GRR Garage: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack – driving itself?

10th August 2017
Ben Miles

The day of the autonomous car is coming, that’s what they keep telling us. Everyone is developing their next generation of cars to smoothly transfer you from work to home (and vice versa) as we type this very piece. But they’re all wrong. The day of the autonomous car isn’t coming. It’s already here!


Now, we’re not talking about Tesla’s automated wizardry or Audi’s ability to push an RS7 round a track unaided, or even Google’s experiments with driverless tech. No, we’re talking about our own Volkswagen Passat Alltrack. How so? Let us explain. 

Strictly speaking, the Passat is not autonomous, and nor would Volkswagen tell you that it was and, even if you were to use the tools provided to let our big silver missile waft itself around, within a few minutes it would be furiously bonging at you to take control. 

But, turn on the Passat’s automated cruise control, then flick the end of the indicator panel and select “Lane Assist” and the Passat will, in a minor way at least, look after itself on the motorway. 

It’s a weird feeling, we’re well used to radar guided cruise control now, feeling the car marking itself against the one in front and maintaining a gap, but the active lane assist system is a new feeling. Instantly when you turn it on the steering stiffens up. The small cameras poking their little heads out of the wing mirrors have detected the white lines on either side of the car, and will now gently make sure the car stays between them.


For test purposes we removed our hands from the wheel for a short time, keeping them as close as possible and always ready to take over, and the Passat proceeded to keep itself perfectly between the lanes, even when the road began to bend. Watching the steering wheel move of its own accord is not a new thing, anyone who has experienced automated parking systems is well versed. But seeing the wheel move itself when you’re travelling at road speeds is quite extraordinary.

Now, VW’s system is not for automated driving, and not to allow you to relax your hands and let your usual guard drop. But when you’re a little bit tired at the end of a long day, having the car help you stay not only back from the one in front, but between the lines is truly marvellous. 

While we all want to keep the thrill of driving alive, the tantalising glimpse the Passat gives us of a future with automation has shown us that the ability to switch off after a long day could be a wonderful thing.

Mpg this week: 41.6.

  • Volkswagen

  • Passat

  • Alltrack

  • GRR Garage

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