

... and a pair of reclining seats.

A pair of glass roof panels can flood the interior with sunlight.

But there are a few downsides to the cabin as well. As sleek as the sharply raked roofline may look, it also cuts into rear visibility and headroom for back-seat passengers.

Although the Jag's touchscreen infotainment system was quick and responsive, the presentation is beginning to look dated. The XJ also lacks some modern safety tech, such as front-collision and lane-departure warning systems that are now common on cars in its segment.

On the bright side, the Meridian stereo sounds fantastic!

Power comes from JLR's workhorse 3.0-litre, 340-horsepower supercharged V6.

With power flowing to all four wheels, the big Jag can hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds -- quite sporty for a 4,000-lb. ride -- and reach a top speed of 121 mph.

Around the hilly roads of suburban Atlanta, the XJL drove like a peach. The steering is responsive and yet steady, while the supercharged V6 offered effortless power.

In 'dynamic mode,' the Jag comes alive -- proving itself surprisingly fleet of foot for a 17-foot-long car.

Much of this agility has to do with the XJ's aluminium-intensive construction. At just over 4,100 lbs., the XJL AWD is much lighter than similar offerings from Mercedes and BMW.

My only complaint with the driving experience was the Jag's slightly spongy brakes, which made for some abrupt stops.

In the large luxury sedan market, the $74,000 XJ -- our long wheelbase XJL cost $89,000 with options -- is the midst of a dogfight with some truly world class competition in the form of ...

... Mercedes' standard-bearing S-Class ...

... Lexus' stalwart LS ...

... BMW's very capable 7-Series...

... Audi's stylish A8 and ...

... Maserati's suave Quattroporte.

Overall, the current generation Jaguar XJ is a stylish and exhilarating luxury sedan. But while the design still looks as modern as the day it debuted, the XJ is beginning to show its age.

That's is why Callum and his team are busy working on the next generation XJ. It probably won't be radically different, but it should make everyone who's always loved this car very happy.

Here's a sporty luxury sedan from the Germans ...

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