To make a premium automobile, one follows a long-established recipe. Take one large saloon car, sizeable enough to accommodate styling that's fluid, expansive and elegant. Add wood, leather and a healthy dash of techno trickery. Ensure that the bits below the bonnet throw out power to propel the above ensemble to speeds well in excess of common sense. And finally, ensure that the badge on said bonnet is suitably prestigious enough to generate just the right kind of subtle envy.

Jaguar's XJ is the company's flagship, and it fulfils all of the above criteria. Introduced back in 2009, it's most notable for being the car that broke the mould, finally ending the firm's four decade-long reliance on a graceful but rather tired design language. Instead of aping the past, the new car was bold, fluid and graceful, with more than a hint of attitude in the detailing. You either liked it, or you didn't; the days of serene, graceful, dependable beauty had passed. Either way, it was still a brilliant car to drive and be driven in.

Over time the XJ has evolved, as every production car does, with each year seeing nips, tucks and other improvements. The very latest iteration is the XJR, the supercharged flagship of flagships that splices the comfortable accommodation with the company's most explosive powertrain. Nestling under the XJR's expansive bodywork is a supercharged V8 (still a potent combination of words), putting out 542bhp.

This is a lot, by any standards, and it gives the aluminium-structured XJ scalding performance, more than enough to make it a twitchy prospect on slippery roads but a pure delight in the right hands and the right conditions. The acceleration is so extreme that is has automotive scribes reaching into their grab bags of motoring metaphors, looking for the right way of describing the feeling of something so sizeable move so quickly, while the car steers and stops in a way that belies its size.

Since the XJ originally arrived, Jaguar has done an excellent job of reminding the world that it can excel in every department; design, dynamics and comfort. The new F-Type is the company's most potent sports car in a generation but although the XJR outpaces it (on paper at least), in the real world this larger car is best treated in ways that flatter its dual character; a devastatingly swift machine that is also one of the most comfortable and refined ways of travelling, in either front or rear compartment.

TAGS: JAGUAR