In its quest to become the largest car maker in the world, Volkswagen embarked on the most important engineering development it has ever undertaken. The result is the new MQB platform. The new platform is set to underpin a range of Volkswagen Group vehicles, from Polo-sized superminis to big family saloon like the next Passat.
However, none of the models are more important than the new Mk7 Volkswagen Golf, which the German company has chosen to show case the new platform. The chassis will also underpin the upcoming new Audi A3 and new Skoda Octavia. It represents much more than a chassis that can be adapted to suit a wide array of models. VW calls it “the backbone of light and safe cars” as it also encompasses hi-tech safety equipment, lightweight drivetrains and Apple-style infortainment systems.
Gone were the days when chassis were simply stretched or shortened to accommodate different cars. Volkswagen’s revolutionary new platform shares it electrical wiring, transmissions, air-conditioning systems, engines, seat backs and infortainment systems. It doesn’t stop here, the factories that will build those cars will also come in to play. For the first time, Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda models can be built on the same production line, improving production efficiency across the board.
You may ask at this point, is that a good thing for consumers? Will that means all the cars are essentially the same minus the different sheet metals? Yes and no!
With improved production efficiency and parts sharing, the cars will be cheaper to build, hence lowering the price for consumers. They will also be easier and quicker to build, cutting down the lead time for some models. Although different models will share many parts, their ‘character’ can be tuned to suit different models and markets. Things like suspension and steering tune will be bespoked to each model. Coupled with different engine and transmission mapping, the end result will be cars that behave very differently from one another.
The Mk7 Golf, due to be unveiled later this year, represents a huge leap forward, courtesy of hot formed steel that’s six times stronger than conventional steel. Aluminium is also used in the suspension which all equates up to 60kg less than the Mk6. VW says it will weigh as much as the Mk4, despite having better safety equipment and a stronger body shell.
A new range of engines are set to take up duty in the new car, all of which will have the same angle of tilt – whether petrol or diesel – in the engine bay. This will speed up the production line and allow the same transmission to be used throughout. Volkswagen claims engine and gearbox variants have been reduced by 88 percent.
There are two petrol engines: a new 1.2 TSI turbo four-cylinder with either 84bhp (63kW) or 104bhp (78kW) and a 1.4 TSI with either 120bhp (89kW) or (103kW). The latter is already found under the Audi A1 Sportback’s bonnet. It features cylinder deactivation where under a light throttle, two cylinders will shut down to save fuel. Thanks to lightweight aluminium, the engine weighs 16kg less than the 1.4 TSI in the current Golf.
The new Golf will also herald in a hybrid, with a 20kW electric motor assisting the 1.4 TSI. It produces 145bhp (108kW) and 250Nm of torque. A plug-in hybrid variant will also be available, this time with an 80kW electric motor. This is enough to return up to 2l/100km or 141mpg and emit less than 46g/km of CO2.
In the diesel range, there will be a new line-up of 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesels with power ranging from 89bhp (66kW) to 187bhp (140kW). Volkswagen hasn’t confirmed if a BlueMotion model will join the line-up but says even the basic engines reduce CO2 emissions by 7g/km. We therefore expect the new BlueMotion Golf, if it comes to the party, to emit less than 90g/km of CO2 and achieve more than 3.53l/100km or 80mpg. A low capacity 800cc diesel will also appear further down the track. These engines will be mated to either a 7-speed DSG or 6-speed manual gearboxes.
The new generation Golf will also set to be the safest ever with a host of standard and optional safety features across the board. It will have a camera mounted above the rear-view mirror that enables it to read road signs. Hi-tech features that not so long ago were the domain of luxury cars have now found their way into the Golf – lane keep assistance, light assist that automatically dims the lights to prevent dazzling oncoming traffic, adaptive cruise control and fatigue assist system, which warns the driver if he or she is about to doze off at the wheel.
A Mercedes-Benz-style pre-crash system – which shuts the windows and pre-tensions the seatbelts if it senses a crash is imminent – will make its debut on the Golf. The system is also able to mitigate multiple crashes by applying the brakes after the first collision if the vehicle senses it is at risk of a secondary collision. Another first for the car is a low-speed crash avoidance system, much like those found on Volvo cars, for use in towns.
VW will also launch its next-generation Park Assist system, which not only parallel parks the car, but is able to reverse into an angled parking space, like those found in a multi-storey car park.
Inside, the Mk7 Golf will get a new touchscreen infortainment system, which the maker claims to work in a similar way to an iPad. It allows the driver to use a ‘sweep’ gesture to access different information. VW is looking to include MirrorLink functionality (which essentially mirrors a person’s phone’s screen on the navigation display). It will be available with 5” and 8” screens.
In terms of design, the new car will retain the Golf trademark silhouette, albeit better looking: “Because of the position of the engine, MQB means shorted front overhangs, which in turn allows us to lengthen the look of the car and make it more sporty with a lower centre of gravity,” said head of Exterior Design, Andreas Mindt. Mindt confirmed that the new car will adopt the Cross Coupé Concept’s wider ‘face’, with its radiator grille integrated with the headlights and daytime running lights.
The Mk7 Golf will be officially unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September, before going on sale in 2013.
Pictures Courtesy of Autoblog