How I got 74mpg from Volkswagen's new plug-in hybrid Passat
Nobody is quicker than I to question the often outrageous fuel consumption figures quoted by carmakers.
But when you see the results of your driving on the little computer screen, it is a different story.
On Monday, in and around Amsterdam, I drove Volkswagen's new Passat plug-in hybrid (PHEV). They call it the Passat GTE.
A colleague and I drove it as we would normally, and in some cases a bit above normal.
So there was no going easy to pump up the figures. And no going extremely hard to undermine them - well not for too long.
We ended up using 3.8 litres every 100 kilometres.
That, my friend pronounced from behind his smartphone calculator, was 74mpg (3.8litre/100km).
It is a long way from the claimed 1.6litres/100km under official and ideal conditions.
But the impressive thing about this was it was real-world with a few stops and heavy braking, a few unwarranted accelerative surges etc. With a little bit of restraint, we both agreed we'd have easily got 85mpg+.
For a large family car that is exceptional and shows why so many automakers are now rushing down the PHEV route.
I'm a bit sorry now, after driving it conservatively enough around Amsterdam's city streets and byroads that I floored it on the motorway. (What a great sound when it kicks on - it goes from fuel-sipper to performance ripper). I'd like to have got the mid-80s mpg.
By the way, the inside is virtually unchanged from the conventional saloon/estate expect for a few little touches to show it is a GTE.
This is the latest PHEV from Volkswagen - they already have a Golf GTE (which gets here soon) and there will be more I'm sure.
At its simplest the GTE combines a 1.4-litre TSi petrol engine (156bhp) and an electric motor to give a total of 218bhp.
In that respect it is just like other hybrids where batteries can be replenished on the run. But it has an additional charging capacity - you can plug it in at home, at work or at public stations (time taken stretches from 2hr 30mins to 4hr.15mins or longer depending on source).
The battery bank is under the rear and boot area but didn't seem to crimp on room in either sector. This extra-charge capacity gives you 50km electric-only driving - and that is critical in attaining low fuel consumption. Indeed if you're commuting you might not need the engine at all. We got nearly 50km on one pure-electric drive.
And we didn't notice the interchange between one mode and the other as the hybrid system worked away.
But when we pressed the GTE button it went from fuel-sipping motor to high performer.
So PHEV leaves you with one or all of the following: an electric car, a hybrid, or a performance vehicle.
Overall emissions are a mere 37g/100km (€170 road tax). But you will have to pay up to €45,000 for the privilege. That's after a €5,000 SEAI grant and €2,500 VRT rebate.
The GTE is due here next year. Hopefully the price will have come down a bit by then. More people deserve a chance to drive something like this; one sure way of doing that is with price.
With a range of 1,100km it would suit families at weekends, while with 50km electric power, it would accommodate a large number of commuters without using petrol.
At the moment PHEVs are in their infancy but are increasingly seen as one of the prime options for a multi-faceted future where low-emission regulations will get inexorably tougher.
Sales of PHEVs are expected to expand exponentially over the coming years.
It is estimated that global purchases will go from around 200,000 annually to more than three million by 2022.
So let's hope the economies of scale will apply and that as production goes up prices will come down.