Volkswagen Previews Refreshed 261 m.p.g. XL1 Prototype

Volkswagen XL1 Formula Prototype.
Volkswagen XL1 Formula Prototype.

A Persian Gulf emirate flush with oil wealth will host the public introduction of a fuel miser’s dream car, the Volkswagen XL1 Formula prototype.

At this week’s Qatar auto show, which opens Wednesday in Doha, visitors will see a refreshed and rewired version of the German automaker’s L1 concept, initially shown at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show. That car, which VW claimed would achieve nearly 170 miles per gallon, was powered by a 10 kW electric motor and a .8-liter, 2-cylinder turbodiesel engine. The XL1, meanwhile, wrangles 20 kW from the electric motor, owing to optimization of its lithium-ion batteries and its Formula One-like monocell chassis’ aerodynamics, translating to a claimed 261 m.p.g.

The XL1 has also jettisoned its predecessor’s front-drive setup for rear-wheel drive, and now weighs 1,753 pounds to the L1’s 838 pounds. The added weight can be interpreted as a further sign of Volkswagen’s production intent for the XL1; the brand cited a 2013 production target for the L1 when it was shown in Frankfurt.

Volkswagen claims that in pure electric-vehicle mode, the XL1 would achieve roughly 22 miles of range, after which the TDI unit would kick in to recharge the batteries — which can also be charged through a conventional wall outlet.

There are evolutionary changes from the L1’s styling to the XL1, with a clearer familial link to VW’s latest models in the XL1’s wraparound grille treatment. The brand claims a drag coefficient of approximately .28, comparable to that of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

By JONATHAN SCHULTZ/NYT

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