Volkswagen XL1 283-mpg hyper-hybrid

Volkswagen's new electric vehicle is the Veyron of hybrids.

5/5/14 2:09 pm chumakdenis 2

 If you drove a Volkswagen XL1, you’d be unlikely to encounter anything like it coming the other way. That’s because VW has only 250 copies of its 283-mpg hyper-hybrid and because you won't be able to find something at least similar to VolksWagen XL1.But what we have except futuristic design ?

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Specifications

Vehicle type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe

Base price $120,000

Engine type  turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 8-valve 800-cc diesel inline-2, 47 hp, 89 lb-ft; AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor, 27 hp, 103 lb-ft; combined system, 68 hp, 103 lb-ft

Transmission :  7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Dimensions:
Wheelbase: 87.6 in
Length: 153.1 in
Width: 65.6 in Height: 45.4 in

Curb weight: 1800 lb

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 12.6 sec
¼-mile: 18.6 sec
Top speed: 99 mph

Review

For all the XL1’s otherworldliness – hyper-aerodynamic shape, carbon-fibre architecture, rear-view monitor screens – its neatest trick may be how familiar it feels to drive.

Piloting the 283mpg marvel through Volkswagen’s corporate base of Wolfsburg, Germany, the XL1 behaved more like the Golfs and Polos in my midst than some priceless Sunraycer prototype. And yet the technologies embodied by the XL1 represent the very vanguard of automotive engineering.

There is the carbon-fibre-reinforced-polymer (CFRP) body, which helps it achieve the lowest coefficient of drag of any car from a major automaker. There are those door-mounted monitors, which relay unambiguous, real-time footage to the cabin. The diesel-electric hybrid system still feels crude, but ringing through the powertrain’s din of ticks, gurgles and whines is another sound, clear as a bell – the sound of progress.

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How comfortable this car?

Just 45.4 inches tall, the XL1 is half an inch lower than a Lamborghini Gallardo, and it would be impossible for anyone but somwhow we T dipped in Vaseline to enter through conventional doors. Even so, normal people climbing in have to bow deeply under the forward-winged hatches, step over a sill that is nearly a foot wide, and drop into a body that clears the ground by a mere three inches. If you expect this Volks­wagen XL1 to be a sports car, with its proportions and ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber tub with attached aluminum crash structures and body panels, you are mistaken. Push the starter button to see.

Instead of engine yowl, an indicator at the bottom of the central speedometer ­simply reads “READY.” Pull the lever of the seven-speed, magnesium-case, dual-clutch automatic to “D,” and push the accelerator. The electric motor integrated into the ­gearbox gently whirs like a blender, and the XL1 moves off. The low-rolling-resistance Michelins sound like grinding millstones—they are sized 115/80R-15 in front and 145/55R-16 in back, and no, that is not a misprint. The front rubber, just 4.5 inches wide, is inflated to 44 psi.

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On the road

There is no single silver bullet for creating the world's most efficient production car. No, it takes a flurry of them, and the XL1 relies on meticulous optimization of aerodynamics and weight to meet its audacious goals. Steel and iron account for less than a quarter of the car's 1800-pound weight, and the 0.004-inch-thick coat of paint is 50 percent lighter than a typical carbon-fiber paint job. 

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The skinny tires provide a comfortable ride up to city speeds. As the car accelerates on electric power, an orchestra of mechanical noises plays from the wheels and the transaxle. Every push of the brake pedal is accompanied by the rumble of pads sanding the ceramic discs. “We did not use any insulation,” says VW development engineer Ulrich Mitze, stating the obvious. “And the side windows are made of polycarbonate.”

Saving weight was the major developmental target for the second most extreme project within the Volkswagen Group after the Bugatti Veyron. The goal was a saleable “1-liter car,” or one capable of averaging 1.0 liter/100 km of fuel consumption. That’s a target of 235 mpg, nearly five times better than a Toyota Prius’s EPA combined rating. And VW claims 

After teasing the world with two prototypes since 2002, VW gives birth to an XL1 that’s more than a foot shorter and nearly five inches ­narrower than the Golf, with an extremely low drag coefficient of 0.19 and a European test-cycle label of 0.83 l/100 km (283 mpg). The 27-hp electric motor from the Jetta Hybrid works in ­tandem with a 47-hp two-cylinder diesel engine, which is basically a Euro-market Golf’s 1.6-liter turbocharged and intercooled TDI cut in half.

The XL1 should run 31 miles solely on electric power, says Mitze. But on the cold and rainy April day we drove it, the small, 60-cell, 5.5-kWh, 150-pound lithium-ion battery pack needed a recharge after only 22 miles. Recharging can be done with a 220-volt outlet in one hour or on the fly by the diesel engine.

When we decide to proceed, the diesel engine kicks in smoothly. It runs with little vibration but sounds a bit harsh at city speeds. And it manages to both refresh the batteries and provide rear-wheel motivation with its scant 89 pound-feet of torque. Regenerative brakes assist the recharging effort. Lift the throttle and the XL1 coasts, but gently depress the brake pedal and the system switches to regen mode. Push harder and the hydraulic brakes start biting. The tipping point from regen into friction braking is easy to control.


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When the motor boosts the engine, the XL1 is surprisingly agile. Zero to 60 mph happens in about 12.6 seconds, which seems quicker when you’re only three inches off the pavement. Outside the city, the unassisted steering lightens up, and the XL1 seems to run more quietly as road roar drowns out the car’s mechanical noises. Out of EV mode and into hybrid mode, the XL1 can cruise at 80 mph with the flow of power from the engine, motor, and battery detailed on the dashboard info screen. If needed, the XL1 does 99 mph as the diesel engine twitters excitedly. “Due to the excellent aerodynamics, we could reach 124 mph,” Mitze claims, “but the engine is governed in the interests of efficiency.”

According to the on-board computer, we are fuel hogs. Having started with a full tank (2.6 gallons) and fully charged batteries, we ended our trip after 67 miles; fuel consumption plummeted at one point to a dismal 128 mpg. Achieving the XL1’s theoretical 749-mile range would take a right foot as light as a moonbeam.

But as far as the day-in, day-out functionality of the “Lighthouse Project,” as the engineers call the XL1, it is sufficiently practical for everyday use by cashed-up mpg-aholics. Europeans who can’t afford the expected six-figure price can wait until 2015 for the Up! hybrid, which will feature the same two-cylinder diesel-electric unit that’s in the peewee Up! hatchback. A similar system with four-cylinder-diesel/electric propulsion will be offered in the Golf hybrid due next year. But only the XL1 comes with flying doors and two actual Lambor­ghini parts: the aluminum interior-door handles. Oh, what party conversations the XL1 will spark. So much for saving CO2.

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  • ZakharPashoon 5/10/14 11:53 am # 0
    i really love the design of the doors =)
    • render 5/12/14 6:46 am # 1
      Tesla Model X started a tradition of electric cars with wings? :)