Volkswagen EcoRacer

Don Sherman
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Imagine a Lamborghini Gallardo compressed to a 97-inch wheelbase. The result is VW's EcoRacer concept that reaches far into the performance future with a creative mix of ecology (low emissions), economy (high mileage), and fun-to-drive spirit. The mid-mounted engine is compressed from ten to four cylinders and is converted to a turbo-diesel in the interest of efficiency. The carbon-fiber body carries two and their luggage while offering a remarkable degree of convertibility. The hinged roof panels, rear "hatch" extension, and even the windshield are removable to morph from coupe to roadster to speedster in steps. The 1.5-liter, turbocharged, sixteen-valve compression-ignition engine generates 134 hp at 4000 rpm, enough impetus to move the 1870-lb prototype to 62 mph in 6.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of 143 mph. Embodying VW's controlled combustion system, this new experimental engine balances the virtues of gasoline and diesel powerplants, a goal every major maker is pursuing. To up the fun on the drive to tomorrow, there's a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission with paddle- and floor-shift options. Dream on, VW fans, there are no production plans.

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