Concept model has all the hallmarks of a brilliant production car

Our Verdict

Volkswagen XL1

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  • First Drive

    Volkswagen XL1

    Volkswagen's XL1 is a sort of 50th percentile supercar, immaculately surfaced and detailed
4 June 2009

What is it?

Volkswagen’s cut price alternative to the Porsche Boxster – the BlueSport. The attractive mid-engined roadster was originally conceived as a one-off concept car but has now been granted an internal development codename, raising hopes that it will one day go into production as a spiritual successor to the 914 – the classic mid-engined roadster developed by Volkswagen in the late 1960s but only ever sold as a Porsche.

The BlueSport has been developed in a back to basics approach. At the heart of the compact two-seater is a brand new mid-engined platform structure that Volkswagen says should allow it to bring the BlueSport to showrooms at prices starting at £25,000 and rising to around £35,000 depending on the engine sitting up back.

At the moment, the one-and-only BlueSport runs Volkswagen’s familiar 168bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel, with power heading to the rear wheels via a six-speed double shift gearbox, which uses remote shift paddles on the steering wheels.

Other four-cylinder engines are under consideration for the production version of the BlueSport. They include the gutsy 265bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol unit recently confirmed for the Scirocco R.

Although you can expect the styling, credited to Christian Felske, to be refined by the time it reaches production, the one thing that won’t change much is its basic dimensions. At 3999mm in length, 1750mm in width and 1260mm in height, it is roughly the same size as the Mazda MX-5 – a car that appears to have played a key role in prompting Volkswagen to decide to build the BlueSport.

What’s it like?

Rarely have we driven a concept car with such mechanical proficiency. In fact, the BlueSport seems to have skipped all the usual early development processes Volkswagen models normally undergo and gone straight into testing phase, such is its inherent togetherness.

In all, we managed almost 50 miles over a variety of roads. So consider this more a proper test drive than a simple tootle up the road.

There is no key. All you’ve got to do is touch a starter button that's mounted within a bezel controlling the PRND functions of the gearbox in place of a traditional lever. Initial impression? The raspy sound the engine makes is more like a petrol unit than typical diesel. It’s also well isolated, too, considering it sits just over your shoulder.

It may be a diesel, but there’s nothing lacking about the way the BlueSport gets along. A determined nudge of the throttle unleashes a heady turn of speed. Top speed for the concept car has been pegged at 62mph, but you really only need half of it to discover there’s real intent here. A distinct rearward weight bias sees the BlueSport squat and hug the bitumen as you accelerate hard out of a third gear corner.

The performance is partly a product of the 1200kg kerb weight, which gives it a weight to power ratio of 142bhp per tonne – roughly the same the MX-5. It’ll hit 62mph in 6.6sec and reach 140mph flat out.

With Volkswagen’s Blue TDI technology that sees the exhaust gas recycled, it’s also claimed to return almost 50mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 113g/km. It also complies with North America’s strict BIN5 NOx regulations.

There’s more to it than outright speed, though. Displaying a level of response and composure well beyond what you might expect from a one off concept car, the chassis flows in concert with the camber of the smooth surfaced German country roads we drove the BlueSport on, and there’s proper feel to the pedals, enough to allow you to provide measured increases in throttle and confidence inspiring dabs of the brakes, which have been taken from the Golf R32.

The steering, an electro-mechanical set-up borrowed from the Polo, is typically light in feel but at the same time is terrifically direct. A lack of mass introduces a degree of eagerness upon turn in not apparent in any existing Volkswagen model. It all adds up to a wonderfully deft cornering feel, and with 19-inch aluminium wheels shod with 235/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Pirelli P-Zero Nero tyres underneath, you can be assured of plenty of grip.

The BlueSport sits low to the road to accentuate its stance. But even without any meaningful tuning of its suspension, the ride is sufficiently controlled and possesses enough composure to allow you to attack pockmarked roads, rather than simply tootle over them as you would with most concept cars. The underpinnings combine the front MacPherson strut set-up from the new fifth generation Polo with the rear multi-link arrangement from upcoming four-wheel drive 4Motion versions of the sixth-generation Golf – all in the interests of cost saving apparently. But when it all works this well, there’s really no reason to hide the fact.

Should I buy one?

This is a terrifically exciting car: good to look at, fun to drive and, on the strength of the early mechanical package we sampled, it should be able to hold its head high on the dynamic front with cars costing twice its projected £25,000 base price.

But sadly there’s only one BlueSport in existence right now. So you can’t buy one. On current planning production versions of the new mid-engined Volkswagen roadster should start heading in to UK showrooms sometime in 2013.

Join the debate


4 June 2009

Such a long wait 2013!

Wow - RWD in a VW! It can only be a good thing, how long until Audi admits RWD is better too? ;-)

Prices up to £35k? What a joke! I hope thats just a poor guess from Autocar. Lets not forget Porsche will have a cheaper 4cyl boxster by then.

4 June 2009

£25k in 2013 may not be much if we hit a big spell of inflation, but lets face it, this isn't that different to a Toyota MR2. A High spec Audi version at £25k+ Mini R8 style would go down a treat but £25k for a 2 seat 2.0 diesel VW in todays money is rather on the expensive side.

4 June 2009

It's not bad... for a two seater! :-)

4 June 2009

Looks really nice , shows what VW engineers and designers are really capable of , but building this VW would put Audis nose out of joint surely.

Then again , who knows what else might be available in 4 years time.

4 June 2009

[quote Quattro369]Wow - RWD in a VW! It can only be a good thing, how long until Audi admits RWD is better too? ;-)[/quote]

OMG are you trying to tempt me VW?

 NeVeR L8te Smile

5 June 2009

If it is as good as you say in 2009 - and I don't doubt you - then why is production not slated to commence until 2013?

Seems strange to me!

5 June 2009

[quote Autocar]

showrooms at prices starting at £25,000 and rising to around £35,000


And on a "people's car" we all know what that means. Plus leather. Plus radio. Plus fuel filler cap. In 2013 are people really going to be spending £35,000 before options on a big-capacity VW?

5 June 2009

[quote Audi Tastic]but lets face it, this isn't that different to a Toyota MR2.[/quote]

Err, I think that's the point. A new MR2 built by VW but with better economy and hopefully they'll remember the all important storage spaces which Toyota forgot on the last version. The MR2 sold pretty well and was a good success, still loved by many, now it's gone there is a decent hole left for somone to pick up good sales numbers.

5 June 2009

We've been here with VW before. They create a fantastic concept but the execution becomes less than the sum of its parts. How long before VW decide that driving from the rear is unsafe and the production car becomes a front driver with a bloated front end.

I hope they don't though, this car looks stunning and with the right input could be a cracking motor.



It's all about the twisties........

6 June 2009

[quote memyselfandi]Err, I think that's the point. A new MR2 built by VW but with better economy and hopefully they'll remember the all important storage spaces which Toyota forgot on the last version. The MR2 sold pretty well and was a good success, still loved by many, now it's gone there is a decent hole left for somone to pick up good sales numbers. [/quote]

in 2013 there wont be a gap, there will be a new MR2, and a new MX5, and other new competitors.


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