Entirely conventional to operate, which is exactly what Volkswagen says its customers demand. The technology behind the Golf GTE may be startlingly complex, but it doesn’t demand any significant change in driving style. You simply step in, belt up, press the starter button and set off.
Configured to start in E-mode when there is sufficient charge within the battery, the new Volkswagen moves off in relaxed silence. With 101bhp and 243lb ft of torque the moment you depress the throttle, the electric motor is strong enough to propel the new Volkswagen up to typical city speeds with real conviction.
The driveline is impressively refined with inherently smooth qualities. The unruly shunt we detected in earlier prototype versions of Volkswagen’s first ever plug-in hybrid model were no longer evident on the first of the production models we drove in Zurich.
Unlike the pure electric e-Golf that uses a single speed gearbox, the Golf GTE relies on a conventional six-speed dual clutch transmission to deliver drive to the front wheels. Thanks to the instantly usable torque qualities of the electric motor the new Volkswagen proves encouragingly nippy while direct steering makes it quite entertaining in urban surroundings.
When the battery charge is depleted the petrol engine is automatically started to provide the main source of propulsion. Alternatively, you can depress a button marked GTE on the centre console to bring about a similar shift in reserves. The integration is excellent. There are no untoward jolts as you switch between power sources.
So configured, the Golf GTE proves a highly satisfying drive. Despite tipping the scales at 1524kg, it is reasonably swift out on the open road with a flexible delivery, solid mid range shove and an enjoyable exhaust note when worked hard.
On its own the petrol engine delivers 148bhp and 184lb ft of torque. In kick down mode the electric motor provides an additional 53bhp and 74lb ft, taking the available reserves up to 201bhp and 258lb ft. The maximum torque output is limited to less than the combined output of both sources, in order to prevent overworking the clutch packs in the transmission.
By comparison, the standard Golf GTI’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection engine offers 217bhp and the same torque loading.
With its 120kg lithium-ion battery mounted low in the structure and the rear ward mounting of the petrol tank serving to provide it with a front-to-rear weight distribution described as being better than its petrol, diesel, natural gas and all-electric siblings, the GTE is among the best balanced of the seventh generation Golf models. Granted, it is not as sweet handling as the Golf GTI. However, it is a rewarding steer. It also rides well, too.
And what of that claimed consumption? On a drive route taking in urban running, motorways and country roads, we saw an average of almost 73mpg. While way short of the claimed 188mpg, it proves the combination of petrol and electric power provides worthwhile real world savings.