The entry-level 2.0d 163 model needs to be worked hard to make swift progress, and even then it's a bit on the slow side. The more powerful 2.0d 180 diesel is gutsy enough, although equivalent engines in the BMW 520d and Mercedes-Benz E220d are even stronger.
The 2.0d 240 (badged 25d) is also a four-cylinder but delivers much punchier performance, thanks to a second turbocharger. It's worth a look, but it's quite a lot more expensive than the 180 model and not as frugal.
If you can afford it, the V6 diesel offers seriously strong performance, even from low revs. The automatic gearbox (optional on the 2.0 diesels and standard on other XFs) is impressive enough, apart from its annoying habit of pausing when accelerating briskly from a standstill.
As for the V6 petrol, it’s the fastest XF, but very thirsty with it. Furthermore, the V6 diesel feels just as potent – that is unless you’re prepared to rev the petrol very hard.