2019 Volkswagen Passat GTE review: price, specs and release date
The revised Volkswagen Passat GTE offers more range, more power and a more impressive suite of technology. But how does it compare with its plug-in hybrid rivals?...
Priced from £40,000 (est) | On sale September
With the Volkswagen Passat GTE, the German brand is doing the automotive equivalent of the hokey cokey. First this plug-in hybrid was in, impressing us so much that we gave it a five-star rating. Then it was out, pulled from sale due to a bottleneck in getting cars certified for new emissions standards. And now it’s back in again, at the vanguard of a revised Passat range that's designed to shake up the executive car sector.
On the outside, all Passats now feature LED headlights and reshaped bumpers and fog lights, while the name of the car is spelled out more prominently across the bootlid or tailgate. However, it’s the technical changes to the GTE (which is available as a saloon or an estate) that are the most significant: its battery now has a third more range and allows you to travel up to 34 miles in fully electric mode, at speeds of up to 80mph.
The electric motor is paired with Volkswagen’s 154bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, providing a combined output of 215bhp and consequently making the GTE one of the more powerful models in the Passat line-up. But with it now facing strong competition from other plug-in hybrid executive cars, such as the BMW 330e and Mercedes C300de, do the updates go far enough?
2019 Volkswagen Passat GTE on the road
You can manually switch between fully electric and hybrid modes, or leave the Passat GTE to juggle petrol and electric power as it sees fit. If you set a route on the sat-nav, it’s even clever enough to plan when in your journey to best make use of the electric power, such as using the battery around town and recharging it on the motorway.
The transition between the two power sources is so smooth that you barely notice it. There's a considerable amount of torque at low revs, too, giving you that electric-car characteristic of instant thrust when you put your foot down – especially when it's in its ‘GTE’ mode.
This provides the sharpest accelerator responses, while cars fitted the optional Dynamic Chassis Control also let you adjust the weight of the steering and the firmness of the suspension. Select Comfort, for example, and the car has a relaxing, supple feel, particularly at speed. But move through to Sport and the ride becomes a bit more unsettled and the car starts to thud over potholes and motorway expansion joints.
The upside is that the Passat GTE also feels sharper to drive in Sport, with minimal body lean through corners, and precise steering that inspires plenty of confidence. At the same time, the steering is light enough to make parking and manoeuvring a breeze, no matter what setting it’s in.
2019 Volkswagen Passat GTE interior
Despite its increased capacity, the battery isn’t any bigger than the old Passat GTE’s, so there’s still plenty of room for the driver and a full complement of passengers.
Boot space isn’t heavily compromised compared with petrol and diesel Passats, either; in the estate it falls from 650 litres to 580 litres (measured with the rear seats up), which is still more than enough for regular family life. And you won’t have any problems loading larger items through the wide opening.
Volkswagen’s 8.0in infotainment system is standard on the GTE. It's one of the best touchscreens around, with menus that are logically laid out and relatively simple to use, even on the move. The fact that smartphone mirroring and sat-nav are included also helps, plus it's easy to make sense of the displays that highlight how the hybrid system is operating.
Full UK specifications are still to be confirmed, but both the standard GTE and the pricier GTE Advance will get 17in alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and GTE badging throughout.
What’s more, there’s been a significant upgrade to the driving assistance technology: the new adaptive cruise control system not only keeps you a safe distance from the car in front, but can read and match speed limit signs and slow the car down to prepare for turns when the sat-nav has been programmed.
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