It's a practice that's been used for far longer than you may think.
Platform sharing is a delightfully clever thing – leading to reduced development and production costs and often pooled resources that result in better platforms all round. But while the modern world relies heavily on this, it hasn’t always been so. We’ve picked 10 times platform sharing worked best to create phenomenal pairings or global success stories.
The Ferrari stole the limelight with the Enzo – its successor to the F50 and named after the founder of the empire. But Maserati built and released tits own model, the MC12, based on the Enzo’s platform, with wild styling and a targa-roof design. It was powered by the same mid-mounted Ferrari V12 engine that displaced just shy of 6 liters and developed 620 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque – figures lower than the Enzo to match the lower 7500 rpm redline. The MC12 was built to homologate a racecar for Maserati to compete in the FIA GT Championship where it performed admirably, winning 40 out of 94 races entered.
The benefits of platform sharing were truly exploited by Nissan, who used its front engines, rear drive platform to create these three cars. A performance coupe and the last in the Z-car lineage could be seen to share a platform with the G37 coupe and sedans, but the Infiniti FX was the shocker, as it made the platform truly versatile by allowing an SUV to utilize it. While suspension may have been adapted for each implementation of the FM platform, every vehicle could house and utilize the 3.7-liter V6 found in the 370Z, and its smaller 3.5-liter displacement unit from when it was the 350Z.
The Volkswagen Group is the master of platform engineering – utilizing the philosophy right from the days of the Mk1 Golf. But it was the platform underpinning the Mk4 Golf that led to the most spinoffs, also underpinning the Mk1 Audi TT, Audi A3, VW Bora, VW Lavida, the New Beetle, and the Seat Leon, Toledo, Octavia, and Roomster. The platform was the dawn of a truly versatile platform sharing system capable of housing a range of engines and suspension setups. So next time someone calls your gen 1 Audi TT ‘just a Golf’, you may want to take heed – because they’re actually right, sort of.
The Cadillac 2003 XLR was released as a luxury sports coupe convertible. At the time it was intended to be Cadillac’s halo model; but under the skin it was the halo model of another General Motors brand – and an unlikely donor. The XLR was based on the Y-body platform, which to those of you who don’t know underpinned the C6 Chevrolet Corvette. The XLR was able to directly use suspension componentry and all sorts of mechanical bits to reduce development and production costs. Unfortunately for Cadillac, platform sharing didn’t mean engine sharing, and they made do with 4.6- and 4.4-liter V8s.
Platform sharing isn’t an entirely new thing to the automotive world though. 50 years ago, the Pontiac LeMans, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Chevelle, and Oldsmobile Cutlass all shared underpinnings and much of their running gear. The underpinning platform was referred to as the original GM Y-Body platform that would evolve into the same one used for the Cadillac XLR mentioned above.
Just how far back did General Motors toy with platform sharing? Well it seems before Volkswagen knew what it was worth, GM were capitalizing on it, right from the mid-1930s when it released the A-Body platform. It would live on in two generations, the first spanning from 1936 to 1958 and spawning models like the Chevrolet Superior and Pontiac Torpedo, while the second generation platform ran from 1964-1981, underpinning the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick GS, and even the Pontiac GTO. In 1982, the rear-drive platform was re-designated as the G-body construction to pave way for the new front-wheel drive GM A-platform.
Back when Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler were under the Daimler umbrella of ownership, the SLK was a successfully selling roadster for the German brand. Chrysler got in on the action too, developing the Crossfire Coupe and Roadster on the Mercedes-Benz R170 platform for release in 2004, when Mercedes-Benz had just moved the SLK onto a new platform. Based on that, the Crossfire shared 80% of its components with the first generation SLK, though because it was on an already aged platform compared to the SLK, it was never able to emulate the sales success globally that the Mercedes did.
In the mid-2000s, Mitsubishi got in on the platform game under Daimler leadership. The result was the GS Platform that would be used in a range of local and international vehicles over a seven-year span. The Mitsubishi Outlander, Lancer, Delica, RVR, Dodge Caliber, Journey, Avenger, Jeep Compass, Patriot, Chrysler Sebring, 200 Citroen C4 Aircross, Peugeot 4008, and Proton Insignia would all utilize the platform. That means that at its heart, the Lancer Evolution X shares the same DNA as the people carrying Dodge Journey – now isn’t that a scary thought?
Volvo’s P2 platform first debuted in 1998, underpinning the S80 sedan. It soon went on to underpin the 2000 S60, and its V70/XC70 wagon and crossover pairing. It found its best use though in the 2003 XC90, an SUV that proved influential in Volvo’s ability to turn a profit. But Volvo, under Ford ownership at the time, lent the platform for use in many a Ford vehicle. The Ford Five Hundred, Taurus, Freestyle, Flex, and Explorer were all underpinned by the Volvo platform, along with sub-brand models like the Mercury Montego and Lincoln MKS and MKT. In the long run, Ford actually got more use out of the platform than Volvo, as it can still be found in today’s Ford Taurus.
VW's latest underpin-everything architecture goes by the name of MQB – a front wheel drive based platform that has been engineered for all-wheel drive use with Haldex drive components. MQB models span a massive difference in size and purpose, but all feature the same front axle, pedal box, and engine positioning, despite the varying wheelbases, tracks, and external dimensions. No less than 20 products are currently underpinned by the platform, with many more planned – but the ones you’ll know best include the Volkswagen Golf, Audi RS3, Audi TT, VW Passat, VW Tiguan, and even the massive 7-seater VW Atlas.