SO many cars have been described as ‘motoring’s future’ it has become a cliche, writes Michael Rutherford.
But Volkswagen’s XL1 – with a claimed 300mpg – is taking even seasoned cynics by surprise.
They mightn’t like the overall look of the XL1, its tight, two-seat cabin, limited boot space and likely high price when it goes on sale in 2013, but this is an extraordinary vehicle that breaks all previous design, technology and driving rules.
Not only that, but the expensive materials used in its construction are genuinely unique in a car of this size (smaller than a Volkswagen Polo) and class.
The way it performs on the road is, like nothing else I – or you – have ever experienced.
Before delivering the good news, it’s my duty to inform you of the bad: even if you place an order with VW today, you’ll be hard pressed to get your hands on one of the XL1’s that it intends to start building (in limited numbers) and delivering to customers (at an as yet undisclosed price) from 2013.
During the XL1’s world unveiling in Doha, Qatar, last week, VW chairman Martin Winterkorn and other VW board members repeatedly promised that the XL1 would be “affordable” before bluntly refusing to give an idea – even a rough one – about likely pricing.
One eventually mentioned a figure of €50,000. The classy VW XL1 claims it can do London to Marseille on just two gallons of diesel .
But I believe the XL1 could and should be listed at, or around, €36,000.
Not cheap, but not absurdly expensive for such a groundbreaking car that’s claimed to be capable of doing London to Marseille on just two gallons of diesel.
VW might offer the promised affordability by accepting a financial loss on every XL1 sold. Publicity
That shouldn’t matter. The publicity gains will far outweigh the monetary losses, which, in the great VW Group scheme, will be small fry. And after all, Honda and Toyota did a similar thing when introducing their mass-market petrol-electric hybrids.
The best news of all is that this 300mpg-plus technology won’t stop with the XL1.
After that will come less expensive VW Golfs and Polos also capable of doing hundreds of miles per gallon.
Other VW Group brands – Audi, Skoda, Seat, even Lamborghini and Bentley – will also have the opportunity to use the technology in forthcoming models.