2015 Volkswagen Passat range launched

VOLKSWAGEN launched its new Passat range at the 2014 Paris Motor Show - starring the GTE, a new plug-in hybrid version - but stole its own thunder with the Ducati-powered XL Sport concept car.

The new Passat may be less exciting, and can hardly be called a bold departure from the car it replaces, but its GTE variant gives it a powerful halo car in terms of technology.

VW claims the Passat GTE is not just an incredible fuel miser, with a fuel figure of 1.7 litres per 100km and emissions of 37 grams per km, but also a proper Grand Tourer.

Indeed, the GTE is claimed to have three distinct personalities: its gliding, electric-only mode, which will take you up to 50km and provides the instant torque associated with EVs; a comfortable, long-distance tourer with a combined range of 1000km off a single tank; and the third, accessed by pressing the GTE button, is when the driving pleasure kicks in.

In this mode, the 1.4-litre TSI’s 115kW is given a boost from the electric motor’s 85kW and 330Nm (for a combined output of 160kW and 400Nm).

Steering and throttle responses are also sharpened  and VW claims it will “sprint” to 100km/h in less than eight seconds, with a top speed of 219km/h, not bad for such an eco car.

The GTE will be available from launch in both sedan and estate variants and Wheels will be driving it next week. Stay tuned for our first impressions.

The slinky XL Sport, based on the company’s “technology beacon”, the 1.0-litre plug-in hybrid XL1, is one of the big stars of the show.

It has taken an unexciting but  admittedly very clever car - the XL1 had a slippery co-efficient of drag, highly efficient aerodynamics and a fuel figure of just 0.8 of a litre per 100km - and turned it into a potential rocketship with the addition of an engine from one of the many companies grouped under the VW umbrella, legendary Italian motorcycle maker Ducati.

The lightweight and noticeably narrow-cabined concept gets the world’s strongest two-cylinder engine, from the Ducati Panigale Superleggera, which revs all the way to 11,000rpm and makes 145kW.

Perhaps more than anything else, Ducatis are famed for the fabulous noises they make, and this car sounds like one of its famous bikes, making it quite unique.

This is the kind of brand synergy - along with putting the V10 from Lamborghini into an Audi R8 - that makes the VW Group so strong.

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