2014 Paris Motor Show: Volkswagen XL Sport is a Frugal Gasoline-Sipping Performance Car

With a price tag of well over $100,000, Volkswagen’s limited-production, two-seat XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid car is something of a cross between a collectors’ edition vehicle and an experiment in frugality and future vehicle design. With a super sleek design, lightweight frame and coefficient of drag of just 0.189, the XL1 returns an astonishing 313 miles per imperial gallon (261 miles per U.S. gallon, or 0.9 litres per 100 km) on the mixed-mode NEDC test cycle.

It looks like the XL1, but the XL Sport doesn't have a plug, a battery pack, or an electric motor in sight.

It looks like the XL1, but the XL Sport doesn’t have a plug, a battery pack, or an electric motor in sight.

Sitting behind the wheel is like being on the set of a sci-fi movie set eighty years in the future.

But today at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the frugality and aerodynamic function of the admittedly underpowered XL1 gave way to Volkswagen’s latest limited-production vehicle: the XL Sport, a car that combines the sleek lines of the XL1 with a full-bodied sports motorcycle.

We’ll explain.

Like the XL1 plug-in hybrid before it, the XL Sport is a rear-engined, super-aerodynamic vehicle designed to slip through the air as easily as possible. From the rounded nose up front through to the upward-hinged doors and boat tail rear, the XL Sport takes its design cues from the XL1 plug-in hybrid. It even shares the XL1’s use of rear-view cameras instead of rear view mirrors and rear-mounted engine layout.

But while the XL1 features a narrow rear track and covered wheel arches, the XL Sport’s rear is more conventional, and does away with the aerodynamic wheel covers. And instead of a tiny two-cylinder diesel engine providing power, there’s the same 197-horsepower V-twin engine normally found on a Ducati 1199 Superleggera motorcycle, mated to a 7-speed DSG gearbox.

By using a similar design to the XL, the XL Sport is fast and frugal.

By using a similar design to the XL, the XL Sport is fast and frugal.

The result is a stupidly fast, lightweight, rear-wheel drive two-seat car capable of hitting a top speed of 168 mph on less than 200 horsepower.

What’s more, given the XL Sport’s drag coefficient of drag is just 0.258, the XL Sport should be pretty fuel efficient too, since in its original and extremely un-aerodynamic habitat of a Ducati 1199 Superleggera, the 1.2 litre V-twin manages 34.2 mpg U.S. While Volkswagen hasn’t actually quoted fuel efficiency, we’d like to point out that your run-of-the-mill motorcycle — with a very un-aerodynamic human on top — manages a coefficient of drag somewhere between 0.6 and 1.

That’s like taking a Hummer H2 and making it slip through the air like an EV1.

Why the 1.2-litre V-twin from the Ducati 1199? Aside from being the motorcycle with the best power-to-weight ration of any production motorcycle in history, the Ducati 1199 is only being produced in a limited production run of 500 motorcycles. What’s more, Ducati was recently acquired by Volkswagen, giving the German automaker free reign to use its motorcycle engines in any of its cars.

The question is this? Would you want one?

The question is this? Would you want one?

While Volkswagen is choosing to market the XL Sport as the only production sports car to ever reach 168 mph on just 200 horsepower, and there’s not a single electric motor or battery pack in sight, we’ve got to admire the engineering of the XL Sport. If you’re still unconvinced, think of this: the all-American Chrysler SRT — which has a top speed of 175 mph — uses a 5.7-litre V-8 engine developing 470 horsepower to hit the same kind of speeds.

The thing we’re all eager to know — and we’re sure you are too — is just how efficient the XL Sport can be when driven at the usual highway speeds that are legal and normal in most countries around the world.

Because with the recipe its following, we’re sure it’s impressive. And while it’s still gasoline powered, we’d rather see the XL Sport on the road than something bigger, heavier, and far less efficient.

The only problem? Like the XL1 plug-in hybrid which came before, you’ll need a rather large bank balance to own one of the 250 examples being made.

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