THAT MOST dependable but conservative of saloon and estate cars, the VW Passat, has been catapulted into the modern age with a cutting-edge, plug-in hybrid version to set middle-managers’ hearts racing.
Called the Passat GTE, it sits at the top of the new Passat line-up with a combined power output of 212bhp thanks to a 152bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and an 85kW electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged on the move or at the wall.
On battery power alone ‒ called E mode ‒ it can travel up to 31 miles, and has a top speed of 80mph. Assuming there’s enough charge in the battery, the car always starts in this mode. In GTE mode ‒ combined TSI and electric motor ‒ it can dash from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds on its way to 136mph.
To complement its higher performance, the accelerator, gearbox and steering are made sportier. An optional ride package allows the suspension to be stiffened, too. In this mode, but with a lighter foot, the car can achieve 141mpg, enough to cover 620 miles on a full, 50-litre tank of fuel. Emissions are a tax-beating 45g/km.
The front-wheel-drive GTE has a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. A third clutch disengages the TSI engine so it can be switched off, allowing the car to coast when desired.
Just like other hybrid cars, the battery can be charged regeneratively during deceleration, and automatically selects the TSI and electric motor, singly or together, depending on the power the driver requires.
To fully recharge the battery, it can be topped up via a charging socket in the radiator grille. Connected to a domestic socket it can be recharged from flat in 4hrs 15mins. Connected to VW’s optional fast-charger, or any publicly available fast charger, this time falls to 2hrs 30mins. An app allows the driver to remotely start the charging cycle from their smartphone.
The new GTE’s equipment roster mimics lesser models in the Passat range and, depending on trim levels, includes LED headlights, a range of driver assist features and a 6.5in or 8in media displaying data unique to the GTE: energy flow, an e-Manager allowing the driver to remotely set the cabin’s climate systems and a driving range indicator.
Power source and driving range displays are repeated in the instrument binnacle. Like the just-launched Audi TT, the Passat GTE can be ordered with a virtual instrument cluster that, if the driver chooses, can display the sat nav system in the centre and traditional dials to the side.
Outside, the new GTE is distinguished by horseshoe LED lights, GTE badging and blue detailing.
Prices for the GTE have yet to be confirmed. The model can be ordered from June 2015, with deliveries starting later in the year.