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Vw’s updated Passat is an old dog with new tech tricks

Wednesday, 20th February, 2019 4:57pm

Volkswagen has announced that it will launch a revamped version of the Passat saloon and estate at the Geneva Motor Show.

While on the outside, the Passat looks more or less the same as it has done since it was launched in 2015, under the skin VW is giving its staid saloon a major tech makeover.

Staid, but big-selling. In fact, VW has said that, depending on factory schedules, this spring it will build its 30 millionth Passat, making it the second best-selling VW nameplate ever, just behind the Golf’s 35 million sales, and ahead of the Beetle’s 21.5 million.

To mark that auspicious event, the Passat is getting very subtly altered styling, with new headlights (now fully powered by LEDs across the range), tweaked bumpers and, at the back, the name Passat spelled out in chrome letters across the bootlid.

This last change gives a firm indication that VW is more focused on China as its main market than ever before — Chinese customers prefer to see the actual name of the car, rather than a badge.

Inside, there are some other minor updates — for the first time, the Passat gets the option of VW’s active info display digital instruments, and there are updates for the central touchscreens too. The biggest change though is that the Passat will be the debut vehicle for VW’s new Travel Assistant which is part of its, also new, IQ-Drive setup. IQ-Drive is a suite of sensors and systems that allow the Passat to be “capable of partially automated driving at any speed from 0 to 210 km/h”.

While VW trumpets that this system “bundles up the driver assistance systems of today and tomorrow on a path towards autonomous driving” but note that it’s being semantically very careful — while the Passat’s radar-directed cruise control and lane-keeping systems have become much more advanced, the driver still needs to keep their eyes on the road and remain ready to take control of the vehicle.

In fact, VW has made it easier to do just that — the steering wheel now has touch-sensitive pads, so that it knows when the driver has their hands on the wheel, and removes the need to give the steering an occasional wiggle to let it know that you haven’t nodded off.

As before, if the system reckons that you have nodded off (or worse) it will flash lights, make beeping noises, and even jab the brakes to try and bring you round. If none of that works, the car can then bring itself to a safe and controlled stop.

The brakes themselves have also been updated, and a new electro-mechanical servo assistance system means that overall braking distances have been trimmed.

There’s also a speed sign recognition system that can talk to the cruise control and adjust the car’s speed according to the posted limit, while the lane-keeping assistant can now recognise grass verges as well as painted lines on the road. The active steering can also pitch in to help you swerve out of the way of any dangers in the road ahead.

All of the Passat’s engines have been given a refresh. Petrol engine versions now come with soot-trapping particulate filters as standard, while the 2.0 litre TDI diesel version gets an Evo model that VW says emits 10g/km less of CO2 than previously.

The plugin-hybrid Passat GTE makes a return to the range (it had been dropped last year because of the new WLTP emissions regulations), gaining a bigger battery for more electric-only range, which now stands at 55km.

Finally, the infotainment system gets a major overall, gains a SIM card which means it’s now permanently web-connected, and VW will be opening up options such as being able to pay for on-street parking from inside the car, or allowing courier companies to locate your car and open your boot to drop off packages.

There’s also a natural-speech ‘hello, Volkswagen’ digital voice control assistant, and built-in digital fleet management systems for company car users and fleet managers.

The updated Passat will make its debut at the Geneva show in March, before going on sale in May.

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