The Volkswagen Passat, a car that has been part of the fabric of Irish life since the 1970s, usually needs no introduction. But the premium German company doesn’t sit still for long, and the new Passat, hitting the Irish market in time for 2020 deliveries, warrants more than an introduction. You see, the 2020 Passat is set to be the most high-tech model in the whole of Volkswagen’s line-up.
Not that Volkswagen has thrown the baby out with the bath water. As you can see, the Passat’s chiselled, quietly handsome exterior remains. Those in the know will spot subtle tweaks to the shapes of the front grille and bumper, which are complemented by the addition of LED headlights as standard across the entire range.
Buyers can also upgrade to the ‘brilliantly’ clever IQ.Light LED matrix headlights, which automatically shape the light beam pattern to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic, while optimising the illumination of the road ahead.
LED lights are found around the back too, and, as if to emphasise how proud Volkswagen is of the Passat, its name is in large lettering across the boot lid.
Plug-in hybrid technology for all
One of the stars of the updated Passat line-up features its own unique lettering at the back – the GTE. As before, the Passat GTE is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). It uses an efficient and smooth turbocharged petrol engine, a quick-thinking DSG automatic gearbox, an electric motor and a battery pack.
The latter can be charged up from an external source and though it’s no bigger than that of the previous Passat, it has a larger energy capacity, meaning that, even under the strict new WLTP regime, the GTE is said to have a zero emissions range of up to 56 kilometres without using a drop of petrol. That could be enough to cover most commutes, making the journey particularly quiet and relaxing.
When you get to your destination, to maximise efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint, you can plug the car in to charge up its battery again, or, for longer trips where you’d like to use electric power near the end, you can easily request that the engine charges up the battery on the move.
That little feature future-proofs this version of the Passat as we move to a world where it’s highly likely that some cities will only allow cars with zero emissions capability.
As the ‘GT’ part of the badge suggests, this Passat has a fun side too, as you’d expect with up to 218hp to play with. Press the ‘GTE’ button and the engine and electric motor will work together for maximum performance. There’s a considerable 400Nm of torque produced, as well, turning this comfortable family saloon into something with the ability to surprise drivers and put a wide smile on their faces – and certainly living up to the badging.
An interior oasis of technology
Regardless of how you want to drive your Passat, the updated interior is a lovely place to be. As mentioned above, Volkswagen says that this is the most high-tech car in its line-up today, and a glance around the cabin hints at why that is. First up are the high-resolution digital instruments, which can be customised by the driver. They look sharp and convey a wealth of information at a glance.
You don’t need to take your eyes off the road to read the new head-up display, either. These are complemented by a new generation of touchscreen infotainment systems, topped by a snazzy 9.2-inch Discover Pro unit, which is beautifully integrated into the dashboard. And thanks to a built-in sim card, it can always be online, even if you don’t have your phone connected. That means real time maps, music streaming and a lot more functionality, including a wifi hotspot for other devices in the car.
Speaking of phones, it’s easier than ever to mirror your smartphone thanks to the App Connect Wireless function, enabling wireless Apple CarPlay functions, for example. And, it’s even possible to use some smartphones as a key for the car, while wirelessly charging them up on the move. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, as the Passat also gets Volkswagen’s cutting-edge connectivity technology that makes life for its owner easier than ever. “Volkswagen We” is a digital ecosystem developed by the company for this purpose. It enables apps, online functions and services to be offered conveniently. Expect a lot more to come from that side of things in the future.
More active safety than ever before
And while all of that technology looks pretty smart, some of the cleverest bits of the new Passat are hidden away from view, yet they’re designed to make driving easier, more relaxed and, crucially, safer.
Front Assist, for example, keeps an eye on the road in front of the car, warning you when you get too close to other traffic and even applying the brakes to help avoid collision if necessary. It uses radar sensors to measure the distance and relative speed of other vehicles ahead and provides you with an early warning. If it detects a potential rear-end collision, Front Assist alerts the driver visually and audibly, while also preparing the brakes for emergency braking.
Meanwhile, the city emergency brake function is active in urban traffic. If you don’t brake enough, Front Assist boosts the braking pressure to prevent a collision.
And if you don’t brake at all, Front Assist automatically steps in and does it for you. It’s a bit like having an attentive front passenger beside you with their own brake pedal. It’s highly effective.
Lane Assist stops your car from drifting out of its lane, reducing the chance of an accident and making long motorway journeys much safer and more relaxing. If Lane Assist senses your car is drifting out of your lane, it gently counter-steers the car back on line. Since many accidents are caused by cars leaving their lanes when the driver’s concentration falters, this innovative system makes driving safer and easier.
Lane Assist uses a camera located in the rear-view mirror unit to monitor the road markings and prevent an unintended deviation. The system only intervenes if the indicators are not activated, so if you do want to change lanes and signal your intention, the intelligent system recognises this and switches off.
Naturally, the driver must remain alert to the road ahead but, in conjunction with the Active Cruise Control, the car can take over the burden of maintaining a safe speed and distance from other traffic, while following the road markings.
That allows you breathing space to explore some of the Passat’s other features, with the help of the advanced new voice assistant. Simply say: “Hello Volkswagen!” for more.
Space for all the family
Of course, the Passat isn’t only for long journeys. The GTE hybrid model is ideal for driving in town with zero emissions and, regardless of which model you go for, the Passat has plenty of space for all the family, whether you’re rushing to catch a ferry abroad for your holidays or simply ferrying the kids around to GAA, ballet, gymnastics or Coder Dojo.
If you need even more space than the already vast Passat saloon offers, it’s worth checking out the elegant Passat Estate – the 2020 model comes with all the same technological upgrades, just with an even larger boot to fit your doubtless hectic lifestyle into.
There’s no doubt that the Passat will help with all of that, as it has done for Irish families for nearly half a century. This new one is undoubtedly equipped for the future.
Prices start at €30,895; see volkswagen.ie for more details