It’s been an interesting week to say the least.
I found myself driving a Volkswagen Passat after VW stepped in at the last minute when I stupidly realised I hadn’t booked a car.
That’s right, a boring old Passat, and this one wasn’t even an estate.
Surely the only reason people drive a Passat is because the estate is as big as Canada.
That’s why it outsells the saloon version by two to one.
But no, beggars can’t be choosers so I got lumped with a saloon.
And what an an eye-opener it turned out to be. It was absolutely Fantastic.
With a capital F.
Actually, maybe beggars can be choosers after all, because out of the eight different variants of Passat – SE, SE Nav, SEL, R-Line, Alltrack, GTE and GTE Advance – I got the one I wanted.
“Is there a hybrid version,” I asked, knowing how fuel efficient they are and that I was going to take it on a 650-mile return trip from Essex to North Wales to see my brother.
Well the “interesting” week I mentioned earlier didn’t quite happen as I intended.
Two weeks before it arrived I woke up in the middle of the night fighting for breath.
Every pitiful, minimal, painful gasp I managed to draw was agony. My throat was so inflamed I thought I was going to die.
By the time the Passat arrived the trip to North Wales was definitely off, as was everything else I’d planned.
I’ve still got the remains of whatever I had, but at least I can think again.
The Passat in question turned out to be a top spec GTE Advance and it wasn’t just a hybrid, it was a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, in other words a PHEV.
As its battery was drained after its near 100 mile journey from Milton Keynes to my house, the first thing I did was to plug it in.
Well, almost first thing. That was to try to find the car’s electric socket.
The second thing I did was to phone VW to ask where it was.
It’s hidden in a pop-out section of the radiator grille which is impossible to spot unless you know it’s there.
The third thing I did was to put my extension lead in a shed near the front of the house and the fourth thing I did was to plug it in.
After five hours of charging, the Passat hybrid’s battery was fully charged so I unplugged it, noticing that there was a strong electrical smell in the shed.
Stupidly (I’m good at that), I ignored it and set off on a 42-mile return trip to a shopping mall.
I was immediately stunned by the total silence of the Passat and the beauty and size of its colourful dashboard and MMI screen.
And that’s not to mention (oh I am doing) its humungous near four feet deep (120cm) boot that stretches to around 6ft 8in (203cm) with the rear seat backs folded flat.
By any standards that’s huge.
Considering it’s got a little 1.4-litre engine it’s surprisingly fast, too. that’s a hybrid for you.
By the time I got home it had emptied its battery, but I was rewarded with a sign which pinged up on the dashboard saying I’d averaged 200mpg.
No wonder the fuel guage was still almost full.
So what did I do? I plugged it in again for more fresh air, non polluting driving.
Yes, it does make me feel smug.
Next day I had to make the same 42 mile trip again so I went into the shed, which again had that electrical stink of burning plastic, unplugged it, and set off, once again in total silence.
I was in for not one, but two, big shocks when I got home.
The first was another dashboard sign saying I’d averaged THREE HUNDRED mpg. That is incredible.
The second was when I realised what was causing the burning smell.
I’d never unwound the extension lead to its full length.
That’s unlike me. Told you I was ill.
I desperately tried to unwind it, but it wouldn’t budge.
The wire had melted into one big lump.
When I finally got it all out of its wheel-shaped container I discovered that whole sections had burned so much they were fused together.
I felt physically sick. If the wires had touched I could have destroyed that beautiful car, burned down the shed, even the whole house, due to my stupidity.
There will come a time when most of us have to run an electric car, and one thing is for sure.
I’m going to get a wall mounted charger that’s built to withstand being operated by an idiot.
Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance PHEV.
REAR MIRROR MONSTER: Year 2019 Passat proves that a car doesn’t have to be flash to be good looking. Its simple yet attractive design, with LED lights and a small four-bar grille is brilliant, without being threatening.
BACKSIDE BEAUTY: Same story as the front. Roofline flows downwards towards the rear and seamlessly merges with the rear window, then the boot. Classy, but never showy.
PLAYTIME PLEASER: Sat nav with 9.2in MDI (multi-device interface) and European mapping, three-zone climate control, trip computer, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, black leather white stitched seats, heated and electric at the front, 18-inch 10-spoke alloys, heated electric folding door mirrors with puddle lights, auto lights and wipers, speed limit display, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, electric tailgate, keyless entry and start, DAB stereo with Bluetooth, USB, MP3, SD, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link.
NAUGHTY NIGGLES: Only one USB point? Kids won’t be happy when they get in the back. Rear of the car gets dirty really quickly.
TASTY TOUCHES: Door mirrors fold in when you lock the car, so you can check you’ve locked it just by looking.
FAST OR LAST: Amazingly quick for a car that’s 15ft 7in long and weighs 1,730kg.
WONGA WONDA: 40k sounds a lot for a Passat but once you check out its speed, refinement, size and kit, it seems like a bargain.
WOULD CHANTELLE LIKE IT? Far too big for Chantelle to feel comfy in a supermarket car park.
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