The normal cars are either performance driven or environment friendly – not both. Of course, it is changing in the top-down manner with the advent of the new hybrid supercars, but those are neither normal nor score too well on being efficient or practical. The Passat GTE on the other hand is a full-sized sedan offering over 200bhp and a range of 50km as a pure electric car with its plug-in hybrid system.
The Passat itself is a good looking sedan. Based on the new MQB platform, the car carries forward the angular look of the modern Volkswagens. It has just about enough creases on the bonnet and the side to give it some amount of aggression, along with the sophisticated looks.
Talking specifically about the Passat GTE, it gets additional cosmetic detailing in line with the VW BlueMotion theme. In the front, it has a blue line running parallel to the front grille along with the GTE badging, also the LED fog lamps in the bumper are exclusive to this trim of the Passat. The GTE badging is also visible on the side and rear of the sedan, plus the blue coloured brake calipers look particularly classy.
The Passat GTE has a spacious cabin. It isn’t very different from the standard car, but all-new compared to the VWs on sale in India at the moment. The horizontal creases extend from the centre of the dash to the end on the passenger side, as an extension of the AC vents. They are pretty unique, though would require extra attention during cleaning.
In terms of quality, the Passat GTE interior is top notch. The features list however, is moderate – there is no sunroof or any electrical assistance for the front seats. However, it gets the new head-up display unit that shows navigation instructions and speed limits, apart from the driving speed itself. It also has a nice sounding music system and a digital instrument cluster that shows a navigation map like in the new Audis.
The space at the back is comparable with much larger luxury sedans – also despite the additional hybrid unit the batteries, the boot space of 650litres is large by every standard.
It is the powertrain that makes the GTE stand out – it uses a 1.4-litre petrol unit producing 150bhp and an electric motor tuned to produce another 112bhp. Although, the total output of theirs isn’t exactly an addition of the two, but it has healthy power rating of 215bhp and 400Nm.
These figures should make the Passat GTE one of the most powerful sedans in India under Rs 50 lakh, at the time of the launch. And then there are loads of benefits of having a hybrid electric system. Firstly, when the car is fully charged, it can do 50km as a pure electric vehicle, going up to 130kmph on the electric motor without any assistance from the petrol mill.
It seems ideal for everyday commute; most of us don’t have to travel over 50km in a day. Charge the car overnight and the daily run can probably be covered without burning fossil fuel – although the performance is affected by the traffic and usage of AC and driving style. I could manage only 34km with a heavy foot in the slow-moving Berlin traffic. But it is still one of the most stress-free ways of travelling with an absolutely silent cabin.
The electric motor and the engine work in tandem with each other in the hybrid model, providing sufficient performance. The best part is the even torque spread, which allows it to be super quick off the line.
All the fun however is in the GTE mode, the Passat can do 100kmph in under 7.5 seconds – that is quick enough for such a large car. Plus, with the DSG gearbox, it is easy being in the right gear to have enough power on tap. Plus, the acoustics change and the car that is generally silent, also makes great noise. The Passat may not be the best car to go howling around corners in, but it still does a pretty decent job. It has dynamic damping, which, when set to comfort offers a comfortable ride. But switch it to sports and the suspension is firm to provide enough traction through corners at high speed. The brakes work perfectly well, but the steering lacks feedback. It is precise and weighs up with speeds, but that is all one can expect from this unit.
There are various ways of charging the batteries of the Passat. The best way is to connect it to a power socket and it takes close to four and half hours to charge in normal conditions and little lesser if you have high speed charging. It can also charge off the brakes in the B mode on the gear lever – this means more rolling resistance and some amount of charging. Probably not the best way of doing things, but it makes life easier in traffic. Volkswagen allows charging the batteries off the engine; this does put load on the alternator and bring down the efficiency. But that is an easy way of charging the car over a long drive. Volkswagen offers eight years guarantee for the battery, covering a major span of the life of the car.
India doesn’t have ready infrastructure to support plug-in hybrid vehicles. The buyer will have to make arrangements for his own charging station at home or office, to charge the car. It seems extra efforts, but considering the benefits, it might still be worth it a while.