Maximum fun, minimum consumption. That's the philosophy behind Volkswagen's neat mid-engined EcoRacer, which has made its public debut at the Tokyo motor show.
Based around a lightweight carbon fibre monocoque, the new Volkswagen is described as a research vehicle and its mission is to deliver Porsche Boxster handling with Smart fuel consumption.
At a time when most car makers are busy pushing hybrid drive technology, the dramatic looking coupe-cum-roadster relies on a new mid-mounted 136bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine which runs a new injection system dubbed CCS (combined combustion process) that's set to feature on a whole new generation of Volkswagen oilburners due out in 2007 in the facelifted Golf and all-new fifth-generation Polo. Drive is channeled to the rear wheels via Volkswagen's DSG (double shift gearbox), which boasts shift paddles on the steering column.
With an overall weight of just 850kg, the EcoRacer manages an impressive 160bhp per tonne, which propels it from rest to 62mph sprint at 6.3secs, with the top speed at 143mph. In an indication of the engine's efficiency, it's all achieved at an average 83mpg.
The suspension is largely bespoke with lightweight aluminium wishbones up front and a Golf-based multi-link arrangement at the rear, infinitely adjustable tie rods and wide tracks, suggesting the kind of handling we're not use to seeing in a Volkswagen. The new car's carbon fibre body boasts ultra short overhangs, with length at 3770mm, width at 1740mm and height at 1210mm. By mounting the engine behind the driver, the weight distribution comes in at 39:61 front to rear.
Entry to the two seat cabin is via an infra-red keyless system that not only releases the door catch but also raises a section of the hardtop roof on a gas strut to provide a larger aperture through which to alight. The roof itself – and the windscreen - can be removed in stages to turn the EcoRacer into a full blown roadster.