261 mpg.No, that isn't a misprint: Volkswagen's landmark new diesel-electric hybrid 2014 VW XL1, having just debuted in final production trim, absolutely puts every other hybrid car to shame in the all-important mpg race. VW takes fuel efficiency to new heights through a combination of light weight, a tiny turbo-diesel engine, and an electric motor with an EV-only cruising mode.
The XL1 is the fruit of a long, grueling development process to create the world's first production "1-liter car," or a vehicle that can travel 100 km (about 62 miles) on a single liter (0.26 gallons) of fuel. VW combines a highly efficient 800 cc (0.8-liter) TDI turbodiesel engine in a full parallel hybrid system with a 20-kW electric motor. The 5.5 kW-hour lithium ion battery pack accepts plug-in power, and provides for an electric-only range of around 32 miles at speeds of up to 62 mph.
The streamlined two-seater tips the scales at under 2,000 pounds thanks to heavy use of expensive carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and other lightweight materials. The XL1's 0.189 coefficient of drag is also a new production car record, beating the previous record set by the General Motors EV1. Testers at Autoblog found the XL1 peppy enough for everyday traffic, though a bit disconcerting behind the wheel due to its near-total lack of suspension, and tiny footprint. While that vaunted 261 mpg (using Euro-cycle test methods) figure has been confirmed to be legitimate under ideal conditions, even in regular city/highway use the VW is expected to return right around 150 real-world mpg. Take that, Toyota.
As for U.S. availability, don't hold your breath. The XL1 will be initially offered in just two markets, Germany and Austria, with series production limited to 250 units. While it remains extremely unlikely that VW will bring its world-beating hybrid Stateside, with enough buyer interest, there's always a chance. The slightly more conventional VW Up! Hybrid, which will use a similar diesel-electric powertrain to the XL1 in a larger, more mainstream compact hatchback bodystyle, is expected for the U.S. market.
2014 Volkswagen XL1 By The Numbers
Engine: 800 cc direct-injection 2-cylinder TDI turbodiesel
Electric Motor: 20-kW electric motor
Peak Power Output: 68 horsepower; 103 lb-ft. torque
Battery Pack: 5.5 kW-H lithium-ion
Drivetrain: 7-speed DSG auto-manual transmission; RWD
Fuel Efficiency: Up to 261 mpg
Fuel Tank: 2.64-gallon diesel
Electric Range: Approx. 32 miles
Driving Range: Up to 700 miles
Curb Weight: 1,953 lbs.
Drag Coefficient: 0.189
0-60 mph: 12.5 seconds
Price: Estimated $50,000-$60,000
Release Date: Germany/Austria late 2013 (U.S. release unlikely)