GENEVA -- Following in the footsteps of the turbocharged VW GTI and the turbodiesel VW GTD is the newly announced plug-in hybrid Volkswagen GTE. Like its Golf GT siblings, this high-performance hatchback makes about 200 horsepower but distinguishes itself with a claim of up to 130 mpg.
Under the GTE's familiar hood are two powerplants working in tandem. The first is a 1.4-liter TSI engine that generates 148 horsepower by combusting turbocharged, force-fed air with direct-injected gasoline. On the other side of the engine bay are the bright orange cables that feed electricity to a 101-horsepower electric motor that has been integrated into the housing of the GTE's version of the automaker's six-speed DSG automatic transmission.
The motor is powered by a high-voltage 8.8kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery in the rear hatch. That 265-pound battery pack and its support systems are the reason that the GTE's 3,360-pound curb weight is higher than European 2015 GTI's stated 3,020 pounds.
Total system power is stated at 201 horsepower, which is close to that of the 210-horsepower 2015 GTI and the 180-horsepower GTD. Total system torque is stated at 258 pound-feet of torque, matching the GTI's output but falling short of the diesel GTD's 280 pound-feet. With both engines working harmoniously, the GTE has a top speed of 135 mph and will hit 62 mph along the way in just 7.6 seconds, 1.1 seconds slower than the GTI, but neck-and-neck with the GTD's 7.5 second estimate.
Though the GTE's performance should come within spitting distance of its siblings, the plug-in hybrid stands apart from the other GT Golfs where fuel economy is concerned. A fully-charged GTE can be driven up to 31 miles at up to 81 mph in all-electric mode before the 1.4-liter TSI engine needs to kick in to motivate the hatchback and help recharge the battery pack. Driven with a light foot and taking maximum advantage of the hybrid system, Volkswagen reckons that the 2015 GTE will reach a combined fuel economy of 157 mpg on the European driving cycle. That roughly translates to 130 US mpg, though our testing cycle is different.
When it's time to park, the driver can plug into a charging port hidden behind the front VW badge to recharge the battery pack in about 2.5 hours from a fast-charging station or about 3.5 hours from a standard wall outlet.
Volkswagen plans to roll out the 2015 GTE plug-in hybrid later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.