Volkswagen's plush medium range contender goes green in plug-in petrol electric hybrid GTE form. A nature lover dressed in a business suit, the Passat GTE delivers all the style and status a busy professional would need but does so with green-tinged smugness. Expect it to be a bit pricier than diesel models though.
Moving off from a standstill, the Passat always begins in silent electric mode. Once on the move (or when it's more prudent to save battery-life to use later on in the journey), e-Mode can be turned off and the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine will take over. As the GTE drives in this setting, it will be recharging the battery pack and making full use of regenerative braking to top up the electricity on board. When the two power units are working together, they produce a combined 218PS, which allows the car to accelerate to 62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph.
The characteristics of an electric motor mean that the full power is available instantly, unlike in an internal combustion unit where the maximum output is only available when it reaches a certain engine speed. This can often have the effect of making a hybrid or electric car feel quicker than the figures suggest. The Passat GTE can achieve 81mph on electric mode, so there is no concern about travelling at motorway speeds, and in this revised model, the battery range has increased fto up to 36 miles under new-style WLTP rating. This improved design is also able to blend petrol and electric power more cleverly when you're using the car's more laid-back driver modes to emphasise real-world fuel economy. And it can use data from the navigation system to decide when to run the car on its electric motor, when to run it under petrol power, and how the two power sources should be combined to get you efficiently to your destination.
After seven generations of slightly quirky design, the eighth VW Passat emerged as a rather handsome, well proportioned automobile and has been improved in this revised form with full-LED head and tail lights that emphasise the car's width. The GTE variant is available not only as a saloon but also in an estate guise that gives this hybrid excellent load carrying ability and versatility. The exterior is thoroughly modern and gives this generation Passat a more prestigious appearance than its predecessor. A narrow blue line across the top of the grille identifies this as the plug-in hybrid model. A high-quality interior reinforces the grand touring purpose of the GTE, with comfortable ergonomic seats designed to reduce driver fatigue on longer journeys.
Compared to the diesel models, the only compromise in space is down to the placement of the lithium-ion battery pack under the rear seats, which has resulted in the fuel tank taking up some hidden storage space in boot of the car. As in any normal Passat, the dashboard features a big central screen (in this revised car, it's VW's third generation 'MIB' touchscreen infotainment system). In the case of the GTE, this display has a range of other eco-minded functions. Through the steering wheel, you can specify a set of optional digital 'virtual' dials. The seats, as in most Volkswagens, initially feel unyielding but are supremely comfortable over longer distances. Three adults can fit in the back too.
This Passat GTE will make a lot of sense for the right kind of buyer, scoring in the way that it makes something so complicated so universally acceptable. There's no weird bodywork. No confusing digital read-outs. No odd driving technique to master. Here, you simply get a Passat very much as you might have always known it. Just one with a little extra to offer. Yes, differences come with the plug-in hybrid technology, but as a driver, you're not forced to embrace them. Indeed, drive this car in full-engine mode and you could conceivably fail to notice anything out of the ordinary about it at all.
Everything's so straightforward - so normal. Just leave the thing in its 'Hybrid Auto' setting and you'll get diesel-like fuel economy with a real surging turn of pace when you need it. Even if you never once plugged this car in, you'd probably be perfectly happy with what you had. It's all deceptively unique. It's all a taste of the future - but in a car very much for today.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Passat GTE range