First drive 261 mpg Volkswagen XL1 Yahoo Finance

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First drive: 261 mpg Volkswagen XL1

It a bit of effort to slip in under the doors and then wedge into the low-slung seat of the (XETRA:VOW3-DE) XL1. And it’s more difficult for my co-pilot, as the seat is set slightly rearward, tandem-style.

The simple reality is the windswept two-seater isn’t for comfort. The Volkswagen XL1 was designed for mileage. And we’re not talking like the mere 50 to 60 mpg of today’s hybrids, nor the 100 mpg equivalent ratings of of the latest battery-electric vehicles.

No, diesel plug-in hybrid received a mind-boggling rating European authorities of 261 mpg, far and a record.

Describing the XL1 as my baby, manager Steven Volckaert the project has been underway for than a decade, with the goal of squeezing out 100 kilometers a single liter of fuel. For the challenged, that works out to 235 mpg.

VW revealed its first attempt in a tandem-seating concept dubbed the L1. a somewhat more traditional layout-and even better the XL1 made its world debut at the Motor Show last

But what came as a shock was that VW would actually put the machine into production, in limited numbers, a year or so now. Specific details yet to be worked out, including the

It’s likely to rival of some of the German maker’s luxurious models-but even the cost almost certainly come close to covering the cost of building the XL1, if the mileage champ were to rolling out of the factory in the same as more mainstream Volkswagen like the Golf.

No surprise what it takes to achieve 261


There were three key to the project:

A superlight chassis and

Aerodynamics on the order of the most aircraft; and

An ultraefficient powertrain.

The VW XL1 is made out of CFRP, or carbon plastic, the same exotic used in Formula One race and the most extreme sports like the Volkswagen Group’s Veneno. There are other materials such as magnesium and ceramic brakes, and clever reduced the parts count so half the normal front is needed.

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The results are impressive. The monocoque, or cell, weighs in at just 197 with the entire vehicle at a 1,753 pounds.

A variety of tricks also play a including full underbody and instead of conventional side-view the XL1 uses a pair of tiny that display images on LCD built into each

But the heart of this high-mileage is a minuscule 2-cylinder, 0.8-liter diesel engine paired a 27-hp electric motor power from a 5.5 kilowatt-hour battery.

The plug-in system deliver a nominal 32 miles in mode, though for longer or under more aggressive conditions, the diesel will up.

For now, as I hit start, the diesel is The only way to tell the XL1 is ready to is by reading the gauge cluster between the steering wheel. the dual-clutch manual into the little car lurches forward, the sound gravel crunching its narrow, low-friction tires.

As we through traffic in Wolfsburg, German home, the XL1 draws of stares from pedestrians and drivers. The car is so small it’s to maneuver city streets and the XL1 has no power steering-too heavy-it’s so as to be surprisingly nimble.

On local roads, there’s trouble keeping up with though the real test as we turn onto the A1 Autobahn toward Berlin.

The good is that with the vehicle so its compact powertrain delivers acceleration than one might It’s no rocket but it’s than some classic that might otherwise you fearing for your life on the German freeways.

Of course, the has finally fired up and, no matter how much VW ultimately when the XL1 goes on sale you confuse it with a similarly luxury car.

To save there is almost no sound so the cockpit echoes with the clacking. Happily, as we exit the it quickly shuts down and our get a respite as we return to battery

We can only hope that VW opt to sacrifice a few pounds and a couple mpg the two-seater goes into Even if it only delivered 255 mpg in trim would potential be disappointed? Unlikely.

In fact, a check of the gauges as we pull into VW headquarters shows we’ve been averaging a thirsty 1.8 liters per 100 km, a mere 138 due to spending so much of our time along the Autobahn under power near to the XL1’s top of 99 mph.

That said, still be able to make the run Berlin to Frankfurt-or Los Angeles to San for that matter-on well than three gallons of

VW expects to produce just a hundred copies of the XL1, to log some real-world data the various technologies the little car

In the years ahead, however, we can to see the design influence more products as the industry struggles to increasing mileage and emissions around the world.

While 261 mpg requires some sacrifice from driver and alike, the Volkswagen XL1 should engineers and designers figure out to deliver significantly better than the typical automobile today.

— By CNBC Paul A. Eisenstein. Follow him on @DetroitBureau or at thedetroitbureau.com .

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