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Volkswagen Passat GTE 2015 review: Get plugged in

By Roger St Pierre with Hazel Kempster

Way back in the 1939s when Dr Ferdinand ‘Ferry’ Porsche designed the original Volkswagen Beetle, his brief was simply to bring affordable if basic motoring to the masses.

In the decades since then, VW has massively expanded and broadened its operations, not only taking ownership of the Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands and knocking at the doors of Porsche but encompassing within its own growing range such diverse offerings as the UIp1 and Fox city cars, the Tiguan, Touran and Taureg SUVs, the massively popular Golf and the Phaeton luxury limousine.

Sandwiched in the middle of that lot is the Mondeo-sized Passat, originally conceived as a pretty standard rep-mobile / family car but today, at the top of its offerings, knocking at the doors of the executive sector.

It’s always been a handsome beast and in its latest guise it punches far above its weight in the exterior looks department, though the interior is a tad bland.

We've just spent a thoroughly pleasant week on local country roads enjoying the GTE version’s spacey interior, safe and sure imprint and responsive handling but the most important item in its trick bag centres on this well-sorted German car’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol / electric plug-in power plant, which provides outstandingly frugal fuel consumption figures and very low emissions.

A truly astonishing 176-mpfg is said to be obtainable in the combined cycle. According to VW, a range of 622 miles is attainable on a full charge – and this from a car that can also blitz from 0-62 mph in just over seven seconds and has a 140-mph top speed.

Driving this lot, the batteries are set under the rear passenger seat so they do not impinge on boot space. Full re-charge from flat takes around four-hours but the car can be run on petrol only mode until a suitable time arises for charging – overnight for example.

In electric mode, the car is silky-smooth and almost dangerously quiet running, only tyre noise warning errant pedestrians of its approach.

There’s a heck of a lot of advanced technology involved in the GTE, and that doesn’t come cheaply but while £37,500 is a lot to stump up, for high mileage motorists the savings on fuel costs soon overtake the payout for purchase.

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