Spied: Volkswagen XL1 Goes Sideways In Winter Testing

Eco-cars like the Volkswagen XL1 are all about sensible transportation that consumes as little fuel as possible. Even so, these spy photos prove that the little XL1 can still enjoy a good old-fashioned power slide -- on snow and ice, at least.

That the XL1 is being subjected to cold-weather testing proves how serious Volkswagen is about developing its one-liter cars. A pet project of Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, the XL1 grew out of the original L1 concept car, named for its ability to travel 100 kilometers on one liter of fuel. That's equivalent to 235 mpg. Last April, Piech drove an XL1 to a Volkswagen board meeting to demonstrate the proficiency of the fuel-sipping prototype, which is now said to achieve as much as 261 mpg.

The test car spotted by our spy photographers isn't much different from other versions of the XL1 we have seen previously. The incredibly aerodynamic shape has the bracket-shaped LED taillights, squinty white LED headlights, and wind-cheating wheels familiar from other XL1 outings. The only difference is that this prototype lacks the rear wheel covers of other Volkswagen XL1s.

Supreme fuel efficiency comes courtesy not only of impressive aerodynamics and a lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced polymer body, but also because of a thrifty hybrid powertrain. A 48-hp, two-cylinder diesel engine works with a 27-hp electric motor, sending power through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to the rear wheels (hence the ease with which this XL1 can slide around in the snow). The electric motor can power the car for about 22 miles before the diesel kicks in. Volkswagen claims the XL1 weighs 1753 pounds and needs just 11.9 seconds to reach 62 mph.

Volkswagen still plans to put the XL1 into limited production this year, although the diesel engine may be swapped for a turbocharged gasoline mill instead.

The inset rear wheels probably still mean that there will likely be wheel covers on the production model.
In my opinion, this is a beautiful car (well, it is with the wheel covers in place). In the form-follows-function competition, the XL1 has no competitor. Sadly, the XL1 is prone to going sideways in the winter because it's a rear-wheel drive car. Of course, a rear-mounted engine makes sense in the quest to minimize aerodynamic drag, but front-wheel drive is so much safer when driving on slippery surfaces. Sigh, I know the cost of this carbon-fiber wonder will be way beyond my budget so I'll continue to putter along in my 70-mpg 2006 Honda Insight Classic, another car whose technical beauty escapes some critics. I'll try to contain my XL1 lust by telling myself I'm safer in my front-wheel drive  Insight. My questions: how vulnerable are the side-mounted rear-view cameras to parking-lot damage from other cars' doors and where does one take a carbon-fiber car for body repairs?
In hope that thing slides off into a crevasse. Good god that is horrid?
Eric Michael Beaudoin
@Insightman RWD does not guarantee issues in snowy conditions. With a good set of winter tires and careful driving practices, a RWD car can perform wonderfully in the snow. Just my observation. Props to VW for developing this little thing; some seriously cool technology!

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