Piëch Surprises VW, Announces High-Performance Ducati-Powered XL1

It’s impossible to control an old warrior on a mission. That’s what Volkswagen’s PR team found out (again) when Ferdinand Piëch, the omnipotent head of the Volkswagen Group, transformed a lecture at the Technical University of Vienna into an announcement of an ultra-sporty version of the XL1 econo-exotic. VW had planned on revealing the project to the public, just not for many more months. That plan, obviously, is now obsolete. Piëch, we gather, wants to the car to progress in a hurry. So do we.

News of what Volkswagen is calling the XL Sport first broke in Germany, courtesy of Bild, but Volkswagen has confirmed to us that the project is underway. Volkswagen’s head of R&D Heinz-Jakob Neusser will oversee the transformation of the donor XL1′s plug-in hybrid powertrain, which consists of a 47-hp two-cylinder diesel and a 27-hp electric motor, to something a little more exciting.

Volkswagen just happens to own, via Audi, famed Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati. Do you see where this is going? Liberated from its heavy battery pack, the wheezing electric motor, and the oil-burner, the XL Sport will be fitted with the 1199-cc V-twin out of the Italians’ 1199 Panigale superbike—which executive editor Aaron Robinson recently sampled. This extremely oversquare engine, dubbed “Superquadro,” makes 195 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and 98 lb-ft of torque at 9000 rpm, with a lofty redline of 11,500 rpm. (Ducati’s desmodromic valve system enables the ultra-high operating speeds.) One component from the XL1′s powertrain will carry over, however, and that’s the PQ200 seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Devoid of the XL1′s green technology, the XL Sport will come in comfortably below its sibling’s 1800-pound curb weight. While there is no official data at this point—keep in mind the PR department was caught very much with its pants down, mostly because it wasn’t informed it would need to wear pants today—but our sources have suggested that performance figures shouldn’t be far off the 1199 Panigale’s. That means a 0-to-60 time of around three seconds and a top speed approaching 200 mph. We expect the XL Sport will be governed at a significantly lower speed. Engineers are busy experimenting with a number of aero configurations in order to keep the long, low-slung rear firmly planted to the ground at high velocities.

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The Volkswagen XL Sport will be launched as a drivable concept car early next year as the brand’s pinnacle of lightweight technology, superior aerodynamics, and—rare in four-wheeled applications—superbike technology. Now, BMW, what say you get working on fitting an S1000RR mill in an i3?

About Jens Meiners