23.7.2015Volkswagen Passat GTE review
With a choice of four driving modes the new Volkswagen Passat GTE has a number of different characters which you can adjust to suit your mood, the driving conditions or your desire to drive greener. Every time you drive a Volkswagen hybrid it feels just that little bit better, smoother and quieter and this is no exception.
The new Volkswagen Passat is elegantly styled and punches above its weight for comfort and relaxed driving. Special coatings in the petrol engine, and automatic occasional running, maintains the oil film on bearings etc in the event of only rare use by urban drivers.
Review by Russell Bray
The official performance figures for the Volkswagen Passat GTE show 0-62 mph in 7.4 seconds but with the 113 bhp electric motor providing up to 243 lbs ft of torque from near rest it feels quicker than that. Itâ€™s accomplished in near limousine silence which increases the sense of power. The 1.4 litre TSI turbocharged, direct injection petrol engine, capable of producing 154 bhp at 5,000 rpm, and torque of 184 lbs ft at 1,600 rpm, only chimes in when electric battery power reaches a minimum. In normal traffic on a short commute the petrol engine would be redundant. Combined system power is 215 bhp and torque of 295 lbs ft. Top speed is 140 mph, or 81 mph under electric power only.
All the Passatâ€™s power goes through the front wheels, via a specially developed six-speed DSG automatic gearbox so the handling characteristics are the usual front wheel drive norm. As usual the biggest problem with plug-in hybrids is the extra weight of the battery pack, battery management system and electric motor. At 1735 kg, with a 130 kg battery pack, the Passat GTE is a hefty 250 kg heavier than the 1.4 petrol model and 200 kg heavier than a 2 litre diesel. You feel the difference obviously in corners with more resistance to the steering and a greater reluctance to change direction in an S-bend. You can sense it under braking too. The Passat doesn't feel unbalanced; though on an icy road itâ€™s likely to be more of a handful.
The new Volkswagen Passat is an elegantly styled saloon or estate and if the subtle blue trim touches and badges donâ€™t reveal this Passatâ€™s green credentials, then the big blue brake calipers visible behind the alloy wheels should. Getting in and out is easy as the doors open wide and the cabin is both spacious and airy. The headlights are LEDs and the cabin has attractive ambient lighting. Dimensions of the GTE plug-in hybrid saloon tested match standard Passat models. Relocation of the fuel tank from under the back seat, where the Samsung battery pack now resides, has taken up some of the boot's under floor cargo space. The bumper is bespoke to the GTE with C-shaped LED daytime running lights as found on VW Group electric and hybrid models. Length 4767 mm; width 1832 mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
You know the Passat is going to punch above its weight for comfort and relaxed driving as soon as you open the door and take in the opulent interior. The seats are nicely shaped without squeezing you too much and thereâ€™s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel and driverâ€™s seat. Ride comfort is generally good but lumpy over imperfections at lower speeds. The digital dashboard, which on the test car could display a satellite navigation map in between the main instrument dials, makes the car feel very modern. Digital satellite navigation is due for 2016 model year in the UK. The car starts in electric mode and blends into hybrid when minimum battery power is reached. Electric power can be conserved for use later or for sporty driving you can select GTE mode for the full 215 bhp experience.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Passat GTE has a genuinely useful range of up to 31 miles on electric power alone so that with brake energy recuperation could mean some peopleâ€™s daily commute could be achieved without any exhaust emissions or consumption of petrol. Official fuel consumption on the NEDC cycle is 166 MPG with test CO2 emissions of just 39 g/km. Under current regulations that means no VED car tax. In comparison, a Passat 2-litre TDI diesel is Â£28,145 and returns 67.8 MPG and 135 g/km CO2 emissions. Maximum theoretical range with the 9.9 kWh battery fully charged and the 11-gallon fuel tank full is 680 miles. VW says recharging the battery pack would take four hours 15 minutes from a home supply, or two and half hours if you have a higher power â€˜wall boxâ€™ fitted. The battery pack has an eight-year, 100,000 mile (approx) warranty.
The specially developed automatic DSG gearbox has an additional third disengagement clutch which decouples the petrol engine whenever possible to allow the car to make the best use of its kinetic energy (movement energy to you and me). An electromechanical brake servo and an electric air conditioning compressor also ensure optimal and energy-efficient operation of the brakes and air conditioning in E-mode. Full integration of the exhaust manifold in the cylinder head lets the petrol engine reach optimal operating temperature very quickly after the engine is started. The engine has two loop cooling system. A low-temperature loop flows through the intercooler and turbocharger housing and is supplied by an electric pump when needed. Passenger cabin heating comes from the cylinder head circulation loop, so that it warms up quickly, like the engine.
Independent research would temper VW's fuel economy and CO2 claims which are generated on the outmoded NEDC test cycle – see previous news items on real world emissions and Real MPG. Better to expect a fuel-only fuel economy of 50(ish) MPG which can be significantly improved on by charging and driving on electric only at every opportunity. Indeed, there's no reason why you shouldn't treat the Passat GTE as a pure EV for most short trips.
A trendy flat bottomed steering wheel with blue stitching, an energy gauge in place of a rev counter and various LED graphics reveal you are in a hybrid model. You can use a screen in the middle of the dashboard to check your driving range, tell you where the propulsive power is coming from and whether to pump extra charge into the battery while driving (not as efficient as plugging the car in to a charger). An e-manager allows programming of charging relating to departure time for journeys. The satellite navigation system can calculate the most efficient route to maximise electric power. Standard trim on the Premium model includes Nappa leather and an 8 in Discover Pro colour satellite navigation screen. Other standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency city braking, Bluetooth phone connectivity and parking sensors.
Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE
Body-style: Four-door saloon
Engine/CO2: 154bhp 1.4 litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol / 39 gCO2/km
Trim grades: GT and Premium
On-road price: Â£33,000 (est after Government grant of Â£5,000)
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: January 2016
Review rating: 4.0 STARS