Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The GTE’s electric motor is paired with a 1.4-litre petrol engine, pumping out up to 215bhp when the two work together. Thanks to the way electric motor delivers its power, there’s a considerable amount of oomph available as soon as you squeeze the accelerator pedal, but put your foot down hard and the GTE is really rather nippy. In fact it's one of the fastest models in the Passat range, with 0-62mph taking around 7.6sec. Some other plug-in hybrids, including the BMW 330e, are quicker still, though.
If there's enough charge in the battery, the plug-in-hybrid system allows you to select fully electric mode. Officially, you can do up to 36 miles without using a drop of petrol, although 25 miles is more realistic in real-world driving. That’s similar to what you can expect from the very closely related Skoda Superb Estate iV, but not as far as the claimed range of the smaller Octavia IV. Alternatively, if you leave the GTE in its smart hybrid setting, it automatically makes the best use of electric and petrol power to minimise fuel consumption. Indeed, if you program a destination into the sat-nav, the system is even clever enough to work out which part of the journey is best-suited to battery power. There’s also a ‘GTE’ mode, which uses the most potent combination of petrol and electric power to unlock the full 215bhp. And, when it happens, the transition between petrol and electric power is so smooth that you’ll barely even notice it happening.
Cars fitted with optional DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) allow you to adjust the firmness of the suspension. With this fitted, the GTE in Comfort mode has a relaxed, supple feel. Move to Sport mode, though, and the ride becomes more unsettled, with the car thumping more over potholes and motorway expansion joints. Without DCC, the Passat GTE feels altogether firmer, especially at lower speeds. The Skoda Superb iV rides better, overall.
However, the Passat does more to entertain on a winding road than the Superb. Despite the weight of its hybrid battery, this is no wallowy barge; it feels far more composed and leans less through corners than the Superb. Its steering even gives you a reasonable sense of connection to the front wheels. However, while the GTE is more than competent enough, the 330e is much more entertaining to drive.
When you're driving along using pure battery power the GTE is eerily quiet, and even when the petrol engine is running, this is the quietest Passat you can buy – and the regular Passat is one of the quietest executive cars. Only a small amount of road noise disturbs the calm when you're up to motorway speeds.