Is this a sign of a shift in priority for the XF? After all, the fiery XFR never came back for this generation and even the range-topper packs less than 300bhp. I wasn’t holding out much hope that our competent motorway-muncher would out itself as a beast of the back road: it would surely be asking too much for a luxurious, relatively economical and none-too-light saloon to double up as my tool of choice for the weekly blat around the home counties.
The faintly diesel-esque note to the P250’s idle hardly suggested I would be proved wrong. But shown a few miles of empty, dry and unusually smooth Tarmac, the XF transforms from cushty to genuinely purposeful and engaging. Our car spends much of its time in Eco mode (£1.50 per litre at my local garage, since you ask), which maybe serves to exacerbate the effects of twiddling the dial over to Dynamic mode. Shorter shifts, a more sensitive throttle and weightier steering are the headline tweaks, but it’s hard to not get excited about the red-themed gauges and piped-in engine sound.
Thanks to a Volkswagen Golf GTI-matching 248bhp, acceleration is swift and, should you choose, unmuted, while snappy paddle shifts invite exuberance between corners. And say what you will about fake sounds, but the experience wouldn’t be half as enjoyable were the cabin more isolated from the powerplant.
Get to a bend and the R-Dynamic suspension set-up keeps things nice and flat – yet not at the obvious expense of ride quality on crumblier bits – and the communicative front axle and surprisingly lively rear work together to cultivate some flair. It’s a laugh and further proof that the XF is a properly well-rounded proposition.