IT'S quite amazing just how far car technology has moved on in the last couple of decades or so.
Advanced systems such as traction control, electronic differential lock, hill descent, advanced braking systems, adaptive cruise control, lane control, automatic parking, not forgetting sat nav and highly-sophisticated infotainment systems. How did we manage without them?
Then a couple of years back, Volkswagen really turned the screw on the highly-competitive family-sized car market with the introduction of their all new Passat, which came in both saloon and estate variants.
For these beauties were then the most refined and highly-technical vehicles ever to be produced by the mega German brand.
Who would have thought less than 10 years ago, when the seventh-generation Passat was first hitting the streets, that its replacement would offer items such as predictive pedestrian protection using a camera to detect pedestrians and which would automatically activate a full emergency stop if someone walked off a pavement in front of the car.
Or what about trailer assist, which would steer a caravan or trailer into a given space without any input from the driver, other than them controlling the vehicle's speed.
Then there's traffic jam assist, which would take over control of the car in stop-start traffic at speeds up to around 40mph, slowing the vehicle down to a complete stop when necessary, while also preventing the car from "wandering" out of its lane.
Another first for the Passat was the emergency assist, which would activate should a driver become ill. If repeated requests from the lane assist system for the driver to resume control failed to have any effect, the system would take over and ensure a controlled stop inside the lane in which the car was travelling.
Highly-technical stuff indeed, and all available in a mass-produced, affordable family vehicle, not in a hand-built luxury machine that comes with something nearing a six-figure price tag.
However, it didn't stop there. The Passat has matured beyond all expectations. Five trim models make up the range in S, SE, SE Business, GT and flagship R Line.
Mid-range SE went on to be the biggest seller and if truth be told, there was enough goodies on board this charmer in order for it to compete with much more expensive so-called premium-branded offerings.
Equipment-wise there was electrically-adjusted seats, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and parking sensors front and rear. Opt for the SE Business trim and you gained VW's Discover Navigation system.
Kicking off the range was the 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI, followed by the best-selling two-litre oilburner in the choice of 148 or 87bhp.
Topping the charts was a new two-litre 237bhp Bi-Turbo unit mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG gearbox and available only in permanent all-wheel-drive 4Motion models.
Out on the road, both the saloon and estate handle beautifully. The steering is positive and precise, while the ride quality is so good that you could drive the machine all day and still get out feeling as fresh as a daisy.
Sophisticated, innovative, cultured and refined, the Passat screams class from every pore and has quickly become the vehicle to which every competitor aspires to match.
A 10-plate 1.6-litre TDI in entry-level S trim with around 40,000 miles on the clock will set you back anything from £10,425 to £12,445, while a similar-plated higher spec two-litre SE model rises to between £11,850 and £14,155.
For used car buyers who really want to spoil themselves, then the all-singing, all-dancing two-litre BiTDI SCR R Line 4Motion DSG is the ideal choice.
Coming in at anything from £15,975 to £19,085 it offers a great all-round package at something of a bargain price.