How does an automaker make jaws drop at a major motor show? Volkswagen offered one foolproof method on October 1 when it wowed the 2014 Paris Motor Show with the XL Sport concept. Sporting a Ducati-made two-cylinder engine and the world’s best ratio of power, weight, and aerodynamics, VW is offering Paris audiences a dream machine capable of hitting 168 miles per hour with just 197 horsepower.
Ducati power, VW aerodynamics
Inside the VW XL Sport is the powertrain from the Ducati Superleggera, a two-cylinder 1199-cc engine capable of revving to 11,000 RPM. Even with the most powerful two-cylinder motorcycle engine, VW had a monumental project on its hands to reach its lofty top speed with 197 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque. According to a VW company statement, getting there required high-precision tuning, a magnesium alloy for the clutch, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Next came carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) materials to construct the XL Sport body. Fans of the Volkswagen XL1, the futuristic diesel-electric thriller that gets 261 miles per gallon, will recognize the styling and carbon fiber shell in the XL Sport concept. There are also the gullwing doors of the XL1, but there is far more racer in the XL Sport, which features no tapering in the back end. It’s wide, low, and mean from every angle.
XL Sport performance
Volkswagen quotes the XL Sport’s performance at 0-62 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 168 miles per hour. Getting there required an unprecedented combination of lightweight parts (1,962 pounds) and one of the best drag coefficients ever recorded (0.258).
With a 1.7 square-meter low front end and that drag coefficient, Volkswagen managed to produce an aerodynamic beast that uses every horse it was allowed. In fact, it is easy to see how the top speed and acceleration are feasible. Wheel-arch vents, lift-reducing front air ducts, and a rear retractable spoiler borrowed from the Lamborghini Aventador also contributed to making the XL Sport the nimble beast it has become.
Volkswagen is certainly on a roll with a design that first appeared in the XL1, a car that achieves the best recorded fuel economy in history at 261 miles per gallon. That car only has a Europe-only production run of 250 units planned. As for the Ducati Superleggera that supplied the engine for the XL Sport concept, that bike’s run ends after 500 units.
What, then, is ahead for the XL Sport that is making the Paris Motor Show press corps drool? Volkswagen has yet to decide. For now, the spectacle is the story, and there is plenty to be had in this tour de force of aerodynamic engineering.