Think “large luxury sedan” and it’s hard not to picture the German 1-2-3 hit parade consisting of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. No wonder then that most of the competitors – cars like the Lexus LS, Genesis G90 and Cadillac CT6 – all cleave closely to the German luxury blueprint. If you want something a little different, it leaves precious little choice: From Italy there’s the Maserati Quattroporte, while from England there’s the Jaguar XJ. And where the Italians counter the Germans’ reserved, technological luxury with flamboyant Italian style, the Brits counter it with proper old-world opulence and hidden reserves of performance. Walk softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

Introduced in 2009, the current-generation XJ comes with two choices of wheelbase, two choices of engine, and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Its design represents a major break from previous-generation XJs, and was considered radical when it debuted. To keep things fresh and help stave off the “seven year itch,” Jaguar has facelifted the 2016 model with new headlights, taillights, grille, front and rear fascias, and some updated trim details. The differences are mostly fairly subtle, but I do like the distinctly more aggressive-looking headlight treatment, and the big Jaguar remains up-to-date and good looking, if perhaps a little bulky at the back.

Inside, the XJL get quilted leather upholstery for 2016 (this won nods of approval from both my wife and myself), an updated infotainment interface, and additional standard equipment including heated and cooled seats and a blind-spot monitoring system with fast-moving vehicle detection. V8-powered rear-wheel-drive models also get electric steering for 2016, while V6-powered all-wheel-drive models like my test car continue with hydraulic power steering.

Where the German competitors offer varying takes on the concept of cool modern luxury, the folks at Jaguar take a decidedly more sumptuous, rich-feeling approach to interior design. In my test car, pretty much all interior surfaces were covered with lashings of high-end leather, except where there was with burled walnut, glistening chrome, or high-gloss piano-black trim. An impressive array of interior options let you select different colours and trim options, with gloss-figured ebony, carbon fibre or piano black available in place of the standard burled walnut.

Up top, there’s a big dual-pane panoramic sunroof with electric blinds, while on the dash, the art-deco-style dash vents are like miniature works of art. The list of standard equipment in the Portfolio edition includes everything you might possibly expect and more, with highlights including a phenomenal-sounding 825 watt, 20-speaker Meridian sound system, four-zone climate control, heated and cooled massaging front seats, heated and cooled rear seats, smart key with pushbutton start, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a lovely suede headliner that almost begs to be touched, the previously mentioned updated InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with navigation…. shall I go on?

Luxury, Defined: Luxury Flagships Comparison Test

On top of this there’s a wide selection of available options, including an $8,500 Premium Rear Seat Package (this adds massaging rear seats, folding business tables, and entertainment system with touchscreen and remote control), a $1,700 Illumination Pack (which adds gorgeous phosphor blue halo cabin lighting, including in the air vent controls), a $1,000 Parking Assist pack (featuring surround view camera and 360-degree park distance control), a $1,600 adaptive cruise control system, an $850 InControl Connect Pro connectivity package, and $700 electric rear side window blinds. My test car didn’t have the rear seat package, but it was kitted out with everything else.

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