Power Enhancements

I bought a Mk7 GTI because I knew it could be far more than advertised. It started with a reportedly under-rated 220 hp and 258 lb-ft. Dynamometer testing by tuners and enthusiasts indicates that the actual stock output is closer to 235 hp and 270 lb-ft, figures which rival that of tuned engines of earlier generations and already more than my bought-back Stage 2 Jetta TDI. I had watched APR for a LONG time. Although I used other tuners for my TDIs, APR is the only company I considered seriously when it was time to amp-up a GTI.

I was accustomed to being quite pleased with a 30-hp bump in power from my TDIs after a tune. However, APR’s basic “Stage 1” tune bumps the Mk7 GTI’s already-healthy peak output by 81 hp and 111 lb-ft, for a total of 316 hp and 381 lb-ft, even with a factory air filter and exhaust system. Believe it or not, improved fuel economy can also be had with a little self-control… OKAY… A LOT of self-control!  😉 APR was having a sale and my work schedule allowed me to visit a tuner during the week. A Stage 1 tune alone transformed my GTI into a different car. It was quite amazing!

Later, I added another 20 hp and 23 lb-ft, for a total of 336 hp and 404 lb-ft, by adding APR’s downpipe and intercooler, then flashing to APR Stage 2. The car is really responsive and eager to get me into trouble! First gear is worthless because the tires just scald, even with traction control enabled. Second gear is a little better… the wheels still spin, but not as bad. Third gear is where jail time is had!  😉  It’s very easy to quickly find myself at Virginia’s “automatic-reckless-ticket” speed of 80 mph, which comes VERY quickly during a spirited pass on a two-lane highway, even with a trailer in tow. HAHA! The larger downpipe with free-flowing catalyst increased my exhaust note a bit beyond my liking. I softened the note using a Vibrant 17950 resonator in place of the factory part. The car almost sounds stock again.

Naturally, the endurance of my stock clutch concerned me since I had added over 110 lb-ft to the mix. My clutch lasted 15,000 miles with Stage 1. Plenty of towing putting it through its paces, too. I upgraded to an RSR clutch by HS Tuning at around 34,000 miles. The RSR clutch uses a factory dual-mass flywheel and will hold 480 lb-ft, a limit that I don’t ever expect to exceed. I’m told it feels about the same as a Southbend Stage 2 clutch, but the RSR is quiet as stock. My car still sounds like a sewing machine.  🙂  I think my driving style will remain relatively unchanged, except for a few on-ramp blasts and the occasional authoritative pass. 😉 If I’m wrong, then I may need some bail money and a good attorney!

Most people don’t think about tires being a “power enhancement.” Tires are the bond between the driveline and the pavement. As a result, anything that improves traction will improve the car’s ability to apply all of its newfound power to the pavement and to acceleration. All-season tires compromise traction for longevity, especially during the winter. Using dedicated summer performance tires (or winter tires, when appropriate) make a huge difference in the driving dynamic. My current choice of tire is the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500. I may try a set of Falken Azenis RT615K+ or Bridgestone Potenza RE-71Rs. Both will wear must faster than the Indy 500s, without a doubt! But I want to see how much better they pull on wet roads. The RT615K’s were awesome on my Mk3 Jetta! But rarely had them last more than 8000-10,000 miles. 😀

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