The driver can choose between four different driving modes: E-mode, Hybrid, Battery Charge and GTE. Volkswagen claims an electric range of up to 31 miles at speeds up to 81mph in the default E-mode, in which the Passat GTE always starts. In the GTE mode, the efforts of the petrol and electric motor are pooled to provide a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.6sec and a 140mph top speed.
With an official combined fuel consumption figure of 176mpg, Volkswagen claims average CO2 emissions of just 37g/km.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a 9.9kWh lithium ion battery. Some 1.2kWh larger than the Panasonic-produced battery used by the Golf GTE, it is assembled at Volkswagen’s Braunschweig research and development facility from cells supplied by Samsung.
Charging time on regular 240V mains electricity is put at 4hr 15min, although customers can also choose an optional 360V wallbox that is claimed to provide a full charge in 2hr 30min. As with the Golf GTE, the charging socket is hidden behind a flap in the grille.
With its fuel tank, which is mounted slightly rearwards from its position on regular Passats, brimmed and the battery, which sits underneath the rear seat, fully charged, Volkswagen says the Passat GTE boasts a theoretical range of up to 622 miles.
What's it like?
The Passat GTE is really two cars in one. On the one hand, it is a highly practical electric car with a truly useful zero-emission range. On the other, it is a consummate and refined long-distance cruiser capable of delivering decent fuel consumption. Just don’t think of it as a performance car. Despite boasting more than adequate combined reserves, it is also laboured with an additional 350kg over the standard Passat 1.4 TSI.
There are a number of subtle exterior styling changes that serve to differentiate the new plug-in hybrid from its existing siblings. Included is a uniquely styled front bumper with distinctive LED daytime running lights, blue accents within the grille, GTE decals on each of the front wings and model-specific alloys – 17in 'Montpellier' wheels as standard, but optional 18in items on our test car.
Inside, VW's plug-in hybrid-specific instruments reflect the dual propulsion with an energy gauge and various LED graphics included, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with blue stitching, an altered gearshift knob, high-gloss black trim applications and new seat trims. Although the relocation of the fuel tank has taken up some of the boot's underfloor cargo space, accommodation is the same as that of other existing Passats, with the estate providing a nominal 650 litres of capacity below the cargo blind.
As with the Golf GTE, the new Passat GTE has been configured to start in E-mode when the battery is sufficiently charged. With maximum torque on tap the moment you depress the throttle, the electric motor provides strong propulsion up to typical urban speed limits.
Overall refinement in electric mode is superb, with a smooth delivery and silent running traits making it a pleasurable steer. The damping characteristics in electric mode are more comfort-orientated than in Hybrid mode, giving the Passat GTE plenty of pothole-fighting compliance around town. If your journey is longer than the indicated electric range, it is possible to preserve battery charge and then use it later when it is more effective or beneficial, say in an urban low or zero-emission zone.