Let’s be honest, if you are eyeing the XF 20t, chances are that you are looking forward to what’s under the hood more than rear seat space or cabin quality. In that case, the XF gets a 1997cc, four-cylinder engine that makes 200bhp. There's 320Nm on tap from low revs, however, the XF doesn't hurl itself out of the block like the smaller XE – blame it on the added weight. Instead, the real meat from this engine is in the mid-range, where the XF is at its most forceful state. Under normal driving conditions, there is little lag and the engine feels responsive, making the XF fairly effortless.
What’s more, the shifts from the ZF 8-speed gearbox are quick yet smooth enough to be indiscernible. Unlike cars with dual clutch autos, this torque converter allows the XF to pick up speed from standstill in a linear manner with no hesitancy whatsoever. However, there is some hesitancy to kick-down in D when you floor the pedal. The gearbox is a little slow to react although you can put the car in Dynamic mode and the gearbox in S for quicker reactions. The Dynamic mode, in fact, sharpens the throttle response and makes the gearbox more engaging.
Modest power output aside, the XF 20t actually provokes you to have a go on your favourite twisty road, and with a great deal of poise thanks to the high levels of grip and excellent chassis balance. Unlike the E Class or even the new 5 Series, the XF darts into corners with great agility and the quick steering is precise and has loads of feel. The ride quality is equally impressive, too. Although we wouldn’t say it’s simply unfazed by sharp potholes and big bumps, the XF deals with bad roads better than you might expect. Thanks to the high profile tyres, the ride quality has a soft edge to it and unlike its predecessor, the suspension can take big jolts without sounding clunky or unnerving.