What Is It?
The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid, and it's worth talking about for a few reasons. The first is that Volkswagen has plug-in hybrid technology ready for prime time, since the Golf is the company's most successful car ever, and the new generation debuting in the United States this year is the seventh, with each wave growing more refined.
Second, some drivers who like their Golf compacts to be on the sporty side and would otherwise buy a 2015 Volkswagen GTI can now consider a greener option. The Golf GTE makes a healthy total of 201 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from an electric motor and a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine. In electric-only mode, maximum range from the lithium-ion battery pack is 31 miles. Converting European fuel consumption to U.S. figures is somewhat tricky since the methodology is different, but a 3-digit equivalent average wouldn't be out of the question.
Third, you might be aware of how the brakes in a hybrid take some getting used to. When they're applied, they start producing energy that's then stored in the battery, and some electric-only vehicles have a tendency to decelerate quite sharply as soon as the driver comes off the throttle. With this system, it's possible to tune the braking action to taste.
Will They Ever Sell It?
Volkswagen has no plans to offer this model in the United States, though the drivetrain is the same as the one in the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, which is most definitely making the trip across the Atlantic sometime next spring, according to Audi. There's also the current 2014 VW Jetta Hybrid; it wouldn't be out of the question for VW to update that model with this plug-in tech.
Why It's Important
Plug-in hybrids are the next step after cars like the Toyota Prius. Carmakers are going to explore several avenues -- often simultaneously -- in the pursuit of cutting down on fuel consumption and lowering emissions. The Volkswagen Golf GTE and its sister car, the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, indicate that the VW/Audi Group sees the future of its own eco-efforts tied up more with hybrid tech than battery power alone.