VW's XL1 - Touts 240-300 Miles Per Gallon - A Tech That Could Change The World

Categories: Mobility


The electric motor is situated between the diesel engine and the seven-speed DSG transmission. At low speeds and with modest accelerator inputs, the XL1 will run a considerable distance solely on electric power before the diesel kicks in. Press a button, and the XL1 will stay in pure EV mode for up to 30 miles, courtesy of a 5.5-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack allowing emissions-free running in city areas. Management of the power flow is impressive: Only when the chocka-chocka of the little diesel overwhelms the whine of the electric motor are you aware of any change in how forward motion is being accomplished. The transitions are smooth and seamless. Just like any supercar, the XL1 demands compromises. It's noisy because there is very little sound deadening, which helps keep overall weight to just 1750 lb. Not only do you clearly hear both engines, but you also hear the tires on the pavement, the suspension working over the bumps, and the curious rasp of the tiny carbon-ceramic disc brakes as you came to halt. VW engineers considered an active noise cancellation system, but discarded the idea because of weight and the fact that it would consume precious power. Mechanical noise is part of the XL1 experience, just like it is in a Pagani Huayra.What you don't hear much of, however, is the wind. With a Cd of just 0.189, the XL1 is the most aerodynamic production car in history. It cleaves the air like a hot knife through butter, and, at 50 mph or more, the dull roar of the tires effectively cancels out any engine noise.

 It's been many years since we've driven a new car without power steering, so the XL1's manual system is at first a bit of a shock. It's heavy in tight turns at slow speeds, and loads up in faster corners. But you do know exactly what's going on with the front tires. It's old school and kind of entertaining. The regenerative braking system, by contrast, is almost state of the art in pedal feel and consistency.VW has not announced a price for the XL1, saying only that it will offer what it calls "innovative financing" to get customers into the car, and that just 250 will be virtually hand-built on a special production line at VW's Osnabrück plant in northwestern Germany. Simple auto industry economics suggest this is easily the most expensive Volkswagen ever made -- after all, supercar technologies mean a supercar price tag -- and that it's a money loser. So why build it? "It's a lighthouse car," says VW Group R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg. "This is the technology spearhead of the VW Group, and all the brands will benefit."

Hackenberg says lessons learned creating the XL1 -- in perfecting the ultra-lightweight body construction, in developing the diesel/electric plug-in hybrid powertrain, in finding the 1001 efficiency tweaks so that it needs just 8.3 hp to travel at a constant 62 mph -- are already being cascaded across the Volkswagen product portfolio. For example, at the VW Group Night extravaganza on the eve of the Geneva show where the XL1 was the star, Audi announced a plug-in hybrid version of the new A3 that is capable of delivering an impressive 156 mpg.

Throughout his remarkable career at VW Group, supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch has made a habit of setting seemingly impossible targets for his engineering teams. In 2001, he declared the production version of the Bugatti Veyron concept would have 1000 hp and would exceed 250 mph, even though no one at Wolfsburg knew whether problems with engine heat management, high-speed aerodynamics, and tire life could be solved. In 2007, Piëch bluntly stated VW would build a production car capable of an unbelievable 235 mpg by the end of the decade.OK, so the XL1 engineers missed the launch date by a few years, but the XL1 is that car. And it's every bit as stunning an engineering achievement as is the mighty Veyron.

2013 Volkswagen XL1
BASE PRICE $120,000
VEHICLE LAYOUT Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 0.8L/47-hp/89-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 8-valve I-2 plus 27-hp/103-lb-ft elect motor; 68 hp/103 lb-ft comb.
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-cl auto
CURB WEIGHT 1750 lb (mfr)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 153.1 x 65.6 x 45.4 in
0-60 MPH 12.5 sec (MT est)
EPA COMB FUEL ECON 209 mpg (mfr est)


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