Presented in Qatar as a concept back in 2011, the ultra-efficient Volkswagen XL1 makes its first appearance at Geneva in final production form. True to its design brief, VW claims this super-streamlined 2-passenger plug-in hybrid will be able to exceed the elusive 1.0-liter/100km (235-mpg) fuel economy bogey and return the equivalent of 261 mpg.

Fulfilling a dream originally envisioned by Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG, the XL1 makes its unprecedented mileage numbers using a comprehensive range of optimized design elements. Based on an extremely lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) core structure matched with loads of light-alloy bits, the diminutive XL1 weighs a mere 1,753 pounds. Its plug-in drivetrain consists of a rear-mounted 2-cylinder turbodiesel engine that makes 47 horsepower coupled to a 27-horse electric motor energized by 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack located at the front of the vehicle. A 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission completes the mix. With its 2.6-gallon fuel tank and a full-charged battery, the XL1 has a range in excess of 311 miles but can travel up to 31 miles on pure EV power. VW says it can run from 0-60 mph in 12.7 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed 100 mph.

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To properly cheat the wind while cruising, Volkswagen's styling team worked overtime to wrap the XL1 in phenomenally sleek bodywork. Its stellar 0.189 coefficient of drag is the best to date for any production model and contributes to the XL1's ability to run at a steady 62 mph using just 8.1 horsepower. The effort is helped by friction-optimized wheel bearings and a modestly scaled wheel/tire fitment that pairs 115/80 rubber on 15-inch alloy wheels up with 145/55 tires on 16-inch rims at the rear. 

Unlike the original L1 prototype that featured tandem seating, the production XL1 uses a more conventional - although still slightly offset - side-by-side configuration. While far from austere, the cabin also embraces the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to materials and content to help with the mass-minimizing efforts.

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Fully confirmed for sale in Europe, the Volkswagen XL1 will be manufactured at the firm's assembly plant in Osnabrück, Germany. Initial build volume is expected to be just 50 units with subsequent production numbers to be determined by demand. No word yet on pricing but given that each car will be hand built and contain a bounty of high-cost components, it wouldn't be surprising to see the XL1 open in six-figure territory.


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