Paris Spotlight: Impressions of the Volkswagen XL Sport & What It Means to Us

It was perhaps not the best kept secret that Volkswagen planned a more sporting variant of its ultra-lightweight and ultra-efficient XL1 model. With the XL1, Volkswagen managed the fabled 1-Liter of consumption for 100 KM travelled, but this mid-engine carbon fiber chassis car was designed to be super frugal and thus far from sporting. Then came the XL Sport to Paris – a wider tracked version of the XL chassis that dumped its hybrid drivetrain and super crazy hyper-miling mission in favor of the 197-hp Ducati 1199 Superleggera V-Twin engine that makes it good for 0-62 mph in 5.7 second, a top speed of 168 mph.

The resulting sportscar enters essentially unprecedented space. While it has exotic mid-engine looks with legitimate Lamborghini style doors and super exotic materials, its use of a still very efficient Ducati-sourced motorcycle engine is nearly unrivalled. Up went the sporting potential of the XL chassis, yet it retained a fair portion of frugality.

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The car you see here is both more efficient and more exotic than a Lotus Exige. It is even the philosophical opposite of the 2.0 TSI-powered KTM X-bow, a fully open car built by a motorcycle company using a sourced automobile engine. This, a fully closed car built by a car company using a motorcycle engine, takes on a completely different flavor.

In person, the XL Sport has a commanding presence. Even with front and rear-end design that seem more dictated for aero efficiency than they are for sultry looks, the car oozes a small but exotic feel. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise given its exotic materials and nature.

With just 500 units planned to be built, it’s not like you’ll be seeing these on the road with the frequency of say an Audi R8 or even a Lamborghini Gallardo. Even still, the car gets one to thinking whether or not there’d be a market for such a car… maybe not at the price point or light weight of the XL Sport, but more like the MQB mid-engine that’s been rumored and even hinted at in concept form by cars like the Volkswagen Bluesport or the Audi e-tron Detroit coupe.

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Surely the world would be a better place with more efficient XL1 and XL Sports on the road. However, would it be a better place with more affordable mid-engine sportscars on the road… the a VW relating to the Audi R8 much like the CC relates to the RS 7?

The short answer is seemingly not to hold your breath. In an interview published today where Porsche North America President Detlev Von Platen speaks to Automotive News about Stuttgart’s planned small car that would make use of such a mid-engine MQB platform, it sure sounds like a mid-engine sportscar built in higher numbers and sold for a lower price than the XL Sport is very unlikely.

“We’re not talking about entry models at Porsche. Our entry model is our pre-owned program,” said von Platen.

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If rumors were correct, Porsche was one of the main proponents of that MQB-based mid-engine platform’s development. With Stuttgart out, a more mass market mid-engine VW is likely quite dead for now.

Back to the XL Sport, the car’s presence at Paris marked a fresh contrast from higher-powered sportscars liket he Mcerdes-Benz GT or even hybrids hypercars. In some ways it may be more relatable to the BMW i8 in spirit, but its high-revving Ducati engine and more aggressive looks make it even cooler.