Volkswagen Passat GTE

The Volkswagen Passat was one of our surprises of last year. During our drive we could make very few remarks about the mid-sized sedan from Volkswagen. Now Volkswagen is about to launch a plug-in hybrid variant of the Passat. Ahead of the market introduction we went to Amsterdam to review the 2016 Volkswagen Passat GTE.

The Volkswagen Passat is not the fastest sedan we have ever driven, nor is it the most luxurious but in its segment it is making certainly making some waves. Last year we already found the infotainment and assistance systems to be on par with, if not ahead of those in the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We are keen to find out how well the plug-in hybrid drivetrain performs.

The Passat GTE comes with a 1.4 liter TSI petrol engine and a 85 kW electric motor paired with the well-known VW 6-speed dual clutch DSG gearbox. The combined power output of the Passat GTE is 218hp. Enough to reach a top speed of 225 km/h in hybrid mode and 130 km/h in electric mode. Thanks to 330 Nm of torque available instantly in E-mode sprints of the line go very swift and with ease despite the Passat’s weight of 1,722 kilograms.

The Passat GTE can be driven in four different modes; E-Mode, Hybrid, Battery Charge and GTE. When you start the car by pressing the start/stop button it automatically starts in E-Mode. In this mode you can drive up to 50 kilometers electric – if you have a heavy right foot like me 30 kilometers is more realistic. Combined you can drive over 1,100 kilometers without refueling.

In the city we really had a blast driving around in E-mode and it feels smoother and faster than in GTE mode. Out of the city the GTE mode we preferred to switch to GTE mode. A sound generator feeds a sportier sound into the cabin and the TSI and electric engine work together to provide maximum power and torque. In addition to GTE mode – charge mode allows you to recharge the battery while driving on the highway so you have enough charge when going into the city.

In ‘normal’ hybrid mode you get the best of both worlds – great fuel economy and a long range. Volkswagen indicates the combined NEDC consumption as low as 1.6 liter per 100 kilometers. Fuel efficiency aside the Passat GTE also offers a great range of standard equipment including LED headlights, the Composition Media infotainment system, Front Assist and City Emergency Braking functions.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Interior

Inside the cabin is spacious and quite clean. We still don’t like the clock in the dashboard and the air vents on the passenger side but in general it is a very pleasant place to be. The infotainment system has so many options that you probably need a few days to study all functionality – luckily the touch screen is very intuitive. A must have is the optional digital display that replaces the old school speedometer and rev counter.

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat GTE is availalble as sedan and touring. It stands out from other Passats with blue accents in the front and a small hatch hiding the e-charger in the grill. The navigation map can show the electric range dynamically so you can quickly see how far you can drive with the remaining charge.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Variant

I haven’t been a big fan of hybrids in the past but with growing range, lower weight and an engaging E-mode they are growing on me. Driving around Amsterdam with countless charging points it does become apparent that the infrastructure still stands in the way of a real e-mobility revolution – it is not possible to charge your car on these charging points as a foreigner per example. Also Europe uses hundreds of different suppliers and you need to be a member for each to use their charging points. Although this is a major weakness for e-mobility in general, it is showing a strength of the plug-in hybrids. You can always use the petrol engine and the battery will even recharge by driving normally.

So how does it compare to the competitors? The Passat GTE is a proper alternative for the Tesla Model S, its range and interior qualities leave the Tesla Model S in the dust. At the same time we have to wait for plug-in hybrid versions of the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 to really see where the GTE stands in comparison to its key rivals.

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat GTE is packs together a interesting drive concept with sleek new looks and a luxurious interior. E-mode was a lot of fun to drive and like the regular Passat it was hard to find any flaws. I’m not a fan of touch screen infotainment, but with the digital driver display it is not really an issue. The electric range is sufficient if you drive short distances every day, for those with a longer commute using some petrol is inevitable. Overall the Passat GTE is a very good car and a typical example of how the Volkswagen brand is moving closer and closer to becoming a luxury brand.

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