From £36,3607
VW's new Passat GTE blends impressive economy and zero-emission running with strong real-world pace but it comes at a price

Our Verdict

Volkswagen treats the Passat to a plug-in hybrid makeover

  • First Drive

    2016 Volkswagen Passat GTE review

    VW's new Passat GTE blends impressive economy and zero-emission running with strong real-world pace but it comes at a price
  • First Drive

    2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE review

    Practical Passat gets VW's plug-in hybrid GTE treatment, gifting it a 31-mile electric range and CO2 emissions of just 37g/km.
Neil Winn - Autocar
18 August 2016

What is it?

The Passat GTE is set to rival the new Volvo S60 Plug-In Hybrid and BMW 330e and is Volkswagen’s latest attempt to secure a piece of the increasingly competitive plug-in hybrid market.

Sharing elements of its advanced driveline with the Golf GTE, the Passat is essentially two cars in one: an electric car with an extended zero-emission range and an efficient hybrid capable of continent-crushing distances. It’s a compelling combination that’s becoming increasingly popular with consumers. In fact, in just three years - from 2013 to 2016 - the number of plug-in hybrids registered in the UK has increased from 3500 to more than 75,000. Clearly, it’s important that VW gets the Passat GTE right.

Under the bonnet sits a transversally mounted 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 154bhp and 184lb ft. For a car with the iconic ‘Gran Turismo’ badge, those primary figures appear rather feeble, but combined with a sizable electric motor, the overall system output of 215bhp and 295lb ft looks altogether more impressive.

A specially developed six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox channels the combined reserves to the front wheels, as well as providing the driver with a choice of five driving modes: E-mode, GTE mode, battery hold, battery charge and hybrid. In fully electric mode, Volkswagen claims a range of 31 miles at speeds of up to 81mph. Combined, that figure rises to a diesel-rivalling 622 miles. Impressive stuff. 

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.

Nevertheless, the GTE is a truly exciting piece of engineering that provides almost all of the benefits of an electric vehicle with very few of the downsides. 

2016 Volkswagen Passat GTE

Location Surrey; On sale October; Price £34,025; Engine 4 cyls, 1398cc, turbo, petrol; Power 215bhp; Torque 295lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight tbc; Top speed 140mph; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Economy 166mpg; CO2/tax band 39g/km, 7%

Join the debate

Comments
14

18 August 2016
Why would you pay 10% more than the price of a 330e, which is faster and rides better?

18 August 2016
Why would you pay 10% more than the price of a 330e, which is faster and rides better?

18 August 2016
Lapps wrote:

Why would you pay 10% more than the price of a 330e, which is faster and rides better?

For me, because it's more spacious and more importantly, a much cleaner, better resolved and accomplished design. And the 3 series cabin is a visual mess.

19 August 2016
abkq wrote:

And the 3 series cabin is a visual mess.

It certainly is! I has a 320d M Sport X-drive for a few days recently while my Boxster was in for some warranty work. I hadn't sat in a BMW for some years and was shocked by how cheap it all looked and felt. The leather upholstery felt cheap and "papery". The textured plastic mouldings looked ok, but no better than that. The shapes and curves of the dashboard were random and incoherent. In particular, the instruments looked pound-shop cheap: they were too small, with nasty silvered plastic rings around them. The E16 and E30 3 series had beautifully elegant instrument displays, exceptionally good in their day and, apparently, even now. The car drove well, but the whole experience was depressingly ordinary and "mainstream". I might as well have been driving a Monday.

19 August 2016
Monday, not Monday!

19 August 2016
MONDEO

19 August 2016
Daniel Joseph wrote:
abkq wrote:

And the 3 series cabin is a visual mess.

The E16 and E30 3 series had beautifully elegant instrument displays, exceptionally good in their day and, apparently, even now.

Yes, BMW used to lead in terms of interior design - the driver orientated centre console, the simple easy-to-read instrument graphics, orange backlighting etc. - something began to go very wrong around the time of Chris Bangle.

19 August 2016
Sorry, brain fade on my part. The original E21 and replacement E30 generation 3 series had beautifully rational, driver-orientated dashboards with lovely simple instruments which were a model of clarity. (By the way, I do realise I'm way off topic here!)

19 August 2016
Lapps wrote:

Why would you pay 10% more than the price of a 330e, which is faster and rides better?

4 reasons that would suit me:
-No BMW 330e estate
-Can't find any evidence that the 330e can tow
-25 miles NEDC range vs 31 is the difference between getting to work on battery alone or not
-3 series dashboard hasn't changed in about decade now and looks as dull as ditch water.

19 August 2016
I still prefer the Schimitar GTE

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