What Is It?
There’s a theme emerging at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, and it has to do with the increasingly global push for serious fuel efficiency. The Volkswagen Passat GTE is one of the more practical products on offer this year, showcasing plug-in-hybrid technology from VW that appears to be fully ready for prime time.
The GTE’s power system starts with a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine rated at 154 horsepower, but you don’t know the half of it. An electric motor adds another 114 hp in conjunction with a lithium-ion battery pack, pushing total system output to 215 hp and a chest-compressing 295 lb-ft of torque. Although hybrids typically utilize gearless continuously variable transmissions, the GTE employs a custom-engineered 6-speed triclutch automated manual, much like another hybrid that’s already on sale: the dual-clutch Jetta Hybrid sedan. Performance with all hands on deck is pretty spunky; the GTE is said to hit 60 miles per hour in less than 8 seconds under combined gas and electric power.
As a plug-in hybrid, the Passat GTE also promises meaningful all-electric operation, and it delivers. With an estimated 31-mile electric range, the GTE manages to outdo most current plug-in hybrid sedans, though it trails the Chevrolet Volt hatchback by about 20 percent. Top speed in E-Mode is a laudable 80 mph, so you needn’t switch to the slow lane (or hold up traffic in the car-pool lane) if you want to go gas-free. When the battery pack runs out, you can replenish it in as few as 2.5 hours by plugging into an optional high-power wall box from Volkswagen, though charge times of 4 to 5 hours will be typical on normal current.
Volkswagen also touts the GTE’s range of over 620 miles using both electric and gas power. That’s nearly twice the range of some conventional vehicles, if not quite as impressive as the 700-mile-plus turbodiesel VW Passat TDI.
As expected, the GTE’s interior features numerous gauges and readouts tailored to the plug-in-hybrid system, including a power meter in the instrument cluster and a choice of two touchscreens (6.5-inch or 8.0-in) with a range monitor, an energy-flow indicator, a charging-station locator and much more. There’s also a smattering of aesthetic touches to make the GTE feel distinct from regular Passats, such as “Waves” aluminum-look trim, blue ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a shift knob with blue stitching.
To be determined.
When Can You Get It?
October 2015, says VW, but here’s the thing — that’s for the European market. The Volkswagen Passat GTE shown here is based on the sleeker, higher-content European Passat to which U.S. consumers don’t have access. Will Volkswagen bring this plug-in technology to the U.S. anyway and put it in an existing vehicle, a la the U.S.-market Jetta Hybrid? Time will tell.
Add It to Your Shopping List Because…
You want a plug-in hybrid with significant electric range and satisfying acceleration, and you’re hoping Volkswagen at least decides to sell the GTE’s plug-in technology here in the States, if not the car itself.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Volt — With up to 38 miles of electric range, the plug-in Volt is a star in the electric-vehicle (EV) realm, and it’s only let down by its cramped back seat.
Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid — The energetic Accord Plug-In hits 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. It’ll do 80 mph in EV mode just like the Passat will, but its electric range is just 10-15 miles.
Ford Fusion Plug-In Hybrid — The Fusion Plug-In can cover 21 miles solely on electric power, but that’s still 10 miles behind the Passat GTE.