Volkswagen Passat

Estate GTE

Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, action front 2
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, action front
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, action side
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, action rear
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, dash detail
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, static rear
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, rear seats
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, front seats
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, dashboard
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE, boot

YOU'D be forgiven for thinking this load lugging version of Volkswagen's biggest family car has a split personality.

Is it a spacious estate? Well, a glance at the sizeable machine in front of you answers that one instantly. Yes, there's room for five and an awful lot of luggage.

Is it a GT, as the badges seems to promise? You know, something with a bit of a kick when you put your foot down. Well, 'sort of' might be the answer to that one, as we'll see in a moment.

Or is it a car that adds electric power to stretch the economy of its petrol engine and save the planet a little bit? Sorry, but 'sort of' is the answer here too.

Your considerable outlay - this car came with a modest selection of extras that bumped the price to more than £45,000 before deducting the £2,500 green car government grant - might buy you a car that costs hardly anything to run.

For this state of motoring bliss you'll need a daily commute of no more than 15 miles each way, as the Passat GTE will manage up to 31 miles on a full charge of the big battery buried beneath the rear seat.

Topping up takes four hours and 15 minutes from a standard wall plug - about half that using a specially fitted wall box. An empty battery should cost less than £1 to replenish and you can programme the car to charge on low cost electricity during the night - and heat the interior before you jump aboard.

You'll laugh at the London congestion charge, pay no road tax (until April when the tax system changes) and make your company accountant a happy person if the car is used for the business.

But (and there was going to a be a but, wasn't there?) stray far from the battery's range without a recharge and the economy graph tilts downwards pretty quickly.

The 166mpg quoted for the official average figure is a nonsense, a quirk of the rigid test procedure and nothing VW could do anything about. After 464 miles and three battery refills the car showed 49mpg on its dash readout.

Or about what you'd manage with a diesel engine doing the work. That would cost much less to purchase - many thousands less - but would cost more on tax and business use.

Is the GTE a real stab at GT motoring? Well, there's a button on the centre console that puts the car into sporty mode, which brings petrol and current into play at the same time, firms the steering and produces a sporty throb from beneath the bonnet.

The car then flies, feeling genuinely brisk, but do that for not very long and the battery will cry 'enough' and you're back to petrol only and a car that might as well be a diesel.

Quieter than a diesel, though. At walking pace in electric mode the car is near silent, up the speed and tyre and wind noise makes it only a little more peaceful than with the petrol engine helping out. Very refined though, whatever you're doing.

Volkswagen obviously wants to give its electrical assist Passat an upmarket feel and pulls it off with panache.

This is a very well specified car, with standout features including the best (LED) headlights I've ever driven behind, cruise control that slows you to a halt in city traffic, leather trim, big alloy wheels and a clear and easily programmed sat nav system.

FAST FACTS

Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE

Price: £39,480

Mechanical: 215bhp, 1,395cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 140mph

0-62mph: 7.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 166

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 40 g/km

Bik rating: 7%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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