VW reveals 197bhp XL Sport
This is the XL Sport, a superbiked-engined, sports-car iteration of VW’s eco-hyper-pod XL1, unveiled on the eve of the Paris show.
A one-off design study, the XL Sport is the 200 millionth car produced by the VW Group, and a fitting way to mark that slightly terrifying landmark.
It ditches the XL1’s ultra-efficient 47bhp two-cylinder turbodiesel in favour of nothing less than the most powerful two-pot in the world: the 197bhp V-twin engine from the Ducati 1199 Superleggera motorbike.
In a slippery, carbon-monocoqued microcar weighing 890kg, that spells proper performance. VW says the XL Sport will get from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, with top speed standing at 168mph, which we’d imagine feels beyond terrifying with your buttocks three inches from the tarmac.
On the other hand, the bike-engined XL Sport is unlikely to get close to its eco-brother’s official economy figure of 313mpg.
VW boasts the XL Sport boasts the best aerodynamics of any sports car, with a drag coefficient of 0.258, and frontal area of just 1.7m2. That Ducati twin – modified slightly for XL duty – will rev to 11,000rpm, driving the forged magnesium rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Though of similar proportions, the XL Sport is some 4cm longer and 18cm wider than the XL1, with vents ahead of the rear wheels providing cooling to that high-revving engine.
Not a bad way to celebrate your 200 millionth arrival, is it? That figure is yet more terrifying, considering it was only in 1999 that the VW Group passed the 100 million mark, with a somewhat less exciting Beetle. So that’s 100 million cars in 15 years. Nearly seven million cars a year.
VW engineering chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser told TopGear.com the base XL1’s carbonfibre monocoque is ideally light and stiff for a sports car. So it’s carried over to the XL Sport. So too are the doors and windscreen. The interior is XL1-alike too, with a set of race-car instruments.
But Neusser explains the suspension, brakes, wheels and cooling are quite different from the XL1’s. The little eco-car is engineered so that every last one of its components is exactly as strong as it needs to be, but not a gramme more. So they were never going to be enough for this one-off and the crazed rigours of Ducati power.
Also missing is the XL1’s hybrid system and battery. Instead there’s a bigger fuel tank, and in place of the electric motor is a reduction gear to drop the 11,000rpm of the Ducati engine to something more like the diesel engine rpm that the 7-speed DSG transmission was designed for.
Pleasingly, the XL Sport’s exterior design was by the same guy who did the original XL1, Peter Wouda. He tells Top Gear, “We didn’t know where it would end, marrying the most powerful two-cylinder engine in the world with the car that uses the most economical twin-cylinder. We didn’t know what would be possible. It was a tough trip.”
He clarifies the project status: “It’s not a concept car, it’s meant to be drivable as a one-off. And it does drive, though it needs more work on the electronics. That’s why there’s no ‘show-car’ jewellery on it. Everything is functional. There are active aerodynamics, a deployable rear spoiler and rear cooling ducts, to keep the shape pure.”
He says they’ve been working on a faster XL1 for years, on and off, all during the development of the XL1 itself. The fact that VW Group bought Ducati two years ago must have helped.
Ferdinand Piech, VW Group supervisory board chairman, is a Ducati enthusiast. It was, remember, he who always pushed the XL1 project itself and is said to be all up for the XL Sport. Piech likes his performance cars, don’t forget: he developed one of the greatest racing cars ever, the Porsche 917. As a little homage, the XL Sport has, like the 917, a wooden gearlever knob.
So, Dr Neusser, is it good to drive. “Yes.” Big smile. Will this ever be more than a one-off? “Let us try.” Bigger smile.