So, what’s new? Well, as with all new Passat variants, the GTE benefits from Volkswagen’s latest raft of active safety systems as standard, while the new MIB 3 infotainment software makes its debut.
Changes specific to the GTE include a larger (13kWh) battery, which increases the WLTP-certified zero-emissions range by some 38% to 33-36miles, depending on bodystyle, yet the list price has dropped by an average of £2300. So, not a bad innings all round. There's also a newly configured hybrid driving mode that works in conjunction with the sat-nav to conserve electric energy so that it can be deployed as you approach your urban destination.
Those modifications aside, it’s business as usual. You still get a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol four-pot engine that, along with an electric motor, drives the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Suspension, meanwhile, is still by way of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Adaptive damping is available as an optional extra.
What's it like?
Volkswagen says that this new Passat GTE moves in the same circles as the likes of its GTI-badged hero models. But really, if you bought one thinking you’d be getting a performance car with a capacity to provide similarly fizzy levels of entertainment, you’d probably come away just a shade disappointed.
This isn't a particularly stimulating car to drive. In fact, it’s not even a particularly stimulating car to look at. Handsome, yes, and with an appealing sense of well-to-do-ness about its sensible proportions, but exciting? Nah, not really. But that’s okay, because if you cast to one side any expectations or visions of performance grandeur those three letters might arouse, there’s still a deeply likeable car beneath it all.
Let’s start with that electrified powertrain. Yes, it lends the Passat GTE a respectable turn of pace that enables you to comfortably despatch country lane-overtaking manoeuvres with little stress or bother. But it’s how it operates when you’re simply smoking about that’s most impressive.
Provided there's enough charge in the battery, step-off is impeccably smooth. You roll forward on a gentle wave of initial electric torque and, provided you don’t pin the throttle, can continue to waft along in silence right up to 87mph. More enthusiastic inputs will bring the engine into play, but even so, the manner in which it steps in is largely seamless.
At open road speeds, the plush yet unpretentious interior is well isolated enough to dampen your awareness of the fact the turbo four-pot is even running. Put your foot down and it will make its presence known, but it doesn’t become overbearing or lacking in refinement even as the tachometer spins up towards the redline. Admittedly, it’s not the most tuneful, and it does feel a mite strained towards its top end, but its distant nature means it’s far from grating.