I recently replaced my RSR clutch and thought it would be good to provide a long-term review. If you’ve seen my initial review of the clutch, then you know that I had been very happy with it. It was advertised to hold 480 lb-ft when I bought it. Later, the spec was revised to say “Mk5/6 – 480” and “MQB – 380.” Having APR Stage 2 at the time, I was at that 380 lb-ft limit, but the setup was still recommended by HS Tuning. I “downgraded” my APR tune to a 91 AKI file due to a coast to coast trip where 93 AKI is unavailable. The new tune reduced my engine torque to 371 lb-ft (old file), which is just barely within the specs of the RSR clutch.
Note: I have a video version of this entry HERE.
I had reported that the clutch was indeed stiffer than stock; but it was very easy to adapt to the new feel. Clutch engagement was a little closer to the floor, perhaps by about an inch. My first attempt to drive the car resulted in a quick stall. That, too, was not hard to manage after realizing that I needed to adjust the way I drive. The break-in period for new clutches is 500-1000 miles, preferably with mostly city driving. I was completely accustomed to the new clutch feel by the end of that period. I drove the RSR clutch with APR Stage 2 for nearly 100,000 miles without a single problem!
I upgraded to an APR/IS38 setup at 128,000 miles. I stayed with the 91 AKI files, which kept my torque at a manageable 376 lb-ft. That was awfully close to the 380 lb-ft limit for HS Tuning’s RSR clutch! Still, everything was fine for a while. Later, and I can’t say when, I managed to slip the clutch on occasion. It always happened during sprints, but it didn’t happen every time. I could not duplicate the scenarios in which the clutch slipped; nor did I want to. I continued to drive the car normally, which meant occasional sprints, regular highway trips, and trailer towing for me.
My most recent road trip, a 1500-mile round trip to Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, Tennessee introduced a slip that could not be ignored. My car was loaded for supporting a bicycle tour and had the extra wind resistance of a rooftop cargo box. I was climbing a mountain pass in western Virginia and felt what I perceived as a hesitation with the engine. I watched very carefully since I had just had the intake cleaned and was sensitive to any odd behavior. The engine “missed” only a few times. I connected my scan tool and searched for stored diagnostic trouble codes… NOTHING. A few miles later, it dawned on me that I had experience slight slipping of the clutch.
All of my experience with clutch-slip, on this car and previous cars, exhibited while under brisk acceleration. That means that the engine RPMs would pick-up a bit until the clutch clamped harder at higher engine speeds. This was the first time that I had a clutch slip while driving at steady speed, albeit under heavier load. The engine didn’t outrace the clutch because I wasn’t trying to accelerate. It was a little confusing at first, but I understood what I had experienced fairly quickly. I didn’t have additional incidents during the rest of the trip. I probably could have put off replacing the clutch since I was returning to the coast where the roads are mostly flat. But I decided that it was time for a replacement.
The clutch lasted after a total of 165,000 miles! I’d say that the clutch performed admirably, considering everything that I had done to abuse it. While I didn’t subject it to racing or launches, I did tow a variety of trailer loads with it. The most notable of abuse that I put on the clutch was during times when I backed my trailers up my inclined driveway. Backing to my trailer’s parking spot requires an “S” maneuver between two cars. That had to be done at speeds well below idle, which meant slipping the clutch for excessive durations. There were several times when I could smell the burning scent of a protesting clutch! Sometimes, I was surprised that it lasted so long. I inspected the clutch disk for glazing and the flywheel for hot spots. To my surprise, there was no glazing and only a few small spots on the flywheel. I’d say that this clutch wore very well!
I considered replacing my RSR clutch with HS Tuning’s RSR Hybrid clutch kit. HS Tuning’s website states that the hybrid clutch is a tad stiffer than the standard RSR clutch and that the clutch exhibits some chatter at idle. Given that news and an observation made during my daughter’s clutch upgrade (not an RSR), I decided to go with the clutch that I originally wanted before opting for RSR: a Stage 2 Endurance by South Bend Clutch. I’ll explain my decision in a separate review of the SBC. For the record, though, the RSR clutch was fantastic and I’d recommend it for any GTI owner who knows that they won’t tune beyond Stage 2 levels.
Tighten That Grip!