BERLIN – The E-Golf might have been the star attraction of Volkswagen’s recent “electrified!” e-mobility exhibition in Germany, but a chance to drive the GTE, a GTI-inspired plug-in hybrid that was first shown at the Geneva Show, was just too good to decline.
As opposed to its (electrically powered only) EV sibling, the E-Golf, the GTE has GTI-like exterior styling cues and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, racy blue stitching as well as tartan-patterned upholstery in its cabin… If the provocative BMW i8 can make its performance and efficiency appeal to minds as well as hearts – who’s to say this Golf can’t do the same?
Compared to the slick but unexciting one-speed auto of the E-Golf, the GTE offers the interactivity of a seven-speed DSG that makes the most of the combined output of 152 kW and 350 N.m produced by its 1,4-litre direct-injection petrol engine and the electric motor. The most impressive aspect is that the interaction between the motor and the engine is so seamless that it’s difficult to know which powerplant is dominating proceedings – the instrument binnacle denotes the combined system’s output in increments of 10.
Moreover, whereas the electric-only E-Golf’s range can be no further than 190 km from fully charged, its sibling’s capable of travelling 50 km at speeds of up to 130 km/h in electric mode only, but in hybrid mode it has a range of 939 km – well, at least in theory – and the claimed fuel consumption is a miserly 1,5 litres/100 km.
The GTE’s 8,8 kWh lithium-ion battery can be fully charged from flat in three-and-a-half hours (or two-and-a-half from a Volkswagen-supplied wallbox), but the electric cell pack makes the newcomer 200 kg heavier than the GTI even though it has the same torque output. That explains why the GTE takes a relatively leisurely 7,6 seconds to accelerate to 100 km/h before going on to a top speed of just over 210 km/h, but in practice, the GTE feels sufficiently brisk.
Overall, the GTE just seems a much more practical and desirable package than the E-Golf, especially as public-charging infrastructure in South Africa is still in its infancy. The cost of bringing the GTE’s technology to the local market, however, appears prohibitive – and the cause of plug-in hybrids, and not just those made by Volkswagen, is poorer for it. What a pity.
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTE
Engine: petrol-electric hybrid
Power: 152 kW (combined)
Torque: 350 N.m (combined)
0-100 km/h: 7,6 seconds
Top speed: 216 km/h (limited)
Fuel consumption: 1,5 L/100 km
CO2: 35 g/km
ETA: Not currently being considered for local market
*According to Volkswagen