It’s enough to make libertarians like Adam Smith turn over in their graves. The US federal government’s latest regulations mandate that vehicles sold in the US will have to average 54.5 MPG by 2025. While some companies are chafing under the burden, VW has taken a different approach, in essence saying, “Hah! Not good enough; how about 260 MPGe right now?” That is the level of fuel economy projected for the XL1, the German automaker’s addition to the so-called “hybrid hypercar” class of vehicles.
The “1” in the car’s name stands for its 1-liter (62 CID) engine, which combines the time-tested reliability of diesel with hybrid efficiency to squeeze every possible ounce of propulsion out of each drop of fuel. The XL1 can go 32 miles purely on batteries, after which the internal combustion kicks in. Even in that mode the car is expected to achieve 120 MPG, more than doubling the goals set by Uncle Sam’s CAFÉ standards and doing so more than a decade ahead of the deadline. Production of commercial models is scheduled to begin in late 2013. If you’ve been looking for a way to get even with the oil companies, then this is the chance you’ve been waiting for.
Not that the savings won’t come with a price, of course. The XL1 will never be a family vehicle, unless by “family” you mean either two adults or one grown-up and a couple bags of groceries. Speed tops out at around 100 MPH, but forget drag racing unless you’re going up against Junior’s moped. The XL1 will go from 0-60 in a not-so-blinding 11.9 seconds.
Despite these limitations, the prospect of a car that can travel 500 miles on less than 4 gallons of gas is worth giving up a few amenities for. The XL1 may not be all things to all people, but for those who are deadly serious about fuel economy, it will certainly be a welcome addition to VW’s outstanding product line.