First UK Drive: Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance
With electric and hybrid cars becoming ever popular, we decided to thoroughly test Volkswagen's Passat GTE Advance plug-in hybrid by taking it on holiday down to Lyme Regis.
What is it?
Volkswagen's Passat GTE is a plug-in hybrid version of the standard family saloon. It combines a small 1.4-litre petrol unit with a hybrid system to create a car with a claimed combined cycle of 157mpg.
It sits at the top of the Passat range and has similar styling to that of the GT-line version but with added hybrid status.
The Passat GTE comes with tons of tech as standard. However, our car had some impressive extras. For a start there was radar-guided cruise control - perfect in stop-start traffic as it has the ability to work with the gearbox and braking to make driving even more effortless. The system is operated via the steering wheel and was very easy to set up and use.
The sat nav system was also able to update us 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 chosen had problems or road closures.
What's under the bonnet?
You won't find some gas-guzzling combustion engine here. Instead, you have a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol unit mated to an electric motor.
Together they give the car 215bhp and a 0-60mph time of 7.2 seconds, which, teamed with a six-speed automatic gearbox, feels rapid enough but not too fast. Most importantly, however, it makes the car very frugal. However, you won't hit anything like the claimed 156.9mpg.
In heavy traffic we managed just over 45mpg, which is still commendable. On longer runs expect this to rise into the 70mpg region.
This is the only engine you can have, but it is ideal as it offers a good balance of power and sportiness once you engage GTE mode where the petrol and electric units work together to give you optimum performance.
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 very refined and has that fantastic radar-guided cruise control system that was especially helpful in stop-start traffic.
The electricity rapidly decreases if in electric-only mode, and is pretty much pointless. However, use it in hybrid mode and it all makes sense. For lower speeds it uses electricity until the petrol motor kicks in at between 20 and 30mph. The car also regenerates electricity using the friction from braking to recharge the battery. Clever stuff.
The handling is very nimble for a large saloon, especially in GTE mode where the steering firms up along with the suspension. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in its smaller sibling – the Golf.
This isn't a driver's car, however. Although it has a sporty firmness, the steering is still numb with no real communication between the road and your hands. And the suspension can't quite deal with bumps or ruts in the road quickly enough, no matter what mode you're in.
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.
The LED headlights do jazz it up a bit, as do the wrap-around LED daytime running lights which give the car its sporty face.
What's it like inside?
The GTE Advance has a fantastic interior. It may not be the most inspiring in terms of design, but the seats are very comfortable and everything feels solidly made. 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, which could also work with fishing rods.
The headroom is beyond ample as is legroom in the front. Jump in the back and you find so much space, you could mistake it for a premium limo.
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 your spine. 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 my phone's torch.
The Passat GTE Advance is a very impressive car. Not only does it manage to blend electric and petrol power effortlessly, it is based on a car that was already a solid family cruiser. It offers all the practicality you could want from a saloon, and then some. A huge boot, tons of room inside the cabin and technology galore mixed with low emissions and a premium feel make this a car definitely worth considering.
Model as tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance
Engine: 1.4-litre TSI Plug-in Hybrid
Torque (Nm): 184
Max speed (mph): 140
0-60mph: 7.2 seconds
MPG: 156.9 combined
Emissions (g/km): 0