When Volkswagen revealed its Golf GTE Sport Plug-In concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, it presented a much different car than the similarly named concept that debuted last year.
The gasoline engine is bigger, two larger electric motors replace the single motor and horsepower has jumped from a combined output of 201 horsepower, to a total of 395 horsepower. The new Golf GTE Sport also features a more chiseled look over the previous plug-in concept, which was simply called the Golf GTE.
On Volkswagen’s new concept, top performance is achieved by switching into “GTE Mode.” This engages all three power sources: the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine (with 295 horsepower) and the front-and rear-mounted electric motors, each adding 113 horsepower to the equation. With this setup, the Golf GTE Sport eclipses its predecessor with a 0 to 62 mph time of 4.3 seconds (in comparison to 7.2 seconds) and a top speed of 174 mph.
Power can be dialed down by switching back to the standard hybrid mode, or you can maximize the car’s efficiency in the all-electric “E-Mode.” The Golf GTE Sport’s emission-free range is estimated at 31 miles, which is the same as last year’s. The combined fuel efficiency, however, has dropped. In 2014, the Golf GTE was rated with 157 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), while the new concept is rated at 118 MPGe. It should be noted that both ratings were measured with the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which typically posts higher fuel economy ratings than the EPA.
The Golf GTE Sport is also stylistically a distant cousin to the current Golf, with VW hinting that design elements from this concept may be integrated into future Golf models. Besides the engine, which was adapted from a version used in the World Rally Championship, VW has added a few other race car-inspired touches. Paddle shifters are mounted on a motorsport-esque steering wheel, and both seats (oddly separated into their own compartments) feature the stiffer bolstering of a racing bucket seat and five-point harnesses.
In essence, Volkswagen’s Golf GTE concept has been transformed from a sensible plug-in that offered similar power and fuel efficiency to other PHEVs on the market, to a sporty hybrid. This boost in performance and corresponding decrease in efficiency may make the Golf GTE Sport, if it ever goes into production, a less practical option for more buyers. This could potentially translate into less units sold than if VW had kept the more economically (though less sexy) earlier Golf GTE concept.