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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The Volkswagen Passat GTE’s hybrid powertrain gives it several distinct characteristics in day-to-day use.

And while the most performance-orientated of them may not be forceful enough to make the car a convincing sports saloon, the breadth and range of the car’s overall motive repertoire is impressive.

Climbing up steep inclines feel assured with charge in the car’s hybrid assist system; it’s a struggle without it

VW’s claims concerning charging time, electric cruising range and acceleration are to be believed.

Using the supplied seven-pin charge cable and a 16A wall socket, we charged the 9.9kWh battery from a 25% state of charge to full in less than two hours, then covered 25.5 miles on electric power before that charge ran out.

Performance is more than adequate running on battery power alone (0-60mph in 13.2sec, for the record), with the powertrain configured to ‘sail’ when you lift your foot from the accelerator.

There’s no drag to slow you down other than when the car detects that you’re running downhill, when gentle regenerative braking is blended in to keep tabs on your prevailing speed. Get good at coasting – which, by another name, is what you’re being encouraged to do – and you could probably improve on VW’s 31-mile zero-emissions range estimation in urban and rural motoring.

In Hybrid mode, the car has creditable powertrain response even when the combustion engine has shut down, which it’ll do at modest motorway cruising speeds when load conditions are light.

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The engine is well isolated and restarts smoothly, while standard adaptive cruise control allows it to conserve its own momentum and cruise efficiently when you want it to.

Backed up by electrical assistance under wide throttle applications, the 1.4 TSI engine gives the Passat a turn of speed that’s brisk rather than quick.

Selecting GTE mode doesn’t make full power feel any more forceful than it does in Hybrid, but it does stop the combustion engine from shutting down and the gearbox from decoupling, giving strong throttle response at all times.

In slightly damp conditions, we missed VW’s official 0-62mph claim of 7.4sec by only a couple of tenths and recorded a 30-70mph through-the-gears sprint of just 6.1sec – a full two-second improvement on the pace of the 187bhp diesel Passat we tested last year.

More tellingly, the GTE improved on that TDI’s showing by some 20% from 30-70mph in fourth and by 40% from 50-70mph in sixth. In both respects, the GTE demonstrated plainly why it might appeal to someone looking for strong, no-nonsense driveability.