Volkswagen Highlights Golf GTE Plug-In Hybrid Ahead of Geneva

Not to be confused with Volkswagen’s “GTI,” the German automaker gave early billing ahead of the Geneva motor show today of its Euro-market GTE plug-in hybrid.

It’s a “GT” – like the “GTI” or ”GTD” hatchbacks – but with an “E” standing for “electric” – and this adds one more variant to the automaker’s nomenclature, but with similar sporty intentions.

Some of the GTE’s reported specs – like 31 miles all-electric range – appear to be knocking on the back door of the 38 miles the U.S. EPA says the Chevy Volt can do.

And the GTE’s combined rated fuel economy of “157 mpg” appears to knock that metric out of the park by around 50 percent more than the EPA’s “MPGe” figure for the Volt – but then these generous numbers come courtesy of the European NEDC cycle.

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According to Volkswagen of America’s Mark Gillies, the Euro cycle assumes the consumer will recharge the battery at 100 kilometers (62 miles) and the EPA does nothing of the sort.

This plus different simulated driving helps explain seemingly exaggerated performance in Europe – the plug-in hybrid gets to use more battery power than allowed by the feds.

And at this juncture these are all moot points for would-be American buyers.

Gillies said the Golf GTE is a European car for now, and while Volkswagen’s American colleagues were just discussing today how much Americans would want the GTE or not, the U.S. is not slated to get it.

“There are no plans at the moment for it to be sold here,” said Gillies today.

But if you want to know more to see whether you should write your congressman or petition VW to bring it stateside, we’ll proceed …

While the Europeans measure fuel economy and emissions differently, the GTE’s 0-62 mph (100 kph) time of 7.2 seconds is respectable, and last we heard, one “second” on the clock in Europe is the same duration as one second in America.

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This is quicker than the Volt’s perhaps nine seconds. It’s decent, but then again, a regular Toyota Camry Hybrid is close with 0-60 in 7.2 seconds.

But being an ostensible eco car powertrain placed in an ostensible hot(ter) hatchback body, the GTE is another variation that some consumers will no doubt welcome.

Its all-electric capability should make it perhaps a bit above or on par in electric range with the next-best-to-Volt plug-in variants, the Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi siblings which get 21 miles on the EPA cycle.

And the sporty chassis performance in the Golf GTE’s semi-hot-hatch configuration promises a different blend of ultimate gas-free economy with fun-to-drive aspects courtesy of “two engines” as the Volkswagen media statement officially puts it.

In American English, it actually has only one “engine” – a 1.4-liter, 148-horsepower TSI turbocharged gas burner merged with a 101-horsepower electric motor.

Total system horsepower is rated at 201, and torque is 258 pounds-feet — and yes this is correct that the sum of the two add up to less than the total, as the motor and gas engine hit their peaks at different points.

The gas engine and architecture is at least similar to that of the Jetta Hybrid’s, but the Jetta gets only a 27-horsepower electric motor and smaller battery with no plug-in capability.

The GTE’s electric motor receives power from an 8.8 kwh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery – around half the size of the Volt’s 16.5-kwh battery, but unknown is how much of the total nominal kilowatt-hours VW’s engineers use.

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The charge port is concealed behind the VW logo in the radiator grille.

The battery weighs about eight percent of the GTE’s 3,360-pound curb weight or 265 pounds, making it on the lighter side as plug-in cars with similar capabilities go.

Power for the GTE is routed through a six-speed DSG automatic transmission that VW says was developed specifically for hybrid vehicles.

Top speed is the 135 mph and all told, Volkswagen has a torquey powertrain planted into the familiar chassis and body of its latest generation Golf now built on the modular “MQB “ platform.

This flexible platform enables five powertrains, including gas, diesel, CNG, hybrid, and electric.

“This modular technology platform, initially introduced with the current Golf in 2012, is synonymous with an automotive revolution because Volkswagen engineers have created the prerequisites for a high-volume model, such as the Golf, to accept all drive types,” says VW of TSI (including GTI), TDI (including GTD), TGI (powered by CNG), e-Golf, and Golf GTE.

The rest of the car borrows heavily from the Golf family members with a few variations to set it apart, including info displays to monitor electrified performance.

Volkswagen has not stated a price or launch date even in Europe, Gillies said.

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That the U.S. will eventually get a plug-in hybrid of some sort is a near certainty, he said, as internally they’ve been talking about PHEVs for the over three years he’s been on staff.

“I would say we’re looking at plug in hybrid options,” he said without committing to what these might be.

Whether this be a Jetta version, or a Golf or some other is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile the U.S. will be getting an all-electric powertrain in the new Golf later this year.

Volkswagen is late to the electrification game, but has made strong statements, including plans for being the top global automaker in just a few years.

Electrification is part of the master plan, so stay tuned.