Volkswagen Passat GTE
Along with the new Passat, VW will also experiment with a limited number of Hybrid GTEs in India. We get behind the wheel
TTHIS IS THE PASSAT GTE. It is a plug-in hybrid and is based on the new Passat that will be launched in India soon. It will be considerably more expensive than the regular diesel Passat – upwards of `40 lakh – and so, the plan is to bring a batch of ten cars to India to see what the response will be. We managed to hop the queue and get behind the wheel a couple of months before it gets here. Is it electrifying? Well, read on. Where does it come from?
The Passat GTE is, obviously, based on the new Passat. Underpinning it is Volkswagen’s new MQB platform. The new car is 2mm shorter than the car it replaces but the wheelbase is 79mm longer and VW claims an 85kg reduction in weight.
Also, unlike the old Passat whose traditional rivals were the Accord, Camry and the Superb, this new Passat is aiming higher. VW is also looking at pitching it against the C-Class, 3 Series and A4 and that means this new Passat will probably be more expensive and it will need to have interiors that are a step above the Passat’s already high standards. When it comes to India early next year, we expect it to come with VW’s 190bhp, 2-litre diesel. For now though, let’s take a look at the GTE.
What’s a plug-in hybrid?
The GTE uses two forms of propulsion – a conventional petrol engine and an electric motor. The car can run in purely electric mode,
petrol mode or a combination of petrol and electric. Now, VW claim the Passat GTE will go 50km in pure electric mode before the batteries run out. However, real world conditions and human impatience can see that figure drop down quite a bit. Oh, it will also get to a top-speed of 130kmph on just the batteries after which the petrol engine will kick in and contribute to the GTE’s topspeed of 225kmph.
The batteries that run the electric motor can be charged either by plugging it into a wall socket or by allowing the petrol engine to charge it. VW claims that through a regular 230 volt outlet, the battery will charge fully in about four and a half hours. You could optionally spend more money, upgrade to a 360 volt socket and have the car charge in two and a half hours.
When fully charged, the electric motor makes 114bhp and 330Nm of torque. The 1.4-litre TSI petrol it is attached to makes 154bhp and 250Nm and combined, the petrol and electric make 215bhp and 400Nm of torque. All this goes through a six-speed DSG gearbox to the front wheels.
VW claim the Passat GTE will go 50km in pure electric mode before the batteries run out
Do I need a PhD to drive it? Absolutely not. It drives like any regular car. You get in, push the start button and if the battery has sufficient charge, the dashboard will light up like a christmas tree. The petrol engine stays off. You glide away noiselessly on the throttle and the electric motor’s 330Nm gives the car amazing pep.
It motors without any mechanical noises much like a Prius except that this one has the Passat’s tank-like build quality to reinforce that feeling of gliding noiselessly.
The car has four driving modes – an E mode, a hybrid mode, a battery charge mode and a GTE mode. In the GTE mode, both petrol and electric send all their worth to get the GTE to 100kmph in a claimed 7.5 seconds. It even makes sporty noises in GTE mode and the spring in its step does tempt you to hoon about in this mode. The DSG gearbox also has a ‘B’ mode (regular Passats have an ‘S’ mode for sporty gearshifts). What the ‘B’ mode does is provide regenerative braking everytime you get off the throttle. There’s so much braking in this mode that you soon learn to trust the system to bring the car to a halt at traffic lights thereby charging the battery as you do so.
It handles and rides much like a regular Passat except that this one carries around more weight. The batteries, the charging equipment, the electric motor and the cables for the hybrid system add about 280kg to the regular Passat. To counter this, VW have stiffened the springs with not much detriment to the ride. Where you will really notice the difference is when you press the brake. The first few millimetres
The wiring and batteries for the hybrid system adds about 280kg to the regular Passat
uncluttered are all words I can use to describe the Passat’s dash. A beautiful touchscreen media interface, brilliant all-digital dials (the GTE gets a charge metre that also doubles up as a rev counter) all bring the Passat’s dash up-to-date. The seats are really comfortable and our car even had a rather silly massage function. Silly because it feels like all it is doing is lightly punching you in the lower back.
The space is incredible as always but you should know that this Passat loses a bit of boot space. Because the batteries sit under the rear seats, the fuel tank (which sits there in the regular Passat) moves under the boot floor. This also means there is no spare tyre but you do get a self-sealing system in all the tyres.
You distinguish the GTE from a regular Passat by the C-shaped daytime running lights in the front bumper, the blue line that runs across the top of the headlights and grille, and of course the GTE badges. It is a very handsome car and is elegantly understated but does tend to blend into the crowd in the more sober colors that VW is offering. We are hoping they will offer this awesome blue in India.
Should I buy one?
It is a great car and is all the better because it feels so normal to drive. You will also get to flaunt your green credentials. It feels properly luxurious, drives and rides really well and the interiors are so high quality, they match up to the price. If you don’t mind spending the money, go for it.
High quality and superb fit-and-finish describe the new Passat’s interiors
1: GTE badge tells you this isn’t a regular Passat.
2: Distinguish it from the normal Passat by the C-shaped daytime running lamps on the bumper
of pedal travel covers regenerative braking and this kind of interferes with brake feel.
What about the insides? Brilliant as always. High quality, well built, superb fit-and-finish,
1: The Passat’s cabin is arguably better than more expensive cars.
2: Press that GTE button for maximum fun.
3: Full charge from a 230volt outlet in about four and a half hours