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First drive: Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.

First drive: Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
Comfortable and frugal plug-in hybrid Passat from Volkswagen.

 



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Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate

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Volkswagen fits the 1.4-litre hybrid drivetrain from the Golf GTE into the larger Passat saloon and Estate models, resulting in the Passat GTE plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). At no point is it as sporty as the GTE badging might have you think, but seamless hybrid switching, excellent economy (with caveats) and plenty of comfort mark the Passat PHEV out as a car worth consideration.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
Pricing: saloon expected to be less than 38,000, Estate less than 40,000 - both excluding Government's 5,000 plug-in car grant
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with synchronous electric motor
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed DSG automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 39g/km (VED Band A, 0 annually)
Combined economy: 166.0mpg
Top speed: 140mph hybrid; 81mph limited electric
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Power: petrol 156hp at 5,000rpm, electric 115hp, system maximum 218hp
Torque: petrol 250Nm from 1,600- to 3,500rpm, electric 330Nm at 2,500rpm, system maximum 400Nm

What's this?

A plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Passat, borrowing its petrol-electric running gear from the existing, smaller Golf GTE PHEV. Thus, it wears the same badging as that car and as it's available in both saloon and estate body styles, the Passat GTE looks promising on paper. The 1.4-litre TSI engine and electric motor combine to make peak power of 218hp and peak torque of 400Nm, slightly more than the 204hp/350Nm of the Golf GTE, but the extra weight of the Passat means 0-62mph performance is about comparable with its stablemate. On the subject of weight, the electric motor - built into the excellent six-speed DSG gearbox - adds 34kg, the lithium-ion battery under the base of the rear seats chucks in another 125kg and the Battery Management Controller (including cooling functions) another 10.2kg, meaning the saloon tips the scales at 1,722kg and the Estate as tested here at 1,735kg.

The mounting position of the battery means Volkswagen claims boot space on either car is unaffected by addition of the electric components, this wagon registering 650 litres rear seats up and a substantial 1,780 with them folded away. There's plenty of room in the Passat for five adults as ever, while the quality of the fixtures and fittings is first rate. Pity, then, that our right-hand drive cars won't be able to have the beautiful 'Virtual Cockpit' digital instrument cluster that this left-hand drive Passat GTE demonstrated, which is full of useful, clear and attractive hybrid displays. Hold fire, though, because although the first Passat GTEs hit our shores in early 2016, by September/October next year the digital dash will make its debut in the 2017MY cars.

Prices are yet to be fixed for the UK either, but as rough guidelines - excluding the Government's 5,000 plug-in car grant - the saloon will be slightly less than 38,000 while the Estate is nearly 40,000. Two specifications will be available in the UK, both based on the high-spec Passat GT, adding some toys for the lower model and the higher version getting full leather trim (instead of Alcantara/leather) and around-view 360-degree cameras. Options will include adaptive dampers, although we reckon they're probably going to be surplus to the requirements of most buyers.

Anything else that marks the GTE out against its regular brethren? Well, there's subtle GTE badging here and there, a blue pinstripe in the radiator grille, blue brake callipers behind the 18-inch alloys and C-shaped daytime running lights, while that blue highlights theme is carried over within - not only are all the dials in the cluster blue, but there's an illuminated LED strip in said hue running around the cabin's midriff, as well as blue stitching on the steering wheel and seats.

Particularly neat is the location of the external charging point. It's hidden behind a flap in the grille to one side of the VW logo, with a balancing 'dummy' flap on the other side of the badge to keep things tidy. We far prefer this sort of design over the 'second filler' cap of other hybrids. Recharging the GTE takes two hours 30 minutes via a wallbox, or four-and-a-quarter hours via a mains socket.

How does it drive?

The only issue you might have with the PHEV Passat relates to the GTE badge, which kind of insinuates there's going to be some sort of sporty drive. Well, there isn't. It's like so many hybrids these days - super-smooth and rather uninvolving. The GTE badge makes some sense on the Golf, as it fits in with the existing GTI and GTD models, but as there isn't a performance Passat, least of all a GTI version, this larger GTE seems a little unsure of its own identity. Body control is good, understeer is quelled to a large degree and the steering is pleasant, if not a delight. You can start throwing the GTE into bends if you must, but really it's an exercise in futility.

And there's another gripe here too, which is with the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine. It never introduces vibrations into the cabin and at town/motorway cruising speeds it's docile and muted, but ask for full power - say, in the GTE hybrid mode that gives you the maximum 218hp - and it becomes vocally harsh. Indeed, it does a decent impression of a CVT; lots of noise but not a huge amount of forward momentum.

Be gentler with the Passat PHEV and the rewards are there to be had. It simply floats along all road surfaces, isolating occupants from the bumps and lumps below, while there's enough torque in all driving modes to negate the need to keep mashing the throttle to the bulkhead. In zero-emissions electric mode, 330Nm makes a mockery of the porky 1.7-tonne kerb weight. Talking of driving options, there's a full E-Mode, in which the Passat GTE is limited to 81mph and has a maximum range of 31 miles. Hybrid mode does what it says on the tin but you need to press the 'GTE' button on the console to go into the max power set-up. Finally, the Battery Charge setting should be fairly obvious and there's a strong regenerative braking effect that allows you to drive the Passat in a one-pedal style.

On our mixed test routes in the countryside around Amsterdam the GTE did plenty of miles on full electric power alone and used its combustion engine and regenerative brakes to good effect to eke out its fuel reserves. On a faster-paced first run including Dutch motorways it returned a genuine 62.8mpg over a 45-mile route, before going even better on the Netherlands' equivalent of rural backroads, where it stayed in E-Mode for around 15 miles of a 25-mile circuit and thus recorded 70.6mpg. Urban users who can stay in E-Mode more of the time would see even better fuel economy than this, although 166mpg looks optimistic to say the least.

Verdict

The Volkswagen Passat GTE is another of the increasing number of incredibly well-polished plug-in hybrids that are emerging onto the market at the moment - and if you're after a D-segment car and the normal Passat ticks your boxes, there's absolutely no reason to strike the GTE off your shopping list. It's wonderfully refined and looks classy inside and out, while it can return impressive real-world economy - if not the 166mpg quoted (as defined by law) by Volkswagen. As long as you don't expect any dynamic fireworks, this big, green Passat should prove to be a thoroughly likeable machine for many PHEV early adopters.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 21 Jul 2015









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2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.



2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. Image by Volkswagen.
 






 

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