VW Golf GTE: Driven (briefly)

As Harris mentioned in his review of the epic McLaren P1, "torque fill" is a phrase we're going to be hearing an awful lot in the future - and the filling phenomenon is already trickling down from half a mil-plus hypercars to 'attainable' family hatchbacks.

Like a McLaren P1, just a bit more practical...
Like a McLaren P1, just a bit more practical...
Cue the VW Golf GTE: 204hp and 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds comes from 'just' a 1.4-litre TSI petrol turbo, helped out by a 102hp electric motor.

This also means lots of torque - 258lb ft, in fact - coincidentally the same as the Mk7 GTI. With a healthy chunk available instantly from the e-motor giving you a decent kick in the kidneys, it means this shopping car engine Golf is bordering on GTI performance.

Alright, it's 1.6 seconds slower than a DSG-equipped GTI to 62mph, but in e-mode at part throttle, it feels plenty urgent.

Rolling out onto the apron at Berlin's disused Tempelhof airport, pushing the throttle to the stop activates the kick down switch, which brings the 1.4 unit buzzing into life. It's a smooth and seamless transition even on this pre-production development mule (although it looked suspiciously polished and like a finished car to us), but with some steering lock on and that instant twist available from the e-motor, the front axle doesn't get an easy ride.

We've got GTI and GTD - time for another
We've got GTI and GTD - time for another
Without the Tarmac-chomping VAQ diff of the GTI Performance, the fronts scrabble for grip on the exit of tighter second-gear stuff as the traction control does its best to contain the current-fed torque.

Straighten up and back off the gas and the petrol motor cuts out, bringing you back to silent wafting, with the potential to achieve up to a provisional 188mpg, emitting just 35g/km CO2, according to Vee-dub.

There is a 'cure' though. Stab at the button marked 'GTE' next to the familiar selector for the triple-clutch six-speed DSG 'box (to do with how the hybrid unit integrates) and the TSI motor operates continuously, while the steering weight is beefed up and more noise piped into the cabin.

It's not all tree-hugging worthiness, thankfully
It's not all tree-hugging worthiness, thankfully
Now you've got the full hit all the time, and the extra effort needed to turn-in (not too much though, but still unfortunately lacking steering feel) means you're more at home pushing the car harder.

Select the plug-in Golf's 'B' mode and confidence grows a stage further. The electric motor's regenerative effect is ramped up, meaning not only do you get more deceleration, but more energy pumped back into the battery to deploy on the other side of the corner, too. The extra retardation is noticeable, and could be the difference between hitting an apex or gravel trap on a track day if you misjudge your braking point.

Overall though, the GTE still doesn't feel like a GTI. It's duller and less agile through quick direction changes - possibly due to the lack of any clever systems at the front, possibly due to the extra 150kg of mass from the 120kg battery pack and some associated systems.

Electrical assistance comes to hot hatches
Electrical assistance comes to hot hatches
We're not surprised, as the GTE is about performance and efficiency, so some concessions to a more environmental driving style have to be made. In fact, it's more akin to the GTD: performance and efficiency, yet again.

However, if we have to have our hot hatches served up with a 'green' side salad in the future, it might not be such a bad thing. If VW can tweak it for even more performance, the GTE has plenty of potential.


1,395cc 4-cyl turbo, gearbox-mounted electric motor
Transmission: 6-speed triple-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 150hp 1.4 TSI, 102hp electric motor, 204hp combined total output
Torque (lb ft): 258
0-62mph: 7.6 sec
Top speed: 138mph
Weight: 1,520kg
MPG: 188mpg (VW provisional claims)
CO2: 35g/km CO2 (VW provisional claims)
Price: £28,250 (estimated)


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Comments (99) Join the discussion on the forum

  • oilit 31 Mar 2014

    My first 1st post laugh

    sounds interesting.

    But if it has regenerative braking then presumably one could leave it in that mode and not have to plug it in (like a prius?) - if so VW could sell a lot of these.

    Edited by oilit on Monday 31st March 09:16

  • MycroftWard 31 Mar 2014

    188mpg? yikes

  • cianha 31 Mar 2014

    It's not mutually exclusive, that's the beauty of a system like this. PHEV, EREV, or just a 1.4 Golf with a big battery, it's a good way to appeal to a broad variety of buyers with a single vehicle.

    I wonder how well it has overcome the pitfalls of that other sporting hybrid the CR-Z?

  • matpilch 31 Mar 2014

    1,520kg ? eek

  • V8A*ndy 31 Mar 2014

    I have a concern about these new breed of hybrids that the engine suddenly kicks in when you need the power.

    Have engineers suddenly solved the problem of racing a cold engine or does the engine run from time to time like a sort of standby mode?

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