MAX Update No 67: Volkswagen's Latest Gets 260 mpg

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Numerous naysayers have looked at MAX and said their yeah-buts. Yeah but a real car manufacturer couldn’t make a 100-mpg, because yeah but nobody wants small cars, and yeah but two seats aren’t enough, and yeah but a 100-mpg car couldn’t pass the latest crash tests, and yeah but it couldn’t pass the latest emissions tests, and yeah but you don’t understand how hard it is to manufacture a car, maybe you can make a 100-mpg car for yourself yeah but all that matters is what the Big Car Companies do and yeah but they can’t. I’ve argued that if us amateurs can make MAX, the big car companies can do even better, and could use their big car company resources to meet the Smash & Smog standards for store-bought automobiles. To which the it-can’t-be-done crowd reply, yeah but that’s your opinion you’re wrong you’re unrealistic you’re crazy and you, Jack, are a yay-sayer. Well, here’s what MAX’s competition has been up to. 

As a yay-sayer I present Exhibit A: the Volkswagen XL1. It’s the third iteration of their “1-litre car”, a car that will go 100 kilometers on a liter of fuel. Their first two version were design exercises and not terribly practical (tandem seating, for example), but this one here, the XL1, is headed for production. Respected leaks in the automotive world are quoting Martin Winterkorn,VW Chairman of the Board, as saying Volkswagen is planning a limited production run of 100 in 2013.

The XL1 was introduced to the public on January 26 at the Qatar Motor Show (yes, it seemed like an odd venue choice to me, too), and various automotive journalists have driven it (no fair, how come I never get to go to the Qatar Motor Show?) and declared it dang near ready for prime time. In fact, the only complaint I’ve heard from my colleauges is it’s noisy inside. There have been some comments about the 2-1/2 gallon fuel tank, but at 260 mpg, it should be good for 600 miles between fill-ups.

How did they do it? It’s a diesel hybrid, it’s an aerodynamic marvel, and for a hybrid it’s quite light (1,750 pounds). In these limited production numbers, the XL1 is likely to be expensive for an economy car, but the success of VW’s limited production Bugatti Veyron shows there are people willing to pay a special price for a special car, and if there are folks willing to pay close to $2 million dollars to go 260 mph in a Veyron, there are folks willing to pay a few percent of the Veyron price to go 260 mpg in an XL1. And yet there are naysayers already complaining that the XL1 has an ugly steering wheel, and it ought to have a rear window instead of a back up camera, and it would be lucky to get 250 mpg the way they drive, and why hasn’t VW announced a price. My guess is, if the production version gets over 200 mpg and it’s priced under a hundred grand, VW will sell all of them they can make in 2013. And then we won’t have to listen to people saying, “MAX doesn’t matter, there’s no way a production car could ever get 100 miles per gallon.”

Photo from Volswagen Group

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