WHAT THE HELL IS MQB?
Almost every vehicle from the VW Group that is transverse-front-engined and bigger than a VW Up will eventually be based on the MQB parts matrix. MQB stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, or modular transversal toolkit. It lays down a series of hard points for a huge range of cars and powertrains. These hard points determine the common design of production line. But they also allow systems (for example entertainment systems or aircon or axles) of
differing sizes and complexities to be fitted, provided their mounts link with the hard points. All the electric systems are also designed to pair up with the MQB’s unified electrical architecture.
Five million is a lot of anything. A lot more matchsticks than you need to build a model of the Houses of Parliament – maybe even at full scale. Five million mid-size hatchbacks in a bumper-to-bumper jam would stretch along the most direct road route from the North Cape of Norway to Cape Town, South Africa. And all the way back. And then to London.
And that’s how many cars the Volkswagen Group intends to build out of its MQB components system every single year, by about 2018. But right now, the system is producing only these four cars: the A3, Golf, Leon and Octavia. Back in the dark days of the ‘platform strategy’, their predecessors were notoriously alike. If VW really wants to build five million MQB cars, they’d better be more diverse, or we’ll all die of boredom.
While MQB is actually about more standardisation in some ways, to save money, it also gives less standardisation in others, to broaden choice. In the fullness of time, the MQB kit will be used for a new generation of most cars in the VW catalogue – Polo, Golf, Passat, four crossovers, at least two MPVs, a coupe or two and the Beetle. Plus Audi’s A1, A3, Q3, Q1, TT and more. Skodas from Fabia to Superb, and the growing Seat range.
The sheer diversity of those vehicles is the reason the VW Group engineers get shirty when you use the word ‘platform’. The biggest MQB vehicle will be a crossover the size of a Land Rover Discovery with three rows of seats. The smallest will be superminis. Engines will go from 3cyls to a twin-turbo VR6, and there will be 4WD via propshaft and via electric rear drive. It’s future-proofed against a bewildering array of alternative powertrains – I’ve driven a plug-in hybrid diesel Jetta, a plug-in hybrid petrol Audi A3, a gas-powered A3 and a pure-electric VW Golf prototype. The scope of it all makes your head spin.