THE Volkswagen Passat GTE is a plug-in hybrid version of the standard family saloon.
What is it?
It combines a small 1.4-litre petrol unit with a hybrid system to create a car with a claimed combined economy cycle of 157mpg.
It also sits at the top of the Passat range and resembles a GT line version but with the added hybrid status.
The Passat comes with lots of clever tech on board as standard, but there are also some extras that make this car even more impressive.
For example, our test car had radar guided cruise control fitted, which was perfect in stop start traffic as it has the ability to work with the gearbox and braking to make driving even more effortless.
Set the system up in seconds and go – it’s that easy.
It also had the ability to update on traffic issues without being connected to a phone.
A red line appeared on the selected route, displayed on the screen. This determined that there was traffic ahead or that the route we had selected had problems or road closures.
What’s under the bonnet?
To understand how this car works, you have to think of it as having two engines. The first is a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol unit and the second is an electric motor.
Together they give the car 215bhp and a 0-60mph time of 7.2 seconds, which when teamed with a six-speed automatic gearbox, feels rapid but not fast.
This is the only engine choice you can have, but is ideal as it offers a good balance of power and sportiness once you engage the GTE mode where the petrol and electric units work together to give you optimum performance.
The charging point isn’t where you’d expect it to be and is in fact hidden behind a secret compartment in the front grille.
It’s very easy to plug in and get charging and within a few hours you have the optimum charge, which can last up to 30 miles on electric power alone.
What’s it like to drive?
We took the Passat GTE with us on holiday and it performed without fault.
On the road it feels super refined and has fantastic radar guided cruise control system that was especially helpful in stop start traffic.
The car’s charge goes down very quickly if in all-electric mode. However, use it in hybrid mode and all makes sense.
For lower speeds, it uses electricity until the petrol motor kicks in and to regenerate electricity, the friction from braking is used to recharge the battery. Clever stuff.
The handling is surprisingly agile for a large saloon, and you could easily forget it was a Passat you were driving and think you were in its smaller sibling – the Golf – especially on country roads where in GTE mode the steering firms up as does the suspension.
This isn’t a driver’s car, however, with the steering feeling slightly numb with no real communication between the road and your hands. It also couldn’t quite deal with bumps or ruts in the road quick enough, rather crashing over them instead.
How does it look?
On the outside the only telltale sign that this isn’t a normal Passat are the two GTE badges on the front grille and boot lid, and blue lines that curve around the radiator. Apart from that it looks like a standard Passat, which is ever so slightly dull but not ugly or boring either.
The LED headlights do jazz it up a bit, as do the wrap around LED daytime running lights giving the car its sporty face.
What’s it like inside?
The GTE has a fantastic interior. It may not be the most inspiring in terms of design, but the seats are uber comfortable and everything feels solidly made.
From the moment you set off it’s almost silent thanks to it starting in electric mode.
But at motorway speeds it’s quiet, too, and you feel cocooned from the outside world with not even a whisper of another car being heard.
Space is also superb with a gigantic boot that easily took both our suitcases, bags of shopping, bags of souvenirs and a tennis set with oodles of room to spare. It also has a handy ski hatch should you be so inclined. Could also work with fishing rods.
The headroom is beyond ample as is legroom in the front. Jump in the back and there’s just as much space.
What’s the spec like?
Inside, the GTE Advance comes with plenty of kit, including an excellent infotainment system that allows you to easily sift through DAB radio stations and also use the sat nav that keeps you up to date with the traffic conditions as you travel along.
You also get a full leather interior and panoramic glass sunroof. Our test car had the addition of 14-way adjustable electric seating.
Although this comes in at a steep £950, it’s well worth it, chiefly because you also get Volkswagen’s ‘ErgoComfort’ driver’s seat. This massages your back as you drive along with the electric lumbar support rolling up and down.
On a five-hour journey this was a necessity rather than luxury.
You also have an incredibly detailed amount of adjustability within the cabin, from the brightness of the interior lighting down to a choice of seven different tones for the parking sensors. It’s these tiny touches that make you realise that this car has been carefully designed.
If there’s one niggle it’s the fact the boot doesn’t have a light. That might sound like a minor issue but nevertheless I found it very annoying when trying to unload suitcases at night, having to eventually rely on the torch on my phone.
The Passat GTE Advance is a cracking car. Not only does it seem to blend electric and petrol power seamlessly, it’s based on a car that was already a thoroughly good family car.
It offers all the practicality you want from a saloon, and then some too.
A huge boot, tons of room inside the cabin and technology galore mixed with low emissions and a premium feel throughout the entire car.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance
Engine: 1.4 TSI plug-in Hybrid
Power (bhp): 215
Torque (Nm): 184
Max speed (mph): 140
0-60mph: 7.2 seconds
MPG (combined): 156.9
Emissions (g/km): 0