Seven months of GTI ownership has passed; I’m now at 20,000 miles. If you’ve read my other blog entries, then you know that I’ve been fairly busy with some modifications. Unlike many VW enthusiasts, I haven’t gone wild with performance mods such as intake, exhaust, a turbo swap, coilovers, or other popular improvements. Instead, my mods have leaned more along utilitarian lines. My efforts include a 3M clear bra, stereo upgrades, a ham radio, a trailer hitch, and (best of all) APR Stage 1. Continue reading
I’ve had plenty of rocks bounce off my windshield without apparent damage over the past several months. Two days ago, I had something hit my windshield that was barely perceivable. About ten minutes later, I heard a strange noise that turned out to be the glass cracking. The crack was about six inches long at 8am and had spread to the center of the glass by lunchtime. It looked like it was going to turn back upward and make a “U” shape that touched the edge of the glass at two points. By 7pm, it had turned downward and was headed toward the driver’s line of sight. As the crack spread, I did some quick research at VWVortex regarding replacement options and asked members of a local Facebook group who they trusted with the work. From there, a plan for replacement quickly came together. Continue reading
The first generation TDI was one of the first cars in VW’s North American line-up to be able to make substantial gains from what was then known as “chip tuning.” The chip was physically removed from the ECU and replaced with another which contained more powerful programming. Gains of 25 hp and 50 lb-ft were typical for TDIs (much less for normally-aspirated engines). Later, the 1.8T was able to gain ~35 hp and 70 lb-ft. The subsequent 2.0T gained ~45 hp and 94 lb-ft. These are increases in peak numbers; gains in the middle of the power band could be even greater. Incidentally, all of these ever-increasing gains were being had by engines that were more powerful than their predecessors. This brings me to the Mk7 GTI, the chassis for VW’s most potent North American four-cylinder engine (as of this writing and aside from the Golf R). It starts with a reportedly under-rated 220 hp and 258 lb-ft. Dynamometer testing by tuners and enthusiasts indicates that the actual output is closer to 235 hp and 270 lb-ft, figures which rival that of tuned engines of earlier generations and already beats my bought-back Stage 2 Jetta TDI. A tune alone transforms the GTI into a different car! APR was having a sale and I found a hole in my work schedule that allowed me to visit a tuner during the week. I decided to take the plunge… Continue reading
I finally managed to get my GTI on a road trip after 12,000 miles of mostly commuter miles. The Tail of the Dragon is often said to be the trip every driving enthusiast must make. I’ve driven the Dragon three other times in other cars, twice with my daughter. This was my first time driving it in a car that’s made for the curves right out of the box. I had planned to make the journey on the first weekend of spring. Adverse weather in March deferred the drive until the first weekend in April. My daughter and I left Newport News, Virginia for Maryville, Tennessee on March 31st, just as her school was closing for its spring break. It was raining in both locations, but expected to clear for a great weekend! Continue reading
I just wanted to post a quick note to announce two new pages in which I detail my EcoHitch and Carry-On trailer. I don’t think subscribers are informed when I add new pages (unlike posts such as this one). Feel free to have a look.
Ready to Transport,
One of the symptoms of having the “mod bug” is the pursuit of continual improvements to projects. When I first built my subwoofer upgrade, I had accidentally purchased a subwoofer with 2-ohm voicecoils instead of 4-ohm voicecoils. My P300X1 amplifer maximizes its output power with a 2-ohm load. My 4-ohm system sounded good, but I still had to know if a 2-ohm subwoofer would sound better. IT DID. However, the system had some problems. An over-abundance of bass in the 50-70 Hz range was particularly nagging. But I had a solution in mind… Continue reading
It’s hard to believe I’ve already accumulated 10,000 miles, all in just four months! My commute is 53 miles each way, so I’m quickly racking up the miles. That’s okay; I buy my cars to be DRIVEN! If you’ve read my “First 1000 Miles” entries (Part 1 and Part 2), then you already know that I’m very pleased with the car. Here are my thoughts after a few more months of driving:
I can’t speak for what other auto brand enthusiasts are doing to “hack” their cars, but Volkswagen and Audi owners have some really good options. Long ago, an enthusiast named Ewe Ross (Ross-Tech) backwards-engineered a VW/Audi dealer diagnostic scan tool into something for enthusiasts. I was one of his beta testers in 1999 and have one of his more capable tools today. You may be wondering, “Why not just buy a generic scan tool?” VW/Audi has used a proprietary diagnostic protocol that provides more information and scans FAR more modules than just the emissions-related items that were mandated by OBD2 in 1996. In fact, VW had the FIRST on-board computer system with scanning capability way back in 1968! Sure, VW/Audi complied with the federal requirement to have OBD2-compatible codes, but they also kept their more-thorough diagnostics system (and continually improve it). Ross-Tech was first to bring it to the people who prefer to avoid being fleeced by their VW/Audi dealers. When I first bought VCDS, I was only interested in reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) without having to drive 50 miles to my nearest VW dealer. Today, VCDS and other tools bring far more capability, thanks to the marvels of modern automotive technology. Continue reading
I prefer to avoid using my phone’s USB port by charging my phone wirelessly. I had seen accelerated wear, even failure, of my the USB port on previous phones. So I knew I wanted to use wireless charging in the car to reduce wear and tear. I found a Qi charger I liked and then GOOP’d it to a ProClip mount that’s designed for the Mk7. I’d tell you more about my Qi charger, but it’s no longer available. I may switch to this one if I ever need another one. I don’t like unsightly power cord runs, so I routed my cord through the AC duct and behind the dash, plugging it into the 12V outlet that’s inside my arm rest. I had to disassemble the center console to pull it off, but I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s only drawback is that it doesn’t deliver enough current to keep up with charging demands when the phone is using high-current apps such as GPS, mapping, or navigation. Still, the rate of discharge is reduced and battery life is prolonged beyond having no charger at all. I’ve shared photos in an album below.
I had been pleased with Volkswagen’s MIB II base stereo. It’s no powerhouse, but it has cool features and adequate sound output. To add deeper bass, I would have been satisfied with simply tapping into the rear speaker wires to feed an amplifier and a subwoofer. But Volkswagen decided to discontinue its Helix subwoofer accessory, VW P/N: 000-051-419, meaning they slashed its price by over 50% to quietly clear their inventory. What was once an “is it really worth $660?” item was suddenly a very affordable $300. I managed to get the kit shipped to my door for $235 after some discount shopping and a manufacturer’s rebate. The wiring harness and digital signal processor alone are worth more than that! Continue reading
I recently experienced my first dead battery in a very long time. This was a big surprise in a car with only 4500 miles on the odometer. But there was a cause that turned out to be my fault. Let me set the stage for this comedy of errors: Continue reading
I love WeatherTech floor mats! They’re molded to fit the exact contours of the floor and protect more than standard floor mats or even the factory “Monster Mats.” They’re wonderful for containing slush and snow, which inevitably wind up in the floor each winter. They were a fantastic Christmas gift! I was a little concerned that water might leak past the retention buttons on each mat. However, the mats proved water tight after some snow had melted and I had to leave water standing in them for a few days. That makes them awesome in my book! My only gripe is that they’re not very “grippy.” Their grip-vs-slip feels okay in multipurpose shoes, but I must clean the mats only with soap and water to keep them from being slippery to my dress shoes. See more photos below.
Bring the Rain!
I treated each of my Mk6 Jettas to 3M clear bras within 24 hours of purchase. The hood on my Mk3 was chipped-up pretty bad after 10 years, so I hoped to protect my newer cars since I planned to keep them for a long time. Little did I know that Dieselgate would change that! HAHA! Anyway, the 3M clear bra is expensive, but I knew it was worth it after the first time I saw a rock fly over the center median and strike my hood without damaging it. I inspected the hood after 50,000 miles and found several tiny gouges in the material, but none of the damage went through to the paint. If I wanted, I could go back to the installer and have a new panel applied at a discount. Continue reading
I wasn’t quite ready to discuss performance impressions when I wrote Part 1. I’m ready now, even though I STILL haven’t completely unleashed the GTI’s power. I had been driving with a party-pooper diesel redline of 4600 rpm for the past 18 years. As a result, I still instinctively shift before 3000 rpm, 4000 if I’m being brisk. Even driving in such a limiting way, this little car still feels stronger than my tuned Stage 2 Mk6 Jetta TDI! My TDI tuner stated that a “CR140 Stage 2” outputs over 300 lb-ft, even with a legal exhaust system. However, it’s mostly gone early in the rev range, usually within a few seconds of stomping the accelerator. According to Volkswagen, the GTI’s max torque hits at just 1500 rpm and holds on until nearly 5000. As a result, I don’t feel like I’ve lost any torque around town. What was felt as a nice initial thrust in my TDI has proven to be a “hold on, I’m not done yet” experience in the GTI. Continue reading
I took just 10 days to blast through the first 1000 miles. I had a goal to follow the break-in schedule as detailed in the owner’s manual, but to do it quickly. My first impressions were not performance-oriented due to the easy driving. Instead, they were about the ride and build quality. I really liked my Mk6 Jetta. It was light-years ahead of my Mk3 Jetta. Sure, my Mk3 was faster, more nimble, and more fuel-efficient; but the Mk6 had comfort and refinement like I had not had before. Everything I had read about the Mk7 GTI told me that it has even more refinement and far better performance. Notice that I didn’t write “comfort?” Comfort is very subjective. Still, it was the first impression the car gave me. Continue reading
I’m a fan of splash guards, aka “mud flaps,” on my cars. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss them until I left them off my Mk6. Sure enough, I found myself needing to clean tar and grime off the rocker panels and rear bumper skin on a regular basis. As a result, I knew I wanted splash guards on my GTI. I had hoped to negotiate a deal on some during the purchase. But I guess I got my car at or near the dealer’s bottom line; there was no slipping them into the deal without paying their mark-up. No thanks! I knew I could order a set for less and install them myself. Continue reading
I knew I wanted a GTI, no matter what! I had my heart set on a Reflex Silver Sport and found the only one in the region. I was so confident I’d love the car that I didn’t even test drive it. I just visited the dealer (80 miles away), took some photos of it in the showroom, got the paperwork rolling, and then drove it home the next day. It’s the only time I had ever bought a car this way. Ironically, it was also the smoothest buying process I’ve ever experienced, with most negotiating done via e-mail before I even arrived! The problems I encountered were minor, so small that I probably wouldn’t have noticed during a test drive anyway: Continue reading
As mentioned on my “Why Stealth GTI?” page, I prefer to keep a sedate appearance with my cars. Doing so avoids unwanted attention from thieves, vandals, police, and boy-racers. I was certain that I’d be quite content with a base “S,” especially after fitting it with my 16-inch VW Mambo alloys. It would have looked like an “OEM+” Golf, but performed like a GTI. However, I found myself attracted to the extra features of the “Sport” trim. The Sport is essentially an “S” with what VW once offered separately as a “Lighting Package” and a “Performance Package.” These packages are now just rolled into the Sport and higher GTI trim levels. In short, the Sport adds Bi-Xenon high-intensity headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and Adaptive Frontlight System, “VAQ” electronic locking differential, larger brakes, +10 horsepower, keyless access w/pushbutton start, unique 18-inch wheels, and ho-hum gloss black mirror caps. Buying these items from the factory for $2500 was much less expensive than fitting even a few of these features later. Continue reading
I’ve considered buying a GTI many times over the years. Being a TDI enthusiast, it was difficult for me to give up three things that couldn’t be had with the GTI: 1) Over 40-mpg, 2) 600+ miles between fill-ups, and 3) Satisfying low-end torque, which is great for jetting along city streets. Number 1 and #2 will never happen in a GTI, but the 3rd Generation 2.0T found in the GTI sure has made #3 a reality, dramatically-so after a tune. That and the fact that the GTI is nicely equipped and reasonably priced had led me to consider jumping ship from the TDI. Dieselgate pushed me over the edge. I’ve written two articles to express my thoughts and plan for dealing with the scandal. I’ve shared the second one below. You could say that it is an “origin story” of sorts for my return to gasoline-powered Volkswagens. See for yourself: Continue reading