Cost of a ground-up cross-platform redesign? Next-gen MQB architecture VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda = $65 billion


A little longer, lower, wider, better aero – and 50mpg

For many in the US, a first Volkswagen will be either a Jetta or Passat, both of which have pretty good trunks. But we just drove this all-new seventh generation Golf and it needs to be on that same consideration list because it is a nearly perfect, sensibly sized trunkless car…

But this Golf VII, introduced in September at the Paris Motor Show, is an all-new car, even though from the outside things look strictly evolutionary. The chief ingredient in making true this claim of being “all-new” is the use of a completely reworked architecture called MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, or “modular transverse matrix.” New architectures for any company signify shockingly massive investments, and therefore the damned things had better be really good for the bottom line. In the case of MQB, company leaders estimate the price tag for its four years of development totals $65 billion, so the intent is that MQB will stick around for at least a decade before a replacement architecture is even talked about…

Making certain it earns its keep quickly, VW Group has announced that MQB will be used on everything with transverse engines coming from VW, Audi, Seat and Škoda, ranging from models the size of the next VW Polo on up to the next Passat – that is to say, a major percentage of all cars produced within VW Group. So far, we’ve driven MQB with the new Audi A3, and now here with the four-door Golf Mk VII.

For this event, we picked the upgraded 146-horsepower 2.0 TDI Golf in its top European Highline trim using an optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with shift paddles. At this launch event, the TDI motor we chose was available alongside a revamped 138-hp 1.4 TSI gas engine with Active Cylinder Technology, but the latter is not on call for US deliveries, so we took the global diesel route…


2.0 litre TDO turbo-diesel

The biggest challenge for Volkswagen was making certain that this first truly mainstream – and incredibly important – MQB model would carry on the legacy to the next level of premium…It’s a $65 billion investment to make sure buyers notice almost nothing to disrupt the Golf legend, in a sense. And even VW bosses admit that while MQB does provide many welcome, albeit subtle, improvements for drivers and passengers, the new architecture is much more a move to contain spiraling costs in a spiraling world.

So, the Golf Mk VII is monumentally important. Sort of like a European version of the expectations resting on the Ford F-Series pickup lineup in the States.

EPA figures should theoretically reach 36 miles per gallon city and 50 mpg highway…

Europe starts getting first deliveries of the Golf VII toward the end of this month. As happened in the US and Canada for Golf VI, we will wait 18 months before our first new Golfs arrive. On the plus side, that means VW is holding off on our markets so as to have the new GTI ready by launch time.

This new Golf hatch is a solid step up compared to the current generation, and it’s filled with standard and optional offerings that were not possible prior to the MQB architecture. All the same, given the tough global economic times times and the need to maintain sales numbers despite the ongoing crisis, VW is determined not to change its prices by much or at all. The 1.8-liter TFSI two-door ought to come in around $18,000 for the base trim with new six-speed manual.

Here’s where the reasoning for a complete platform redesign like this begins – save money globally. The four brands aren’t manufactured only in Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic. Dozens of countries have factories for one or another brand – from China to Mexico. Tuned and tweaked for each market served, whole segments of each design are interchangeable. Money is saved every possible way. And that $65 billion is going to have ten years worth of return on investment.

Like the other German manufacturers, VW/Audi can’t keep up with demand for their diesel technology coming into the United States. American buyers of mid-size and middle of the road automobiles mostly don’t even think of the savings they can realize – and probably don’t remember anything other than the crap V8 diesels based on Oldsmobile tech decades ago. But, folks who are car nuts know how great and economical small car diesels can be. People who have serious pickup trucks know the same for their Cummins-power and a couple other US brands.

Some manufacturers are still too chickenshit to bring their diesels into the US – notably Toyota. Fiat/Chrysler ain’t much better [yet]. Chevy is going have a go, soon. But, frankly, the German car companies rule. The VW MQB is only going to reinforce that conclusion.

Yes, they’ll still sell more with gasoline engines here. That’s also a result of not being able to catch up with diesel demand in markets in the rest of the world. Take the easy road.

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