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Auto blogThu, 07 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST
The Golf VI's Last Hurrah Is Pure Niche
This was in the heart of the ultra-chic Côte d'Azur during winter. The car to be tested was the not-for-North America 2013 Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet. Prevailing weather conditions here this time of year are bizarrely pleasant, as though a dome of Swarovski crystal has been placed over the entire region to protect it from any real winter spoiling things. And the zippy Golf R Cabriolet is a sports car designed precisely for this area's preciously narrow winding streets, as well as for the lofty budgets of its property owners.
So then why was it snowing like we were in northern Michigan? The weather front hit from the north like a swift kick to the Jordaches. The roof was open on this Candy White Golf R Cabrio and I, as is my wont, was determined through thick or thin to keep it retracted. It had been raining and sometimes sleeting like the End of Days, but I kept the lid cracked because the 261-horsepower cabrio - the most powerful convertible ever built by Volkswagen - was snipping along nicely as the bad weather blew over my head and wetted only the rear headrests.
Think back to January's Detroit Auto Show. Those of you that are fans of the Volkswagen brand, impressed with green technology or simply fall into the "diesel geek" category, will almost certainly remember VW's CrossBlue concept with its diesel/electric hybrid powertrain, seating for seven, and somewhat awkward crossover styling. It was an impressive piece of future tech, to be sure, though it left something to be desired in the, well, desirability department.
Here in Shanghai, VW has brought along a CrossBlue Coupe concept that would seem to include most of the goodness of the original, but flavored with more sport and style this time around.
The CrossBlue Coupe makes use of the same electric drive components as the larger three-row concept: two electric motors (front and rear) powered by a 9.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. However, where the original concept made use of a TDI four-cylinder, the Coupe substitutes a 295-horsepower, direct-injection, gasoline-burning V6.
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.