Completely competent, but not without compromise
Getting into the XL1 isn't terribly easy. The gull-wing doors and wide sills that would be standard for a supercar feel a bit out of place in this eco-mobile. Once you manage to wiggle into the carbon-fiber bucket seat, it's surprisingly comfortable and supportive. Push the start button once to arm the various vehicle systems and then a second time to turn everything on. Assuming the battery is charged, you'll quietly glide away in electric mode. The sideview mirrors have been replaced with cameras, but the displays in each door are placed a few inches too low to feel comfortable checking them. Thankfully, the screens offer a crisp picture because this prototype car is worth a lot of money and we're driving it on the streets of Doha, Qatar where every SUV seems to be taking part in a time trial.
We need to use quite a bit of accelerator to keep up with our convoy since the CC and Touaregs each have at least twice as many cylinders as we do. Sprinting from 0-62 mph isn't exactly what the XL1 was designed for, but the 11.9 seconds required to do so feels adequate for real roads with traffic. During hard acceleration in EV mode, the diesel engine will kick on to provide additional thrust. Volkswagen sees this as a safety feature because the electric motor only produces 74 lb-ft of torque and the total output can be as high as 103 lb-ft of torque with the diesel engine assisting. There's quite a bit of noise from the tiny diesel when you're on the throttle, but it's strangely satisfying to hear the diesel rev because it confirms VW's commitment to stripping out non-essential weight, which is sound-deadening material in this case.