First Drive

First Drive: Volkswagen Passat GTE

The story:
A revision to one of VW’s fleet flagships brings advanced tech and the return of the plug-in hybrid version.
Category:Upper Medium
Key rival:Peugeot 508
On sale:Now

It would be an easy mistake to make to dismiss this mid-life refresh of the VW Passat as a minor update where nothing more than the bumpers have changed. In fact there is a lot going on beneath the surface with clever new technology and the return of the GTE plug-in hybrid version that is expected to have an increasingly important role in the range.

First Drive- December 2019- Volkswagen Passat GTE- Image 2Prior to its disappearance more than a year ago as a consequence of the move to the new WLTP testing system, the GTE accounted for around a tenth of Passat registrations. A combination of improvements to the car, a price reduction, tax changes making PHEVs even more appealing and better availability means that will jump to around 25% in the new line-up.

Changes include the battery-only range rising by more than a third to an official 34 miles, while the price drops by around £2300. The CO2 figure sits at 39g/km, which means a 40% taxpayer will hand over £216 per month on this top-spec GTE Advance Estate, dropping to £162 from April 2020. That compares with £312, rising to £323 next April, on a 150hp diesel SEL spec. It’s clear to see why VW is predicting that 25% sales figure.

First Drive- December 2019- Volkswagen Passat GTE- Image 4The downside is the cost, with that 150hp diesel SEL estate being more than £7000 cheaper than the GTE, although the whole-life cost is lower on the plug-in thanks to the tax and fuel savings, as well as the residual value being higher.

But there’s more to the Passat update than the resurgent GTE plug-in model. All cars get the latest adaptive cruise control that uses the navigation and camera systems to automatically adjust speed for bends, junctions and permanent or temporary changes to limits. The Lane Assist system, also standard on all models, now recognises kerbs and grass verges, and the steering wheel now registers a driver’s touch, so doesn’t require movements to know the user is holding the wheel while the lane assist is operating. Wireless app connectivity also means drivers don’t need to plug their phone into the car using a USB cable, and the infotainment screen itself is now a smarter-looking affair.


paul barker

The verdict

A broader update than it may first appear, the big-selling fleet model takes a step up in terms of technology and usability, while the GTE plug-in hybrid’s influence, especially as it’s offered as an estate, will only grow thanks to its improvements and increased relevance.