What's it like?
Despite being packed with complex technology, the GTE is no harder to drive than a regular Passat. Press the starter button, drop the car into drive and the GTE pulls away in complete silence because it's configured to start in E-mode if the battery has sufficient charge. The electric motor is impressively flexible and can power the car up to motorway speeds with minimal effort. With instant torque on tap, the unassuming Passat has enough shove to beat almost anything away from the lights, too.
Drive the GTE long enough to deplete the battery and the engine will fire into action to provide the main source of propulsion. Alternatively, you can depress the GTE button located on the centre console or select Hybrid mode from the infotainment system. The integration of the petrol unit is seamless so the change in power source does little to upset the serenity of your progress.
In Hybrid mode, apart from the suspension becoming a little firmer, the GTE retains its refined mannerisms. Throttle response is progressive and the combination of the two power sources working together endows the Passat with plenty of mid-range shove.
However, for maximum performance, you’ll want to select GTE mode. This stiffens the suspension, sharpens the throttle response and allows the six-speed ’box to hold on to gears for longer. Granted, the added weight of the hybrid system is still evident despite the GT-tuned chassis, but the car performs admirably on fast, flowing B-roads. The steering is direct, the uprated suspension provides impressive body control and the brakes are strong, despite feeling a little spongy and artificial under foot.
Handily, once you’ve stopped playing around, you can get back to monitoring your remaining electric range via the GTE’s interactive instrument cluster. Where you’d normally find a rev counter, you’re instead treated to a power meter, which displays your power reserves and the effectiveness of the regenerative braking system. It’s a genuinely useful addition that encourages you to eke out every last bit of range from the battery.
Elsewhere in the cabin, there are other subtle changes that help differentiate the GTE from its lesser siblings. Blue stitching on the steering wheel, gearshift gaiter and seats matches the flashes of blue on the exterior of the car, and the prolific use of GTE badges ensures that you won’t forget what you're driving.
Otherwise, the interior is typical Passat: great visibility, an excellent driving position and a luxurious cabin. The GTE also receives Adaptive Cruise Control, City Emergency Braking, Discover Navigation, Bluetooth and parking sensors as standard. And if you opt for GTE Advance trim for £3655 extra, you also get the excellent Active Info Display, an 8.0in navigation screen, nappa leather and 'premium' LED headlights.
Should I buy one?
If you have a passion for new tech and live within 30 miles of your charger-equipped workplace, the Passat GTE could be for you. The idea of using your car for a whole week without ever having to rely on petrol power will be a compelling prospect for some and, unlike a pure-electric vehicle, range anxiety is effectively non-existent.
However, if you're covering long miles on a frequent basis, you’ll rarely see the benefit of that electric motor. It’s also hard to ignore that this impressive technology comes at a price. The base GTE starts at £34,025 (including the government plug-in car grant), which is significantly more expensive than an equivalent diesel model.