Volkswagen W: Imagining the Future


Squint a little bit and that front end looks like the Scirocco. But it’s not. The apogee of VW’s new generation of aspiration toward hyper-efficiency, the new Volkswagen XL1 Super Efficient Vehicle (SEV) was unveiled at the Qatar Motor Show this year. Pioneering construction techniques, an advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain and innovative packaging all play a part in allowing the XL1 to return 313 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 24 g/km of CO2 to set a new benchmark for vehicle efficiency.

2 W12 (2001)

The W12 was launched at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001, and may or may not have been one of the earliest aspirational victims of the post 9/11 dip in economic bravado.

Developing 600 bhp at 7000 rpm and maximum torque 457 lbs ft at 5800 rpm, the W12 Coupé, which was commissioned as a design study fro Italdesign, was reckoned to reach 62 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, to go to a top speed of over 217 mph. Weighing just 1200 kg, it was slated to be one of the fastest sports cars in the world.

The key to this performance was a mid-mounted lightweight and compact 6.0-litre 12 cylinder engine with 4 valves per cylinder. The layout of the W12 was basically two narrow-angle V6 cylinder blocks joined side by side at an angle of 72 degrees onto a common crankshaft. This makes a “double V” or “W” formation of this exceptionally smooth and compact W12 engine.

This was of course epoch making in the end, as a version of this engine ended up in the Phaeton. On 14 October 2001 a prototype of the concept set the world record for distance covered in 24 hours. On the Nardo high-speed circuit in southern Italy the sports car covered 4402.8 miles at an average speed of 183.45 mph, improving on the previous record set by a Chevrolet LTS Corvette by a margin of 7.5 mph. At the same time the team of drivers broke two other world records in the W12 Coupé and six vehicle class speed records.

2: Concept T (2004)

This offroad coupé concept was launched at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, 2004. Combining genuine off-road capability with the low-slung, dynamic appearance of a coupé, it initially was installed with a 241 PS V6 petrol engine, allied to 4MOTION four-wheel drive and a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

0 to 62 mph was said to take 6.9 seconds on the way to a limited top speed of 143 mph.
Gullwing doors (always a press-gathering eye-catcher) first open outwards slightly before rising vertically, for convenience in tight parking spaces.

With no arches to frame them, the 19” alloy wheels appeared to ‘float’ beneath the body. This theme was continued with the striking lights, front and rear, which also look as if they are suspended in mid-air.

Unusually, the twin stainless steel exhaust pipes are part of the tail light modules, for a neat, more integrated look. For more flexibility, the concept T had a T-bar roof, whose twin panels can be removed easily, as can the rear hard top roof with an integral tailgate. Hellish, innovative fun. A buggy for grownups.

3: Atacama (2006)

The perennially successful crafter van was given the rugged, offroad treatment in this concept from 2006. Built by the Design Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany it was rumoured to become a limited production vehicle, but, unfortunately, it never happened.

The design study gained its striking presence through its proportions. The front end, with slight modifications and the aluminium components such as the radiator, headlights or air vents, also add to the Atacama’s powerful appearance. The side air inlets in the wings lend the Atacama a sporty finish.

For protection during off-road use, the vehicle was equipped with robust panelling and powerfully modelled wheel arches. Aluminium inserts further emphasised its off-road appeal and give the Atacama a more exclusive appearance. The unique side window design demonstrates the integration of exterior and interior.

The roof railing formed in a U-shape with an integrated box is a modern interpretation of a carrier system. To match this element, the team designed the rear ladder which frames the brand logo in its shape and also has the door handle integrated in it.

We think VW missed a trick here. What more perfect a surf wagon would the Atacama have been?

4 The Eco Racer

At the 2005 edition of the Tokyo motor show, one of the biggest surprises came from VW in the shape of the rear-drive, mid-engined Eco Racer.

It had a carbon fibre shell, racing running gear and a ‘race mode’ switch that would sharpen steering and the shifts of the DSG gearbox.

The engine was a four-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo-diesel. It produced134bhp at 4000rpm and 184lb ft of torque between 1900 and 3750rpm. This was enough for VW to make the claim that the Ecoracer could move to 62mph in 6.3sec and on to a top speed of 142mph. It was also reckoned to return as much as 83mpg.

You could take off the top and turn it into a roadster, too. All in all- this sort of cheap to run sporting format is a rare one – hardly anyone has managed to pull these two desirable motoring poles together – and who would have been better to do that than the boys from Wolfsberg?


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