VW Golf GTE put to the test: Silent, but fast... and expensive
For the new Golf GTE, VW promises the earth: emissions and noise-free city driving, sustained and powerful over long distances. We put it to the test.
It's just as well that the VW Golf GTE test car does away with additional XXL letters on the sides, which on the otherwise completely inconspicuous Audi A3 e-tron provide information regarding the drive system in all too striking a manner. Instead, the plug-in hybrid from Wolfsburg clothes itself in the sporting attire of a Golf GTI, but with a modified front panel, LED headlamps and blue stripes in the radiator grill instead of red, along with a different interior and upholstery. And a price tag that will make you wince when you first see it: 36,900 Euros for a compact four-door with a system output of 204 bhp is a big ask – 5,400 Euros more than the comparable GTI with 220 bhp and DSG, 2,000 Euros more than an e-Golf and just 2,325 Euros less than a Golf R with 300 bhp and all-wheel drive.No negatives with regard to range
The 1,000-Euro saving compared to the somewhat larger, but practically technically identical A3 Sportback e-tron, is less consolation than the promise that according to VW, the GTE is a "zero-emission vehicle, sports car and long-distance vehicle at the same time". For like its corporate brother, the 75 kW electric engine enables silent, emissions-free driving over shorter distances, while on the other hand the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with its 150 bhp offers brisk motorway travel and a total range of up to 940 kilometres in spite of the fuel tank capacity having be reduced from 50 to 40 litres (factory specifications). Even though the VW Golf GTE did not get quite so far when put to the test (electric 45, total 829 km), in this respect there are no concessions to be made compared to normal cars with combustion engines.
The VW Golf GTE can accelerate up to 130 km/h in E-Mode
Nor are there any concessions to be made in everyday use, since the GTE is first and foremost a golf. With the exception of the charging of the 8.8 kWh battery – which charges fully at the mains outlet in five hours, via Wallbox in two hours and 15 minutes, according to the manufacturer – there are no additional tasks to be performed, only possibilities. As such, the driver can stipulate via the menu whether he wants to use, sustain or increase the battery capacity, so as to be able to drive in regulated environmental areas at a later stage. Or he can use E-Mode to transform the VW Golf GTE into a purely electric vehicle. In so doing, the 330 Nm of torque of the electric vehicle for smooth and even acceleration up to a maximum of 130 km/h with very moderate power consumption (16.6 kWh/100 km).
The VW Golf GTE sprints to a speed of 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds
On the other hand, with a press of the GTE button, the hybrid shows off its sporty side, whereby the adaptive DCC chassis (865 Euros) noticeably tightens the suspension, the TSI petrol engine changes to a sharper tonality and pace and the dual clutch transmission, provided as standard, only engages the next gear at higher speeds. Thus, the VW Golf GTE with the extra battery in the rear, which even when empty weighs 1,572 kg, lunges eagerly into quick, alternating corners, storms from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds thanks to the Electro-Boost feature, and in so doing makes the traction control work up a sweat on dry road surfaces. Only at 217 km/h does it give up and let down the sails.
Speaking of "sailing": in the standard program driving is of course more appropriate, relaxed and efficient when the power electronics can freely select the most efficient mode from between Recuperation, E-Drive, Sailing (coasting with no energy being consumed) and Combustion mode. The transition generally takes place smoothly and inconspicuously, but is not always void of vibrations and tremors. Otherwise the VW Golf GTE makes little fuss regarding its sophisticated technology, and delights with well-polished manners, intuitive operation and a high level of driving safety with flexible comfort.Strong competition
However, this applies for any Golf and hardly has potential customers rushing to pull out their credit cards. Even the low maintenance costs can never compensate for the considerable price hike, and the lighter and more agile GTI and GTD are simply more convincing than the promised sports car. But perhaps a dynamic hybrid such as the VW Golf GTE is actually in keeping with the times, as it not only has two hearts, but also two souls.Is the VW Golf GTE the better GTI?
With a sporty finish and a system output of 204 bhp, the new plug-in hybrid VW Golf GTE breaches into the territory of the GTI – does it define the modern art of driving pleasure? Let's see.
Is there anyone who has tried there hand at modifying the Golf who then hasn't ultimately decided that it is best just left alone? The same applies for the GTI - once planned as the 5,000 special series - which has now long been recognised as a brand in itself. And should the VW Golf GTE now take its place? Certainly not, and not jut because VW has shown no interest in it taking over. But because, as well as having almost 200 additional kilos on its bones, the GTE also has the burden of having to satisfy both sports drivers and eco-activists.
The VW Golf GTE will therefore never have the latter fully on its side, as the pure electrically powered e-Golf still exists and a system output of more than 200 bhp is far out of reach for it. GTI fans on the other hand would rather pay the 1,150 Euros extra for the Performance version with ten bhp more, than pay 5,400 Euros for an additional electric motor, and one that is completely silent to boot. For the two-litre turbo simply sounds fierce, shooting a burst of sound from each exhaust with each press on the accelerator. And yes, it simply drives better, revving up voraciously and signalling in all seriousness that it too likes to play sometimes.
The VW Golf GTE appears, on the other hand, to focus its sporting ambition not on achieving fast times, but on achieving the longest range and gliding forward with one eye on the future. And when urged to show more enthusiasm with a press of the Sport button, the 1.4 TSI sounds anxious rather than enthused. In spite of having, by and large, the same equipment, with an adaptive chassis, progressive steering and sports seats with good support, the GTI is also more than just a touch more agile, more neutral and more direct, not to mention having a better temperament.
However, it shouldn't be forgotten that what was once considered to be something of a wild beast has now arrived in the civil, middle-class sphere. And in such circles people like to come across as green – even if the VW Golf GTE comes with blue stripes.
Date9 February 2015