A Volkswagen Lupo 3 Liter TDI passenger car -- the best mileage production car in the world -- has reached San Francisco, marking the fifth continent visited by this car and its professional endurance drivers on their quest to establish a record for the most fuel-efficient trip around the world.

(Photo: www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20000608/DETH024 )
Representing one of the most unique endurance tests ever, the Volkswagen Lupo's "Around the World in 80 Days" tour began on May 16, 2000 in Berlin, Germany. From there, the Lupo has been driven through parts of South Africa, Asia and Australia. Its trek is scheduled to end after 80 days on August 3 back in Germany at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg.

The North America stage of the Lupo's journey starts in San Francisco and continues via Los Angeles and into Mexico City. On the East Coast, the cities of Washington, DC and New York will be visited before the car is air-lifted back to Europe to restart its road trip in London, setting its sites on North Africa, Spain, France, North Europe and finally, Germany.

All told, the Lupo's planned expedition will traverse the globe over 20,712 road miles in 80 days -- an idea based on the celebrated book by Jules Verne (1828-1905), "Around the World in 80 Days." Remarkably, the planned fuel consumption for this extreme test is just 264 gallons, or an average of 78.7 miles per gallon.

If successful, it will set a record for the least fuel used for a car traveling around the globe.

Relatively unknown to the U.S., the Lupo 3L TDI made history last year in Europe when it was introduced, becoming the first production car to meet the long-standing environmental challenge of being able to travel 100 kilometers (62 miles) on just 3 liters (0.79 gallons) of fuel.

A practical four-seater, the Lupo 3L TDI uses a revolutionary high-tech Turbo Direct Injection diesel engine that is the world's most efficient combustion engine in production today. As the name implies, this technically advanced 3-cylinder engine uses direct fuel injection, whereby a precise mist of fuel is injected into the engine's cylinders via electronically controlled pump-injector units. From its displacement of just 1.2 liters, this ultra efficient powerplant is able to produce 61 horsepower and just as importantly 103.25 lb./ft. of torque at just 1,800 revolutions per minute.

The Lupo 3 Liter TDI's engine also uses a turbocharger with variable blade geometry, a charge-air intercooler and various friction-reducing designs that have increased the efficiency of this engine to more than 40 percent -- an unsurpassed value worldwide for a passenger car.

Adding to this remarkable fuel performance is the Lupo's automated direct- shift gearbox with a stop-and-start function. This transmission offers the convenience of automatic shifting or clutch-free manual gear changes. In the Economy mode, the engine automatically switches off when the car comes to a standstill with the brakes applied and then instantly restarts when the accelerator is depressed. Additionally, the clutch is disengaged when the accelerator pedal is lifted, so that the Lupo coasts at engine idle speeds, thus saving even more fuel.

Yet another factor that enables such amazing performance is the weight savings of the vehicle. The doors, flaps and wheel-arch panels of this Lupo are made of aluminum and components of the suspension and axle assemblies are also composed of lightweight materials.

Advanced aerodynamics that result in a drag coefficient of just 0.29 and low-friction tires with silica in the rubber mix cut rolling friction and make an additional fuel-saving contribution.

The Lupo's 80-day tour will be covered by German television and print reporters. To obtain the latest information on this record-breaking run, log onto www.Lupo80days.com for daily updates and photos.