MORE AT POPULAR MECHANICS
Lots of cars share components. But for these ostensibly different cars, the differences are only skin-deep. Born out of platform-sharing partnerships or badgineering, underneath the sheet metal these 10 pairs of cars are alike.
Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S
The most hyped twins today are the new sport coupes built through the collaboration of Subaru and Toyota. You have to study these cars closely to find anything but a name badge to tell them apart: Their front bumper covers are slightly different, and the Scion's got a little badge that says "86" on the front fenders (a nod to the AE86 rear-drive, ultrafun Toyota Corolla coupe of 1983 to 1987). Inside, the auxiliary gauges are slightly different sizes, but the cars share a unique flatter version of Subaru's 2.0-liter flat-four engine that makes 200 hp with Toyota's fuel-injection system.
Actually, this one is a three-part rebadging job. Overseas, the Scion is called the Toyota GT-86, or just Toyota 86.
Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix
The sheet metal on these two tall compact wagons is slightly different, as are the plastic fascias, but the biggest difference is that these mostly identical cars were built at different factories. The Pontiac was built in Fremont, Calif., from 2003 until GM announced it was killing Pontiac and stopped Vibe production in 2009. Matrix production continues at Toyota's Ontario, Canada, plant. Additionally, for a couple of years Toyota sold the Vibe in Japan and called it the Voltz.
Honda Odyssey / Isuzu Oasis
Today's Honda minivan follows convention: sliding rear doors and massive interior space. But when the Odyssey was introduced in 1994, it was basically a tall Accord sedan with four swing-open doors, though with three rows and a six-passenger capacity.
At the time, truck-based SUVs were all the rage, and Honda didn't have a truck. To get one, Honda traded its minivan to Isuzu in 1996, creating the best minivan bargain North American consumers have ever seen: Low-status Isuzu badged the first-generation Odyssey as the Oasis, which sold for about $2000 less than the Honda version of the same minivan. Isuzu sold the Oasis until 1999.
Honda Passport / Isuzu Rodeo
This one goes all the way back to 1972, when GM's "captive import" Isuzu truck company in Japan produced a compact pickup sold here as the Chevy LUV truck. When compact-truck-based SUVs boomed in the 1990s, Honda made a deal to sell Isuzu's compact-truck-based Rodeo SUV as the Honda Passport, complete with a General Motors' pushrod V-6 engine. The Isuzu Rodeo and Honda Passport were identical but for badges, though Honda dropped the Passport in 2002 due to low sales. The automaker didn't get a true SUV until the Acura MDX of 2001 and the Pilot of 2003, both of which are actually based on the Odyssey minivan, not on a truck.
Saab 9-7x / Chevrolet Trailblazer
Business students the world over will be discussing the death of Saab, an innovator in safety, emissions, performance, and style. One of the lessons they'll learn will come from the failed rebadging of the grossly overweight, low-tech truck-based Chevrolet Trailblazer as a Saab. It was a feeble attempt to upgrade the interior materials and differentiate the Saab 9-7x from the Chevy, GMC Envoy, Oldsmobile Bravada, Buick Ranier, and Isuzu Ascender rebadgings of exactly the same truck. It did not impress or fool buyers.
Opel Insignia / Buick Regal
We figure GM's European division's Opel Insignia could be the grandfather of more cars than we know. After all, its name means badge in Latin, and producing a car with four diesel-engine offerings, six four-cylinder, and two V-6 gasoline engines was clearly an attempt to give birth to many different cars through one platform. The high-output 2.0-liter four-cylinder Regal GS, which is based on the Insignia, making 270 hp recently was clocked at the Nevada Open Road Challenge highway race at 162 mph. In Britain, this car is called the Vauxhall Insignia.
Audi R8 / Lamborghini Gallardo
These two exotics have the same V-10 engine (although a V-8 is available in the Audi). Because performance is similar, the cars were introduced at the same time in 2003, and Audi has owned Lamborghini since 1998, they’re often called sister cars.
Similarly equipped, both cars are nearly $200,000 and reach 60 mph in less than four seconds. The Lamborghini claims a 202 mph top speed, 3 mph more than the Audi. The major differences are that the Audi's wheelbase is four inches longer than the Lamborghini's, while the Gallardo’s driving position is lower and the car is considerably lighter due to the use of titanium and carbon fiber over the Audi's aluminum construction.
Nissan Frontier / Suzuki Equator
These pickups are exactly the same Nissan designs, though the Suzuki version was introduced early in 2008 when Nissan made some minor changes to the front grille of its Frontier. The Frontier is built in plants in 13 different countries under a number of different names, though the best one might be the Dongfeng Rich Pickup, which is a version sold in China.
Cadillac SRX / Chevrolet Equinox
Opel calls its version of this compact crossover SUV the Antara. Daewoo calls its edition the Winstorm. Chevrolet has a shorter version with a more powerful engine called the Captiva, which is available in the U.S. only to fleet buyers. Suzuki's XL7 was also genetically related to these cars from 2007 to 2009.
Volkswagen Passat / Audi A4
Historically, enthusiasts equate the VW Passat (called Quantum in the 1980s) with Audi's spectacular 4000 sport sedan (called 80 in the rest of the world). The two cars were identical except for their badges and the fact that the Quattro versions were wagon-only for the VW and sedan-only for the Audi.
However, in 2005, the VW split from the Audi platform. Alphabetical confusion arises because the A4 is now built on VW's B platform, like the Passat. These days, there are so many variants and differing lengths and widths of this platform, not to mention unique drivelines, that for practical purposes the cars are now merely step-cousins.