The Frugal and the Fast: VW's XL1 Speedy Variant

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The Volkswagen XL1 hybrid is a benchmark in fuel efficiency, getting on the order of 261 mpg. It uses a 48-hp two-cylinder, 0.8-liter common rail turbodiesel, a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox, and 20-kW (27-hp) electric motor (see: autofieldguide.com/articles/volkswagen-goes-common—but-with-a-difference).

But the folks at Wolfsburg have decided that having a car with a slippery shape—it has a coefficient of drag of 0.258, and thanks to a frontal area of just 1.72 m, a CdA of 0.44—would be something that could go fast, not frugally.

Back in 2012, Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, bought motorcycle manufacturer Ducatti.

Ducatti produces a bike named the 1199 Superleggera, which is said to be the world’s most-powerful two-cylinder motorcycle. The “1199” in the name of the bike refers to the displacement of the double-overhead cam engine in cubic centimeters. The engine has a bore/stroke ration of 112 mm/60.8 mm. It has titanium connecting rods, and uses a magnesium alloy for parts including the cylinder head and oil pan covers. There are two fuel injectors per cylinder. It can rev up to 11,000 rpm.

There is a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

So, that powertrain was fitted into a modified variant of the XL1, a vehicle that is longer (168.9 in. vs. 153.1 in.) and wider (72.7 in. vs. 65.5 in.) and with a longer wheelbase (95.4 in. vs. 87.6 in.) than the XL1.

And this became the XL Sport, a concept car that VW unveiled at the Paris Motor Show.

(It is worth noting that the XL1 is a “production car,” albeit one that will be limited to 250 units, so it is almost concept-like in its comparative rarity.)

The Sport weighs a total of 1,962 lb, thanks, in large part, to its carbon fiber reinforced monocoque and body panels, polycarbonate windows, and magnesium-alloy wheels (the wheels alone are 53 lb. lighter than comparable aluminum-alloy rims).

The vehicle has high-strength steel subframes.

While the shape of the XL1 is tapered from front to rear, the width of the XL Sport is consistent at the front and rear, although from the plan view there is a bit of a waist in the cockpit area (the vehicle seats two, with staggered seating positions). There is no backlight for the vehicle (nor sideview mirrors, which are replaced with cameras). There is a louvered hatch in the rear, with the five louvers opening automatically for powertrain cooling.

And the engineers provided 3.8-ft3 of luggage space in the back—and just to have a sense of how big that is, it is worth noting that the VW Beetle offers 15.4-ft3 of cargo volume.

The 1199 engine produces 197 hp. Combine that with a 1,962-lb vehicle with a low coefficient of drag, and you come up with a car that has a top speed of 168 mph.