25.9.2019VW Passat GTE first drive
VW has rolled out a series of updates to its Passat range - now Mk8.5 - and included in the revisions is the Passat GTE plug-in hybrid. Here greater changes than elsewhere in the range are found, as the powertrain is boosted by a larger battery improving range. We get a first drive in the new VW Passat GTE to see how it performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
Under the bonnet is the same 1.4 litre TSI petrol engine and electric motor found in the previous Passat GTE. Combined power comes in at 218 hp with 400 Nm of torque available. These figures allow a 0-62 mph time of 7.4 seconds for the saloon, with the estate 0.2 seconds slower. Both have a top speed of 138 mph. It's a pacy set-up then, but not with too much power. Don't be fooled by the 'GTE' badge into thinking you're getting a PHEV equivalent of the GTI or GTD. In reality, you'll be getting a warm-saloon, rather than a full-blown hot one. In real-world conditions, the Passat GTE offers a flexible and refined drive. The compact petrol engine rarely has to work by itself, and when it does, the powertrain tends to be under low load anyway. The electric motor adds an eagerness to acceleration sprints at low speeds, and really aids the petrol's refinement. The Passat GTE is quite comfortably able to be powered by electricity alone, and makes more sense in urban conditions this way. Set to Hybrid mode and the car will sort things out itself, and reliably too. If you're in a hurry, push the GTE button and you'll get the whole lot until the battery runs out. It's a versatile set-up that can cover all bases from crawling in heavy traffic to sweeping rural roads. The only time the Passat GTE is not as comfortable or more so than other engine options is on the motorway. It still performs well here however, and the Passat GTE remains an accomplished contender for a one-car household.
Like the performance, the Passat GTE is set up to be more of an all-rounder than a GTE badge might hint at. While this might disappoint those looking for a performance saloon, in reality it's a far more attractive proposition to buyers. The ride is good, with enough control over pitch and roll to mean you can have a little fun. However, VW has not shunned the Passat's core audience, and these are drivers that demand a cossetting and refined ride. The Passat GTE certainly fits the bill and although its on spots suspension, the ride is such that you won't approach speed bumps with trepidation. The steering is pitched to the same level, with a lean towards sportiness, but in fact too much damping to be qualified as a driver's car. As such, the refinement continues, and Passat GTE drivers will have a car that performs with brutal efficiency just about everywhere.
The Passat wasn't a bad looking car before the updates; in fact far from it. I loved the clean, restrained, slightly Bauhaus look to proceedings, and personally feel the changes have made things a little fussier. However, progress must be made, and the looks certainly haven't been ruined, simply because aesthetic changes have been kept to a minimum. The front end gets a slightly sharper, more aggressive look, with the 'c-shaped' LED running lights remaining as an indicator of its plug-in possibilities. The rear gets similar treatment, and largely the Passat's looks have been tweaked rather than been subjected to wholesale changes. The Passat GTE is available in both estate and saloon shapes, with the former well received by many. There aren't many plug-in estate cars around, and to have a car as capable as the Passat available as both a GTE model and an estate proves popular with drivers. Space for those prioritising it is still good in the estate, even though it is compromised a little - dropping from 650 litres to 580 litres. That's still plenty enough for most. Further forward, the reason the boot space is impacted upon a little is because passenger space isn't. As such, the same excellent levels of passenger head and leg space as you would expect from a large saloon or estate are available.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
It's been intimated above, but the Passat GTE is a very comfortable machine, and part of that bust be credited to the seats. Supportive and comfy, we didn't have the chance to test them over long distances, but initial impressions and past experience means we reckon they'll be a good pick. The rest of the cabin reflects the interior, and has been tweaked a little but largely remains the same. As such, drivers get a refined and quietly stylish cabin, nice steering wheel, and well-laid out centre console. Buttons feel of excellent quality and are well sited, while materials genuinely challenge those of premium rivals.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Fuel economy figures for PHEVs are largely redundant and depend greatly on regular trips. For example, if 90% of your journeys are 30 miles or less, you'll almost never need the petrol engine. Regularly cover 150+ miles and you'll never match the official figures. Regardless, those stats range between 180.8 MPG and 217.9 MPG depending on body and trim. Electric driving range is up to 36 miles, though we didn't have the chance to test either electric range or fuel economy fully on the day's event. Additional information will be available from a full road test.
The GTE elements of the Passat are its greenest parts, with the 13 kWh battery up from 9.9 kWh. That increase sees a boost in range from 31 miles (NEDC) to 36 miles (WLTP), despite the tests that determine range, economy, and emissions getting tougher since the previous model was evaluated. The Passat GTE has the familiar suite of electric powertrain systems. Regenerative braking tops-up the battery on the move, and there are driving mode selections that include Eco. A parallel set of modes allows the driver to put the car into Hybrid, Battery Charge, Battery Charge, GTE, and e-modes.
The Passat GTE range comes in two versions - GTE and GTE Advance. Included as standard are 17-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, heated front seats, leather trim, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, DAB, Bluetooth, USB, and smartphone connectivity. It also includes voice activation, a premium USB cable, drive mode select, GTE badging and blue brake calipers, two charging cable, climate control, and We Connect Plus connected car service (three year subscription). GTE Advance adds 9.2-inch touchscreen Discover Navigation Pro system, electric tailgate with foot sensor, IQ. Light LED matrix headlights, 18-inch alloys, 10.25-inch digital driver's display, and keyless entry and start.
Although briefly tested, the Passat GTE looks to continue the fine work of its predecessor, but with the crucial benefit of a longer electric-only range. It makes for lower running costs for the plug-in Passat, which builds on the excellent foundations of the standard car.
Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance
Engine / CO2: 1.4 litre petrol and electric motor / 39 g/km
On-road price: GTE range from £36,600. Price as tested: £40,860
Warranty: Three year / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars