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Auto blogFri, 22 Aug 2014 10:15:00 EST
According to a report in Autocar, Volkswagen might have more in mind for the XL1 than mining it for advances to grace the next-generation Golf. Aiming to fight the Honda FCEV due for public consumption next year, we're told VW executives have put a four-door, four-seater version of the XL1 - it could be called XL2 - on the drawing board. The impetus is said to come from the top, with VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch intent on staying in the deep end of "super-efficent vehicles."
Autocar suspects the necessary changes could raise the weight of the car from 1,749 pounds to 2,068 pounds, which would make it four pounds less than the 2,072-pound Up! we drove a few years ago. Crucially, however, the mag thinks the extra capacity wouldn't change the two-seater's 310-mile-per-gallon rating, with tech tweaks and the aerodynamic benefit of a longer car offsetting the weight. Speculation is that the back seats would be staggered like the fronts in order to maintain the XL1's overall profile.
We recently heard about another XL1 variant that's gone off the radar entirely, the Ducati-engined XLR that we thought we'd see at the Geneva Motor Show and that was said to be going into production, so this one could go the same way. The biggest hurdle to making such an idea a reality, though, could be the price: the current XL1 costs 110,000 euros ($146,116). If VW really is going to compete with the Honda FCEV and the Toyota FCV - $70,000 in Japan - that might be where it wants to start.
Less than two months ago, the Volkswagen Group opened a new facility in Oxnard, California (about an hour's drive west of Los Angeles). The $27 million investment, touted as Test Center California (TCC), serves as a research and development lab testing emissions for all brands under Volkswagen's umbrella, including its newest member, Porsche. While still not fully operational, we toured the new 64,000-square-foot building last week and had a first-hand opportunity to see just how much work is involved testing engines and meeting increasingly stringent government emissions standards.
Replacing a similar facility established in 1990 in Westlake Village (about 20-minutes east of the new location), our guide explained how Oxnard was chosen for its temperate climate, varied regional terrain for test drives and low altitude. (The area is only a few feet above sea level - a critical parameter when instrument testing emissions.) The new facility is capable of analyzing hundreds of vehicles, prototypes and customer-owned vehicles, annually.
Most interesting to us was the huge stainless steel climate chamber, with a massive four-wheel dynamometer that allows VW to test running vehicles in both scorching desert and freezing climates without ever leaving the building (an Audi Q7 was running in place during our visit). We were also mesmerized by the countless storage tanks and intricate plumbing of chemicals, stored in both liquid and gas states, needed to perform the variety of tests. Lastly, we took a look at Bugatti's service center on the west coast, located completely within the new center. While there were no supercars on site, the facility is equipped with plenty of spare forged wheels (mounted with expensive Michelin PAX tires) and a Veyron-specific repair jig that allows the vehicle to be completely disassembled, if needed. It is a shame that the facility, which set off all of our automotive geek alerts, is closed to the public.
Volkswagen introduced its aggressive R-Line appearance package on the CC and Beetle last year, but later this year, this treatment will also be applied to VW's crossovers, the Tiguan and Touareg. Both sporty-looking utility vehicles will be unveiled next week at the Detroit Auto Show.
The 2014 Tiguan R-Line comes standard with bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, and the package adds 19-inch wheels, grey fender extensions, body-color side skirts and a liftgate spoiler. Inside, the R-Line adds a flat-bottom sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, a black headliner and numerous metallic trim accents such as the stainless scuff plates, the aluminum pedals and metallic finish on the instrument and door panels. The Tiguan R-Line will be offered in front- and all-wheel drive configurations.
As for the 2014 Touareg R-Line (shown above), this model gets an ever more distinctive look with an aggressive front fascia, 20-inch wheels and dual oval-shaped exhaust outlets in addition to the painted side skirts and LED taillights. Similar metallic interior trim pieces found inside the Tiguan R-Line will also make their way into the Touareg as well as gloss black accents on the instrument panel and center stack.