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. 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. 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 …
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|MPG||25 City / 37 Hwy|
|Transmission||5-spd man w/OD|
|Power||170 @ 4500 rpm|
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