Volkswagen Passat GTE long-term test review

Volkswagen's evergreen Passat has recently received a mid-life nip-and-tuck, including the reintroduction of the plug-in hybrid GTE. Does a longer all-electric range extends its appeal?...

VW Passat long-term test review

The car Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE Advance 1.4 TSI PHEV 

Run by Alastair Clements, special contributor

Why it’s here Can a petrol-electric drivetrain keep the ageing Passat relevant in a large family car market dominated by SUVs?

Needs to Blend tax-friendly emissions and excellent economy with the practicality, comfort and style to justify its price-tag

Price £40,860 Price as tested £41,157 Miles covered 785 Official economy 194.9mpg (WLTP) Test economy 176mpg Options fitted Detachable towbar (£759), Reversible boot mat (£168), Pure White paint (£370)

24 March 2020 – The Volkswagen Passat GTE joins our fleet

Fashion is a fickle mistress. First came the saloon car, before a whole new world was opened up to families, dog owners and sales reps alike with the arrival of the five-door estate, which blended the driving dynamics of their four-door siblings with unparalleled practicality.

Fast-forward to today, and the venerable estate car is something of a dinosaur, with buyers migrating in their droves to the shiny new SUV, with its raised driving position and chunky, funky good looks.

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

Unlike estate cars of old, however, the sharp-looking MkVIII Volkswagen Passat is far from dowdy, and there is one area where this particular wagon is bang on trend: its a plug-in hybrid. Reintroduced with the latest round of tweaks to the Passat range last year, following a year off the price lists, the GTE is back with a bigger 13kWh lithium-ion battery offering up to 80mph and 34 miles on fully electric mode, and when you throw in the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine the Passat can boast up to 215bhp and 295lb ft of torque.

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

That means a theoretical maximum of 138mph and 0-62mph in just 7.6 secs for the estate – hot hatch numbers not so long ago, and not bad at all for a car with C02 emissions of just 37g/km (meaning benefit-in-kind tax of 16%) and official average fuel consumption of 194.9mpg. 

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

It’s good to drive, too; for a 1760kg, 4.8m-long family wagon the Passat feels unusually agile – helped in no small part by the switch to more modern suspension a couple of generations back – though it never lets you forget that it’s front-wheel drive: even using the electric motor alone it’s easy to break traction when the road is damp.

In some Volkswagens fitted with the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox there can be a bit of a delay when pulling away, but there’s no such thing with the GTE. The electric motor delivers all of its torque from standstill so the Passat steps off the line remarkably smartly, even before the 154bhp petrol motor has joined the party.

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

Quite aside from the driving experience is the fact that this car is such a lovely place to be. Built at VW’s Emden plant in Germany, the Passat is seen by its maker as a rival to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class rather than the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia, and in top Advance trim that’s an achievable ambition.

It’s generously equipped and beautifully finished, with fantastically supportive ergoComfort seats in Vienna leather and an attractive dashboard architecture with soothing ambient lighting. The Discover Navigation Pro communicates with the car’s computer to make the best use of electric power on your route, and the infotainment system and heating/ventilation are generally intuitive. The only real omission in this trim seems to be a standard rear camera – though there are parking sensors. Time will tell whether I should have ticked that particular option box.

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

Plus of course, being an estate, it’s a great family car, with bags of room in the back and a really good boot. A slight hump is the only giveaway to the batteries under the rear floor, but it still offers a very useful 580 litres of boot space – down just 70 on the petrol and diesel versions.

As for those range claims, well thus far I’ve mainly driven in heavy traffic in chilly weather – neither of which provides ideal conditions for making the most of battery life. Range has so far varied from between 17 miles and 25 – enough for my commute, but not for the round trip. Fortunately I have a charging point at work, which tops it up from flat in around 3.5 hours; at home, where I’m reliant on a three-pin connection, that’s nearer five hours. And that's where I'll be charging for the time being.

VW Passat GTE long-term test review

The GTE – spot one by its C-shaped daytime running lights and natty blue brake calipers – is expected to account for a quarter of all Passat sales. And no wonder. Nearly 1000 miles in I have yet to bother the 50-litre petrol tank, and it’s fast becoming clear that I have barely scratched the surface of this multi-talented machine’s capabilities.

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