VW’s One-Liter XL1 Undergoing Actual Road Tests


VW’s One-Liter XL1 Undergoing Actual Road TestsThe one-liter car is on its way: Volkswagen is testing the XL1 in Sweden. The two-seat car is currently undergoing its final testing phase, and it looks like it really will hit the market next year.

Research, Development, Research, Development

The super fuel-efficient vehicle has been in development for the last decade, as board member (at the time) Ferdinand Piech drove a one liter car to the VW meeting in Hamburg. The second step showed up at IAA in 2009, and VW presented the prototype to the Qatar Motor Show in 2010. Now it’s time for the XL1 to prove that it can actually perform as a daily driver.

The super efficient car has become sleeker and more aerodynamic over the years of development, currently standing at 153” long, 65.5” wide, and just 45.5” tall. It’s significantly smaller than Volkswagen’s Beetle in every dimension; in fact, it’s around the same height as a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. It doesn’t look much like the Spyder, though – Volkswagen appears to be returning to more conventional thoughts. No gullwing doors (it definitely loses points from me for that oversight), and no expensive cameras acting in place of the rearview mirrors – although it could have used some cameras in the rear to make up for the ridiculously tiny rear windows, which restrict the field of vision behind the car to practically nothing.

And Yet

The technical data Volkswagen released only allowed for speculation – catching the car during its road tests allows for a more concrete idea of what’s going on. The car has high-tech construction to remain super light, excellent aerodynamics, and a plug-in hybrid system. It’s got a two-cylinder TDI engine, an electric motor, a 7-gear clutch, and a lithium ion battery pack. All of this brings its fuel consumption down to 0.99 liters per 100km – a whopping 237 mpg – and its CO2 output is only 24 g/km (remember the EU guidelines for the next few years – 124 g/km for all new cars is the goal). Even though its fuel tank holds barely over a gallon of gas, it’ll still go 340 miles on a full tank.

There are a few drawbacks, mostly in the area of performance. Despite its sexy sports car look, the prototype takes an agonizing 11.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 (compare to say, my ’98 Ford Escort, which does that in 9 seconds and is slow enough to make me scream in frustration). The prototype’s top speed is “electronically limited” to a slow 99mph – so in theory it could go faster (not that mucking around with the ECU wouldn’t void the warranty, but still).

On the up side, the prototype is supposed to be able to go a good 20 miles on battery power alone, which is pretty good news for those of you who have short commutes. VW has yet to set a price for its super efficient and somewhat slow prototype, so the question Gas2 asked last October still stands: How much would you pay for a 237 mpg car?

Source: Autobild | Image: Automedia

About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.
  • Why are you moaning about a top speed of 99mph? Where in the US are you allowed to drive faster than 65mph? I think it’s a brave move of VW in the right direction!

    • Speed limits on Texas highways are up to 80mph, for example. Vehicle top speed also relates directly to vehicle maneuverability – as another example, if you’re already at the vehicle’s top speed, it’s rather hard to speed up to avoid some idiot swerving into your lane from just barely behind you.

      Or you could be taking the vehicle outside the U.S. I love the efficiency, but it’s super, super slow.

  • Actually, it is 0-62MPH in 11.9 seconds, and how fast do you think most people accelerate? 11.9 seconds is not quick, but it is fine. If you want a quick “green” car, get a Leaf which is 0-60 in 7 seconds.

    I mean really — this car is capable of 200+ MPG and you don’t want to give up a few seconds? Sheesh…


    • You’re right – it’s 0-62 in 11.9 seconds, which is still slow. As I said above, this speaks to the vehicle’s overall maneuverability. And, you know, the fact that it’s just not that much fun to drive when semi trucks get out of an intersection before you do.

      Again – love the efficiency, but it’s super, super slow. I firmly believe that someone will be capable of making vehicles both efficient and quick. VW’s on the right path, but it’s just not there yet.

    • Cloud

      11.9 secs is practically light speed to me. I drive a 4cyl jeep wrangler which does 0-60 in about 13 seconds. It can definitely get frustrating at times when you have to get onto busy highways. But 200+mpg! I get 15-16mpg in my 4cyl jeep. Only in a jeep are you as slow as a snail and still get bad gas mileage. Would love to get one of these for my daily commuter and keep my jeep for fun in the sun.

  • jordan

    My V8 Toyota Tundra is limited to 106mph and it gets 14mpg! WHO CARES if its limited to 99. the important thing is that its not a hybrid and you can drive from one coast to the other on only a few gallons a fuel. give it a rest. If you want to go fast or want to be aggressive on the interstate, buy a car that isnt built as an eco box

    • I’m just trying to give you guys all the angles here – it’s not going to accelerate quickly, but it will use a ridiculously tiny amount of gas. I’m not trying to tell you not to buy it because it’s slow, nor am I telling you to buy it because it’s super efficient. That’s your call.

  • Marc P.

    C’mon, really?? “Super super slow” ??
    I’ve driven a diesel Smart which took (as far as I could tell, looking at my watch and the road at the same time…) about 20 sec to get from 0-100 km/hr (62.1mph). Now that’s slow… and the fuel economy of the diesel Smart, while good, is not stellar by any means when you consider the size and weight of the car.
    12 seconds is about inline if a bit slower than most small cars of the 1970s… and we did survive the 1970s…
    Not everybody wants a sports car !

    • Hey, I just want you to have all the information. If better mileage is more important to you than quick acceleration, that’s awesome – and now you have the facts you need to make that decision. But seriously, super slow is the exactly the right phrase. Also super efficient, you will notice.

      • Caleb Hanson

        I don’t see any problem with the car myself, but thanks for giving all the angles. I don’t see what the point of complaining about you giving the good and the bad is.

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  • Dave

    11 sec is not slow for a commuter. Most small commuter cars avg about 9 sec 0-60. Some of the cheaper asian models take 15+, running on gas and getting 20mpg. I wouldn’t call this slow if it came out as a cheap commuter, let alone if it got 200+mpg. Sorry to be another poster about this, but super slow is just ridiculous when cars exist that take 5+ more seconds 0-60.

    • Meh … still seems slow.

      • stop moaning and buy a Tesla.

        • The XL1 is still probably a more practical choice than the rolling laptop-battery Tesla.

  • Bob


    If you think this is a slow car, go back in time to a car that great numbers of people drove. The 1956 Volkswagen had a 36 Horsepower engine that would accelerate to 60 MPH in “only” 30 seconds, had a top speed around 80 MPH downhill, might cruise at 70 MPH, and would reliably get 30 miles per gallon for years and years. Many of us would be happy to go back and buy a car brand new for its sixteen hundred dollar new price. I hope this lends a little perspective to your reviews

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