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by Greg Steele

In what is clearly a textbook case of ‘less is more’, the number of platforms the Volkswagen Group produces is about to reduce dramatically. But somewhat ironically, VW Group engineers claim the result will be a wide range of vehicles with a greater level of differentiation.

According to Volkswagen’s general manager of chassis development, Dr Horst Glaser, “the customer doesn’t care about what parts are in the car”.

Hence, the all-new MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) platform that underpins the new-generation Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf Mk7 is identical in its DNA, just like the previous Audi A3/Golf Mk5 platform (2003-04) and the original A3/Golf Mk4 (1996-97). But the MQB and its ‘toolbox’ configuration packs a real technological punch.

Glaser pointed out “there are so many ‘screws’ to change the properties, that A3 differs greatly from the Golf”.

The modular platforms enable unique steering characteristics and suspension set-ups, but they also mean the engineers can use the ‘toolbox’ to alter things like front subframes, switching from a steel one to an aluminium one.

It’s a cost-saving exercise, but it allows a C-segment car (Golf size) to boast the driveability, refinement, and technology systems normally found in a D-class car (Passat). What the customer gets is a more refined car for the same money.

MQB is first – underpinning new A3 and Golf, followed by next-gen Volkswagen Tiguan and Audi TT – but coming up is MLB (long-wheelbase, transverse front-/all-wheel drive), as well as future vehicles built on MSB (‘S’ for standard, front-engine, rear-/all-wheel drive – the Porsche Panamera platform).

There’s also a modular ‘infotainment’ matrix (called MIB), but the one driving enthusiasts will be most interested in is the Volkswagen Group’s future mid-engined modular platform.

Audi AG head of technology and product communications Cristian Bangemann stated the importance of ensuring individuality: “the brands [must] have a different character – that’s the most important thing”.

And when one brand’s sports car is going to share parts with other sports cars from the same broad family, Bangemann and Glaser agreed that maintaining individual character is fundamental to each sports car’s success.

Does that give the green light for the rumoured Audi R4 and Volkswagen BlueSport roadsters? Not yet, but there’s definitely still plenty simmering beneath the corporate façade.