Volkswagen offered New Yorkers a glimpse of the future this week, bringing the Volkswagen XL1 in the city as part of a month-long American tour that took in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and now the Big Apple.

The XL1 is the most fuel-efficient production car in the world, with a European combined fuel consumption rating of 261 mpg and CO2 emissions of 21 g/km. The 261 mpg fuel consumption figure is a record for a production car.

With the help of its plug-in hybrid system, this two-seater can also cover up to 31 miles as a zero-emissions electric vehicle.

To achieve this fuel economy, Volkswagen explained its engineers married an efficient, diesel-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain with a lightweight carbon fiber structure and the best aerodynamics of any production car in the world.

The XL1 weighs 1,753 pounds, has a coefficient of drag of 0.189, and uses a 48 horsepower two-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injection TDI Clean Diesel engine that is combined to a 27 horsepower electric motor, a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a 5.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.


The Volkswagen XL1 can, per VW, cruise at a constant 62 mph while using just 8.3 horsepower; in all-electric mode, the XL1 requires less than 0.1 kilowatt-hour to cover more than 0.6 miles (one kilometer).

The XL1 has a top speed of 99 mph and can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 12.7 seconds.

Conceptually, the XL1 represents the third evolutionary stage of Volkswagen’s 1-liter car strategy. At the start of this current millennium, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Piëch—currently Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG—formulated the goal of producing a practical car that had a combined fuel consumption of one liter per 100 km (235 mpg).

Volkswagen said this vision has become reality with the two-seat XL1.

Despite the tremendous efficiency of the XL1, Volkswagen said the engineers and designers successfully came up with a body design that delivers more everyday utility than the two previous prototypes. In the L1, the 1-liter car that was shown in 2002 and 2009, the driver and passenger sat behind each other for optimal aerodynamics; in the XL1, the two occupants sit slightly offset, side by side, almost like a conventional vehicle.

The XL1 is 153.1 inches long, 65.6 inches wide, and 45.4 inches tall. By comparison, a Volkswagen Polo, smaller than the Golf offered here in North America, is slightly longer (156.3 in) and wider (66.2 in), but is significantly taller (57.6 in). Even a sports car like today’s Porsche Boxster is 5.1 inches taller.

Volkswagen’s XL1 production will be limited to 250 XL1 units; the Volkswagen factory in Osnabrück, Germany, is responsible for production. Each XL1 is priced at approximately $145,000.