W hat is throbbing from behind on the right? Slight vibrations up to the steering wheel, bad feeling. Hm, now that things are going so well with 180 in the left lane. To be on the safe side, have a look at the next rest area. Oops, the tire shows a big bump in the sidewall and has already lost a lot of air.
This flashback to the early 80s, when brother Lutz, friend Michael and I in the Passat Variant TS, red and with 85 hp Driving home from our camping holiday in the south of France in no time at all for us, I was overcome on that day as I headed north over the eerily empty A31 federal motorway. Emden is the goal, and of course the Passat Variant - a particularly early copy of the facelift generation to be presented soon - would have sounded the alarm long ago if there was a loss of air. And at 180, with thin cassette music from the blaring, because hopelessly overwhelmed central speaker in the middle of the dashboard, this gray variant would not have stopped. I'm just saying 248. Uphill. Although uphill on the A 31 known as the 'Ostfriesenspieß' is a big word.
Semi-autonomous up to 210 km /h
So it works fine, this 240 PS Variant R- Line Edition, which is more defined than its serial brothers. The eighth generation of the model doesn't really look old. Would it have needed the facelift that is hidden under the camouflage coat of Lower Saxony?
Not really, although the new LED matrix light is of course a nice thing. But VW paid even more attention to the inner values during the facelift. Particle filter for petrol engines too, of course. All TDI and TSI thus meet the Euro 6d Temp standard and the GTE already meet Euro 6d. There are also considerable innovations in the area of driver assistance and the possibilities of the new third-generation modular infotainment kit (MIB3).
The most impressive innovation takes effect as soon as the Passat is installed can prove to the skeptical driver that he deserves the trust placed in him: The Travel Assist makes the new Passat the first VW ever to drive partially automated. Adaptive cruise control, lane guidance, steering assistant and navigation system combine to form a system that turns the Passat into an almost self-propelled vehicle from starting in a traffic jam to speeds that are only allowed in Germany: Travel Assist keeps the car in the car up to 210 km /h Lane, brakes vigorously if necessary, if the distance to the vehicle in front could become small, and only requires a hand on the steering wheel from the driver in all of this to prove that I am there. Its capacitive ring recognizes when you put both hands in your lap, and then there is gripe up to and including automatic braking.
If desired, Travel Assist can also react proactively to speed limits long before the driver notices the sign . The system goes to work a little overly cautiously when it should also take the course of the road into account. This is not an issue on the A31, as it only goes straight ahead this early morning.
He takes curves seriously
But on the country roads that take us to the factory after our visit Guiding Emden a little through East Frisia, the Travel Assist directs the Passat around bends more defensively. As an explanation for the forward-looking reduced speed, a curve symbol and the speed deemed appropriate appear in the new, even more brilliantly shining Active Info Display and in the head-up display. After the curve it automatically goes back to the permitted top speed. First impression: Travel Assist is more convincing on the motorway than it is over land. But surely a nice thing if you just want to arrive after a long day.
Arrive, exactly: The A 31 ends at ramp 1 in a roundabout, so to speak. Always straight ahead along an impressive number of large wind turbines, then you stand at the entrance to the VW plant in Emden. The 30 millionth Passat was produced here in March, and Volkswagen ships almost 1.5 million cars from various Group brands all over the world from its own port every year. Carefully packed, they stand in large parking lots or, following an impenetrable choreography, are driven by well-rehearsed teams in exactly the right order over wide ramps into the bellies of two ships or brought ashore.
'Hello Volkswagen' is enough
“Moin”, says the slim man in his mid-thirties when he receives us in his corner of the office in a plain administration building. And then he shows that the taciturn East Frisian is a cliché that does not apply to everyone who greets with “Moin” at any time of the day.
Because Mennebäck, industrial mechanic and studied mechanical engineer, designer and economist, reports with us Passion about how it all started: “In October 2017, the plant manager asked me about an idea of how to make the Passat more emotional with a gentle facelift. That's my thing! I developed three studies based on limousine, all-track and variant, which we then set up in the pilot hall. In the pilot hall we usually check whether ideas can be built in large series in the desired quality. ”That means: Competence for tricky tasks was available.
At the beginning of 2018, Mennebäck presented the studies to CEO Herbert Diess. He wanted the Variant R-Line. And when Marketing Director Jürgen Stackmann also said yes in May, Mennebäck and his colleagues from the mid- and full-size series got going: chrome gone, instead glossy black anodized strips,to make the car look more determined. Then black 19-inch rims, black mirror caps and, as a highlight, a black painted roof in plain gray, the only color. Production processes were developed and tested until everything was right. So the 2000 Variant R-Line Edition comes onto the market - with complete equipment and 'with the passion with which we build and develop cars here'.