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Volkswagen Passat GTE First Drive Review

What is it?

Volkswagen Passat review

The Passat GTE – a Plug-in electric hybrid version of the new generation car. It has got great styling, has more features, should have improved dynamics with the MQB platform and also appeals to the conscious with its green technology.

The Passat GTE is a looker – not so much for the Volkswagen design philosophy that has always been straight forward, but for the size, street presence, special DRLs and the blue detailing that differentiates it from rest of the range. 

The Passat GTE comes with LED lights in place of the fog lamps, which is unique to this trim. In the front, there is also a GTE badge, along with a blue line that runs along the grille. There is some badging on the side as well; more interesting however are the blue brake calipers that are unique and look cool.

Volkswagen has found a nice balance in terms of simplicity and charm with the new Passat. I love the way even the standard trim of the new Passat looks, and this one is even nicer. 

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How is it on the inside?

Volkswagen Passat interior review

There isn’t much to differentiate it from the  normal model, apart from the few additional controls for the electrical system and the instrument cluster that gives out the extra details.

It is a spacious car. The space at the front was never an issue in this segment and with the new MQB, it is well taken care of even at the back. The GTE has an interesting mix of features – the operations are all manual, but the driver gets a massaging seat. The sunroof is not part of the standard equipment list, but it has the gesture control boot opening. The feature that adds lot of value is the head-up display unit, not only does it show the speed, but also the arrows from the navigation and the speed limits of the roads you are driving on. 

The new dashboard layout of the Passat is distinct. It also looks and feels premium with the rather interesting looking design and high quality upholstery. The dashboard on the passenger side has creases that run as continuation of the AC vents - it looks very pretty and the only downside is that it will require additional cleaning. The blue detailing for the GTE continues inside as well with the stitches on the steering wheel and gear lever.

How does it drive?

Volkswagen Passat hybrid charging during review

The GTE uses the 1.4-litre petro TSI engine producing 150bhp and 250Nm of torque, along with the 113bhp electric motor. Unfortunately, the overall performance isn’t a simple addition of the two; together these units can push out 215bhp and 400Nm of torque through the front wheels. These are still enough to make the GTE one of the most powerful sedans under Rs 50 lakh in India and then it only gets better with the pure electric mode, which is easier on the environment.

On a full charge, the car can do around 50km on electric mode and tops out at close to 130kmph, before switching on the petrol engine. During our test, we could only manage to do 34km on a full charge, but that was in the slow moving Berlin city traffic. Go full on the gas and the car seamlessly adds power by cranking the petrol engine, offering extra boost. Although, there is a lag before the power from the petrol engine is delivered to the wheels.

It starts as an electric car, if there is enough charge in the battery. There are modes to either continue running on electric or move to hybrid that offers a combination of the two power units or the GTE mode that delivers maximum power to the wheels. It requires some getting used to. For starters, there is no sound when the car starts and it continues to remain silent at cruising speeds unless you really step on the gas. Plus with the flat torque spread of an electric motor, the acceleration off the line is good enough to get you a head start at a signal.

Volkswagen Passat hybrid modes

In hybrid mode, the car keeps changing between petrol and electric trying to maximise the efficiency, whereas all the fun is in the GTE mode. It is a heavy car, but has claimed 0 to 100kmph time of 7.4 seconds. Floor the pedal and there is no doubt about that, as it comfortably gets to speeds of over 180kmph.

The Passat GTE has dynamic damping that when set to the Comfort Mode offers plush ride. Plus, there is Sports Mode, which apart from adjusting the suspension set up, also changes the gear shift points. It handles pretty well in sports mode, but you can feel the weight around the corners.

Another interesting option on the GTE is the ‘B’ mode on the transmission – this basically helps charging the battery while coasting. The resistance is so much that it feels like the car is braking on its own, which is why even the brake lights illuminate every time you get off the accelerator.

There are two other ways of charging the battery –the primary one that involves charging the car through power socket – it takes around 4.15 hours on regular socket or 2.30 hours on a high speed one. The other option is charging it via the engine like in the Camry, but that means additional load on the alternator and less efficiency.

The Passat GTE has a nice balance of performance and efficiency. For very day travel, it can be a sane and comfortable companion, yet offering more than enough fun on the longer drives.

Why should I buy one?

Volkswagen Passat

India as a market is not ready for plug-in hybrids as yet. There are a select few who will see value in this car, especially with all the problems related to the infrastructure. Firstly it will not charge off the regular electric point, you will need to install a different charging board. Also, there is hardly any scope of charging the car on the move, since the concept of charging stations for cars in India is nonexistent.

However, for a well-to-do urban dweller, who travels less than 50km every day and can afford to spend a little extra on charging point – it makes perfect sense. Charge the car every night and daily commute can be done without the fossil fuel. Of course, that isn’t free and will jack up your electric city bill instead of fuel bills, but that will still give you the satisfaction of doing your bit to keep the environment clean. 

Volkswagen offers a guarantee of eight years on the battery, which should nullify the worry of having to replace the battery in most cases.

Where does it fit it?

Volkswagen Passat rear driving

There is only one other hybrid in this segment – the Toyota Camry, but that is a series hybrid which only charges off the engine. Also while the Camry is assembled in India, the Passat GTE will be imported as CBU, which will make it substantially more expensive. Expect it to carry a price tag of over Rs 35 lakh ex-showroom, as a spacious and feature rich option for the luxury sedans. 

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