Geneva 2013: Volkswagen’s 261-MPG XL1 Making Its Production Debut

Piech's incredible project is finally ready for the real world.

We know, we know – you’ve seen the Volkswagen XL1 before. Two years ago, to be exact, when it debuted at the 2011 Qatar motor show. True, but Volkswagen’s using next month’s Geneva Motor Show to formally launch the production version of its super-thrifty XL1 microcar. 

The XL1 has come a long way from Volkswagen’s first stabs at the so-called one-liter car in 2002, but what you see here isn’t far removed from the third-generation prototype we drove back in early 2011. The car is still quite small (153 inches long, 65.6 inches wide, and 17.9 inches tall), quite light (1795 pounds), and uses a ton of carbon fiber reinforced polymers to keep the curb weight down.

Further, the XL1 is still a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. A 0.8-liter, 47-hp turbo-diesel two-cylinder is paired with a 27-hp electric motor, and drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. A lithium-ion battery pack provides 50 miles of range when used as a pure EV, and can be recharged in a little over an hour and a half on a 220-volt circuit.

If you’re looking for impressive acceleration figures, the XL1 isn’t your car – it takes 12.7 seconds to hit 62 mph, and top speed is 100 mph. The XL1’s stellar performance comes in the form of incredible fuel economy. VW says the car sips only 0.9 liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers traveled on the EU combined test cycle –or, in other words, 261 mpg. Given the fuel tank holds 10 liters of diesel, this theoretically gives the XL1 a total range of a between 680-690 miles. The car’s light weight, low frontal area, and slippery aerodynamics (the coefficient of drag is but 0.189) means the XL1 needs only 8.3 hp to cruise at 62 mph. In EV mode, the XL1 uses only 0.1 kWh to travel a kilometer.

Impressive? Absolutely – and so too is the fact that the car will soon enter series production. Volkswagen says it’ll essentially hand build the cars within the former Karmann plant in Onsabruck, Germany, which also manufactures Golf cabriolets and Porsche Boxsters. Interestingly, the only numbers we haven’t seen are tied to production – we’ve yet to hear targets for annual volume, an on-sale date, and a price tag. Early estimates suggested each XL1 could easily run $60,000 a pop.

Expect more information on VW’s XL1 to emerge as the Geneva Motor Show – which kicks off on March 5 – inches closer.

Source: Volkswagen

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