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Volkswagen is giving the Passat saloon and estate a major update for 2019, and it will be the debut vehicle for the company's new 'IQ.Drive' automated driving assistant.
While SUVs get most of the headlines, the Passat is still a big seller for Volkswagen, and this spring will see the 30-millionth Passat built, making it the second-most sold Volkswagen model, between the Golf (35 million so far) and the Beetle (21.5 million sold).
From the outside, the changes to the Passat are pretty small. The radiator grille and bumpers have been changed, and all Passat models will now get LED headlights as standard, which will be fully adaptive on higher-spec versions. Out the back, the Passat name is now spelled out large and proud on the centre of the bootlid, rather than being relegated to a corner.
It's on the tech front though that the Passat sees the biggest changes. While the new all-digital Active Info Display instrument pack was an expected addition, the Passat is also being used as the debut vehicle for Volkswagen's new IQ.Drive setup.
Described by Volkswagen as a major step on the way to autonomous driving, IQ.Drive is basically an amped-up version of existing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance system. Volkswagen says that it's still Level 2-enabled, meaning the driver has to stay awake and alert to keep an eye on what's happening when the system is in use. In fact, if you doze off or otherwise become distracted, and don't respond to the system beeping, flashing lights and even jolting the brakes, then it will actually bring the car to a safe halt.
The new Travel Assistant feature means that the Passat can respond to corners, roundabouts, speed limits etc, all by itself. To make sure that the driver remains in control, there's a new steering wheel with a capacitive touch sensor, so that it can detect when your hand is on the wheel, without you needing to lightly turn the wheel from time to time. The lane keeping assist can also now recognise grass verges as well as the usual reflective road markings, while the active steering can recognise when you're trying to swerve around an obstacle and will help with extra inputs to the wheel if needed.
Inside, the infotainment system gets a major upgrade with the new Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB3), which now means that the Passat is permanently connected to the internet through its own SIM card. That means you can call up more in the way of connected services - from weather and traffic conditions to parking availability and live petrol pricing, to new services including pay-in-the-car for on-street parking, and allowing access to the boot for courier delivery services.
There's also a new natural-speed 'Hello, Volkswagen' digital voice control assistant, a WiFi hotspot, a mobile phone app that allows you to unlock and start the car and the option of digital fleet management apps for business users.
The plugin-hybrid Passat GTE gets relaunched with more electric-only range (now up to 55km under the new, more strict, WLTP test) while for standard models the optional adaptive suspension DCC option now comes with more opportunity to fine-tune your personal ride and handling settings.
All engines, including the petrol ones, now get soot particulate filters as standard, while the 2.0-litre 150hp TDI diesel has CO2 emissions of around 10g/km lower than before, and Volkswagen claims that engine is much cheaper to run, too.
Order books for the new VW Passat will open in May.