Geneva LIVE: Volkswagen unveils 261-mpg 2013 XL1

The XL1 will be built in limited numbers.

Volkswagen has lifted the veil off of the production-bound 2013 XL1, a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid that is capable of returning up to 261 mpg in a mixed European cycle.

With a drag coefficient of just 0.189, the XL1 is billed as the most aerodynamic car ever produced. It is 152 inches long, 65 inches wide and 45 inches tall, dimensions that make it as long and as wide as a Polo hatchback but shorter than a third-gen Porsche Boxster. Thanks in part to weight-saving materials such as carbon fiber, the XL1 tips the scale at just 1,953 pounds.

Visually, the two-seater is evolution of the 1-Liter concept that was presented by Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, the firm's current chairman, in April of 2002. With an ultra-sleek silhouette, covered rear wheel arches, and gullwing doors, the car shares very little design cues with the rest of the Volkswagen lineup and it looks like it comes right out of a science-fiction flick.

The front wheels are mounted on 155/80 R15 tires while the rear ones are made out of forged magnesium and are wrapped by 145/55 R16 rubber. The rear track is noticeably narrower than the front.

The XL1's occupants sit slightly offset but nearly side by side, a more conventional setup than the tandem arrangement that was found in early 1-Liter prototypes. With a simple and decidedly Teutonic layout, the dashboard features carbon fiber trim and a small touch screen that allows that passengers to control the infotainmenet system and to get vital information about the car's drivetrain.

Since the XL1 has no rear window, the door mirrors have been replaced by cameras that transmit images to two small screens installed in the door panels. The steering is commanded through a small two-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel that is partially made out of carbon fiber, a feature that adds a slightly performance-inspired touch to Volkswagen's mileage champion.

Under the skin

The XL1 is powered by a 48-horsepower two-cylinder TDI turbo-diesel engine that is mounted transversally in the rear of the car and linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission. It works in conjunction with a 27-horsepower electric motor that is located in the torque converter housing

The TDI gets fuel from a 2.6-gallon tank while the electric motor draws power from a lithium-ion battery pack that is located in between the front wheels.

When running on both diesel and electricity, the car emits just 21 grams of CO2 per kilometer and it is capable of returning a record-breaking 261 mpg in a mixed European cycle, which is significantly different from the way the EPA rates cars in the United States. With both power sources up and running, the car accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 12.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 100 mph.

When the TDI shuts down, the electric motor can power the XL1 for up to 31 miles.

Volkswagen will hand-assemble a limited number of XL1s in its Osnabrück, Germany, factory. Pricing information and availability will be published closer to its on-sale date

Live images by Ronan Glon.

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