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VW plotting 'XR1' lightweight supercar

By Georg Kacher

First Official Pictures

08 July 2013 15:00

Volkswagen plans to create an ultralight, mid-engined sports car, with the pace of a base Porsche 911 but the fuel economy of a Golf TDI. It's codenamed 'XR1': read on for the full CAR scoop.

What's the inspiration for the VW XR1?

The goal is to take the know-how from the carbonfibre XL1, the limited edition, cigar-shaped sensation that can achieve 313mpg and create a high-tech sports car that also raises the bar, but for handling and performance.

>> Click here for CAR's full road test of the VW XR1

Insiders refer to the project as the XR1. It will adopt the XL1’s basic architecture, which means a carbon-fibre reinforced polymer chassis with gullwing doors. Target kerbweight is 850kg – that’s lighter than a Lotus Elise.

What could power the VW XR1?

While the XL1 runs a 48bhp two-cylinder diesel complemented by a 27bhp electric motor, the XR1 could use the Golf GTI’s turbocharged two-litre. Engineers are mulling over a turbo and supercharged triple, or maybe a hybrid, but the smart money is on the Golf GTI’s turbocharged four being mid-mounted across the body. ‘It looks the most promising option,’ says our insider. ‘It’s barely bigger and heavier than a three.’

The results would be explosive: 0-62mph faster than the 911 Carrera PDK’s 4.6sec sprint, yet in excess of 70mpg – around one-third better than the GTI can manage. Top speed would touch 190mph.

So it's just an XL1 with lots more power?

Not quite - plenty more re-engineering is needed. The engineers will have to widen and lengthen the XL1 chassis, to accommodate the mid-mounted four, new twin-clutch gearbox and two seats abreast (they’re offset in the XL1, to narrow the frontal area, reducing drag). While this will add weight, Volkswagen will save more than 100kg by ditching the hybrid eco-car’s batteries and motor. Other key changes are the elimination of the rear wheelhouse fairings, and more curvaceous rear wings. ‘The performance version loses a couple of points in the wind tunnel, but it looks a lot meaner,’ says our insider.

Fortunately, the XL1’s gullwing doors will be carried over. So too the rear-facing cameras that replace wing mirrors; VW is vowing to productionise this feature. It has a major aerodynamic benefit, reducing drag and wind noise, and supposedly costs €200 including the door-mounted relay screens. A conventional rear screen is being considered. Magnesium wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, and polycarbonate sideglass cost too much for the XR1’s £40,000 target price, so more conventional components will be used. Rims are a modest 16- or 17-inches.

What's the future for the XR1 project?

VW has yet to sign off the XR1, but insiders are talking positively. The XL1 was an impressive engineering showcase, but it’ll be rarer than steak tartare. Turning it into the red-blooded XR1 – and selling it for £40,000 – would create a more populist halo car, one to make car enthusiasts giddy.