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Electric Feel

Text by Desmond Chan, sgCarMart

This is the Volkswagen Golf GTE, one of the brand's hybrid offerings. Whilst we had driven a pre-production model in 2014, this particular car you see here is the updated 2017 model of the production car being sold in Europe right now.


Blue elect

When you first approach the car, everything looks very familiar - the Golf silhouette and design language is instantly recognisable. In our eyes, that's a good thing - the Golf is a handsome and understated car that has consistently stood up well to the test of time.

In terms of its visual outlook, the GTE actually shares it's the same fascia as the new mk7.5 GTI, complete with the aggressive front bumper and air intakes. The defining difference is the C-shaped LED lights around either air intake, perhaps to highlight the car's electrified nature.

If you've driven a recent VW before, everything on the inside is exactly where you expect it to be. The most telling sign that the GTE is different is the fact that everything is just blue-er than usual. The key updates for this car include the Active Info Display, as well as the Composition Media radio system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which ditches tactile buttons for a fully digital infotainment experience.

At this point, then, nothing out of the ordinary.


Electric push

It is when you hit the Engine Start button that the first signs of something unordinary appear - there's no sound at all. The 75kW electric motor in the Golf GTE allows the car to cover up to 50km in full-electric mode, and the car always starts in this 'EV Mode'. This is great for city driving, where you are usually pottering around at low speeds. Whilst not fast, there's sufficient push from the electric motor for sensible city driving.

Engage 'Hybrid' mode and the electric motor gets coupled together to the 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine to produce a total of 201bhp. Driving along the country roads around Wolfsburg, the hybrid drivetrain is smooth and responsive - it's quite easy to forget that the GTE is a hybrid because the driving experience is not dissimilar to your normal Golf. The ride is pliant and forgiving on the Autobahn or normal roads, and well-sorted enough for you to have confidence to chuck it into some bends.

The updated Golf GTE also has something called 'predictive hybrid strategy'. It uses sat-nav and GPS data to recognise the route topography and adjusts the hybrid strategy for ascending/descending roads, highways as well as towns. The car effectively adapts to your surroundings - it will use more of the TSI engine while doing 120km/h on the Autobahn, and switch to just electric drive as you enter a small town.


Electric rush

The party trick of the Golf GTE (and the Passat GTE as well) is the 'GTE Mode'. Hit the 'GTE' button and the odometer on the Active Info Display transforms, changing from a dial that has an electric zone before the rpm numbers to a traditional looking one that runs from zero to eight.

In this said mode, you get maximum attack from both motors. On the odometer, you can tell when the electric motor is being used to fill up gaps in the torque curve and boost the car (up to 350Nm of torque becomes available), as the needle climbs up the rev counter. Driven as such, the Golf GTE certainly feels punchy and rather exciting.

The sharper throttle and steering response also allows for a more dynamic driving experience, allowing you to attack corners with aplomb. We daresay it has a hot hatch quality about it - it feels chuckable, lively and interesting to drive. It doesn't have the handling quality and feel of a GTI (the steering is on the lighter side), but it's not that far off.


Electric buzz

The Golf GTE is certainly an interesting car. You could think of it as a GTI-lite - it's got good pace, a fun drivetrain, dynamic handling, and a comfortable ride. What it lacks in boisterous noise, it makes up for in efficiency and respectful silence.

What is really intriguing about the Golf GTE is that you can see why people would take to this car - it takes a very good and sensible hatchback (the Golf), and electrifies it to give it a little bit more. More power, more range, more choices.

But perhaps what's most intriguing about the GTE is the fact that it's unlikely to make its way to Singapore - the changes to the VES system mean that manufacturers don't know how hybrid cars will be taxed, and the electric infrastructure in Singapore is still in its nascent stages.

What we're really trying to say is that the Golf GTE is so damn intriguing because as good as the car feels, most of us will probably never ever get to drive it and will never get to really find out.

Read the original article here.

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