2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE front view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE rear view
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE side detail
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE badge
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE engine
  • Image Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE interior
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE charge gauge
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE navigation system
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE shifter
  • Image Credit: Basem Wasef
  •   Engine
    Turbo 1.4L I4 + Electric Motor
  •   Power
    201 HP / 258 LB-FT
  •   Transmission
    6-Speed DCT
  •   0-60 Time
    7.6 Seconds
  •   Top Speed
    135 MPH
  •   Drivetrain
    Front-Wheel Drive
  •   Engine Placement
    Front
  •   Curb Weight
    3,360 LBS
  •   Seating
    2+3
  •   Cargo
    41.0 CU-FT (max)
  •   MPG
    157 MPGe (NEDC)
  •   Base Price
    €36,900
  •   As Tested Price
    €41,085
  •  
For the past few years I've enjoyed a simple automotive tradition: When planning a European vacation, I request a relatively attainable loaner car that's unavailable in the States. These slices of can't-get-it-at-home automotive exotica have tended to be clean diesels, and experiencing them in their native habitat ahead of their US debuts often gives some form of four-wheeled revelation.

For instance, before the mainstream emergence of clean diesels stateside, I racked up 1,500 miles on a then-brand-new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI. The otherwise unassuming sedan enabled me to cannonball from the South of France to Barcelona on a single tank of fuel, while delivering satisfying torque around town and averaging 41 mpg. The following year, I bombed through the Italian Alps in a Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI, which eked a claimed 17 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor. Once again, I was in car guy heaven, returning home with nothing but praise for these efficient, entertaining diesels that seemed to defy conventional wisdom.

And then came the Volkswagen scandal, single-handedly besmirching so-called clean diesels and everything they purported to represent. With a European pleasure trip around the corner (and a request for a press car pending with VW), I wondered what would be waiting for me curbside when I touched down at Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE

The GTE packs what is essentially an Audi A3 E-Tron beneath its familiar skin.

Enter The High Performance Hybrid

Volkswagen, quite understandably, didn't want to arm a journalist with potentially damning commentary about the technology that has already inspired environmental outrage and the ousting of CEO Martin Winterkorn. For the automaker in peril (and the auto writer in waiting), I soon discovered that the 'clean' diesel elephant in the room would be supplanted with a vehicle that could single-handedly deflect controversy. My loaner? A still-can't-get-it-back-home alternative to diesel, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid.

First off, let me admit to some prejudicial bias against the GTE. Maybe it's my personal views on hybrids, tainted by the eco self-righteousness exuded by their drivers back home, and epitomized by teeming swarms of Prius drivers who couldn't give a single damn about driving. Or maybe it's the added weight and complexity of a hybrid drivetrain that runs counter to my petrol-loving soul. Either way, my loaner was more than just a loaner this time around; it was a statement by a company in crisis, an answer to a question I never expected to ask.

Would this – could this – curiously timed hybrid win me over? I piled my travel companions into its Tartan-trimmed interior and merged onto the Autostrada in search of an answer.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE

The drivetrain is capable of delivering a diesel-like range of up to 584 miles.

What Lies Beneath

The GTE builds upon the Volkswagen Golf underpinnings, packing what is essentially an Audi A3 E-Tron beneath its familiar skin. The functionality of a few of the car's conventional features accommodate its future-friendly powertrain. Sure, there's the usual nav screen-based graphical interfaces and an analog EV output/regen meter that resembles a tachometer. But beneath that is a miniscule engine rpm gauge for the 1.4-liter, turbocharged, 148 horsepower TSI engine. The standard-looking Volkswagen badge on the front grille also flips open to reveal a charging receptacle. Running on pure electrons, 3.5 hours of charging from a home outlet can draw 31 miles of EV-only range (that time drops to about two hours if you're using a 220-volt wall charger). Working in conjunction with the tiny gas engine, the drivetrain is capable of delivering a diesel-like range of up to 584 miles. See what they did there?

In any case, the GTE pulls a total of 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feeet of torque from its gas and electric powertrain, enabling a respectable 0-62 time of 7.6 seconds – a tad behind the GTI's published 6.5-second figure. For what it's worth, the liquid cooled, 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery makes up eight percent of the GTE's 3,360-pound curb weight, which is 275 pounds heavier than the GTI.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE

In contrast to the eco purity of electric-only mode, it's nice to know this Golf can go all-out in GTW mode.

On The Road: Mixed Metaphors

My GTE drive started off in electric-only mode, which can power the small hatchback to speeds of up to 81 mph. While quiet and smooth, tackling Italy's high-speed Autostrada in EV mode with five occupants and trunk full of luggage depleted the battery rather quickly. The system tends to stay in EV mode under hard throttle (which is good). Still, a lead-footed driving style will trigger the tiny tachometer and some good-old fashioned internal combustion assistance under kickdown, which you're likely to encounter during strategic left lane passes. The 1.4-liter engine joins the propulsion party rather smoothly, thanks in part to a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission that's tuned specifically for hybrid duty. Electric mode resumes with a fairly seamless transition. When you're back in EV mode, the paddle shifters can be used to simulate engine braking (which also generates more regenerative, battery charging power). One downside of the hybrid setup is the throttle and braking delicacy required during tight parking maneuvers; it's easy to misjudge pedal effort and lurch ahead or brake too hard when sliding into a parking spot.

Driving up the hill to our rented villa revealed satisfying torque from the union of gas and electric power, though the GTE also felt hunkered down in the corners due to its loaded up mass. This heavier Golf is a tad less nimble than its all-gas counterpart, especially when carrying a full load. The clincher? Pressing the center console-mounted GTE button creates livelier acceleration, more aggressive regen, and slightly heavier steering. You can toss that 157 mpg figure (according to New European Driving Cycle standards) out the window with the more aggressive GTE mode. But in contrast to the eco purity of electric-only mode, it's nice to know this Golf can go all-out when you want it to.

It's a useful, well-made thing, too. When you set aside arguments about performance versus economy, the hybridized Golf remains a triumph of packaging. It offers surprising interior volumetric capacity, good outward visibility, and doors that shut with a feeling of solidity.

It's a better, more effective vehicle than you might think it is, and it's surprisingly not available in the US yet.

Deconstructing The Clean Diesel Myth

My time with the Volkswagen GTE stirred mixed feelings in the post-VW scandal world. On one hand, this plug-in hybrid offered more driving satisfaction than I thought it would, especially in GTE mode (though with compromised efficiency). Electric-only mode also had its own charms, providing the same quiet, seamless acceleration you'd get from a fully-fledged EV. Loaded up with options like adaptive cruise control and a self-parking feature, my GTE came equipped with enough features to make it seem versatile and comfortable for almost anything.

At the end of the day, my quibbles with the GTE were more philosophical than anything else. The VW triggered thoughts and observations deeply seated in the mythology established by the clean diesel cognoscenti, which might soon be rendered obsolete by the backlash against the scandalized automaker. Do I prefer a single internal combustion diesel engine as a power source, as opposed to the gas-electric solution? Yes. Diesels still make the driver feel inextricably linked to the driving experience in a visceral way, connecting throttle and brakes to the road in a straightforward, linear manner. The complexity of a hybrid arrangement takes away from that elemental nature, though there is something to be said about the ability to glide along silently in EV mode, almost completely eschewing the need for internal combustion and tailpipe gases.

I still miss the impossible promise of a torquey diesel with ultra-low emissions. But in this post-scandal world, alternatives to clean diesels must be explored. The Volkswagen Golf GTE is an intriguing little car, one whose dual personality addresses a broad swath of concerns around the environment and driving enjoyment. It's a better, more effective vehicle than you might think it is, and it's surprisingly not available in the US yet. For a company whose missteps will likely cost billions of dollars to correct, Volkswagen could do worse than to bring the GTE Stateside. It won't fix the past, but it can, and hopefully will, offer a new alternative for the future.

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE Park-Assist | Autoblog Short Cuts

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • From Our Partners

    You May Like
    Links by Zergnet
    2017 Volkswagen Golf
    MSRP: $19,895 - $27,995
    2016 Volkswagen Golf
    MSRP: $18,495 - $27,425
    2015 Volkswagen Golf
    MSRP: $17,995 - $28,395
    2014 Volkswagen Golf
    MSRP: $19,995 - $25,200
    2013 Volkswagen Golf
    MSRP: $18,095 - $25,200
    Cars for Sale Near You

    Share This Photo X