Jaguar automobiles always make a great first impression. Their body styles are works of art; their handling and performance nearly peerless. Moreover, they’re niche cars in the U.S. market, so those who do buy one enjoy the sensation of having a car different, and somehow better, than the cars their friends drive.

What makes Jaguars special? Year after year, their lines are magical. Anything that beautiful must have some good in it, no matter what the critics might say about what lies beneath the graceful curves of the hood, roof and fenders.

The Jaguar XJ, the flagship sedan with an entry-level price of $74,200, competes mainly with Lexus from Japan; Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi from Germany; and all-electric, U.S.-built Tesla. Built in Great Britain by Tata Motors of India, the Jaguar retains the British personality that made the brand iconic.

Our Lunar Grey test car, a 2015 XJL, was priced at $84,700, with expensive options bringing the sticker price to $91,495. It was equipped with a 3-liter, supercharged V6 generating 340 horsepower; an 8-speed automatic transmission; and all-wheel drive. Drivers who want a little more punch – or a lot more – can opt for the $93,600 XJL Supercharged, with a 470-horsepower V8; or the 550-horsepower XJR, base-priced at $119,000.

At a little more than two tons despite extensive use of aluminum in the body, the XJL is a hefty car, but it doesn’t drive big. In fact, it feels lithe and quick, like the big cat emblazoned in chrome on the trunk lid. Although we had the car for a week, we never tired of whipping the Jaguar around tight corners and accelerating sharply as the car settled smartly into the turn. You wouldn’t expect making the right turn from Route 6 into the Target store in Bethel, to be exciting, but when you’re at the wheel of a Jaguar XJL, the maneuver truly speeds up the heartbeat.

The back seat is less roomy in the base XJ than in its competitors, but that certainly was not the case with our test car. The extended-body XJL attracts double-takes by people drawn by its considerable length – 17.3 feet – as well as its gorgeous lines. The back seat is all about stretching out and relaxing, and despite the car’s sloping roofline, 6-footers can sit comfortably in back. It goes without saying that there’s plenty of room in front, too.

The XJL is rated at 16 mpg city, 24 highway, using premium unleaded gasoline. We got as much as 27 on the highway and never saw the gauge drop below 19 – quite good for so large and luxurious a vehicle.

Jaguars have a reputation for mechanical and electronic problems, but U.S. News & World Report ratings place the XJ’s reliability in the “about average” category. Consumer Reports magazine has noted owner satisfaction with the XJ is above average.

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $91,495

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 340 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,151 lb.

Suspension: air suspension, double-wishbone front and rear

Wheels: 20-in. Orona alloy

Tires: front, 245/40ZR20; rear, 275/35ZR20, summer

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 15.2 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons

Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline