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 tuned 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 for my 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 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!

A year later, in 2018, I added APR’s downpipe, intercooler, and their Stage 2 software update. That added a small, but nice bump in power and torque. Stage 2 output is advertised at ~337 hp and 383 lb-ft (power to the road is less), which is quite satisfying in a 3100-lb hatchback. In 2020, I upgraded the exhaust to a stainless steel catback by Baun Performance, LLC. Much to my surprise, that exhaust gave me a little more pull up top. Click this link to read about that upgrade.

In 2021, I went for even more by upgrading to an IS38 turbocharger and APR’s Stage 3 programming. Coincidentally, two cross-country road trips compelled me to switch to programming that supports 91 AKI fuel. APR advertises its 91 AKI program to produce 395 hp and 371 lb-ft. This dynograph composite shows the difference between Stage 2 and Stage 3 at the wheels while running on 91 AKI fuel. The car is very eager to get me into trouble!  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!

Naturally, the endurance of my stock clutch concerned me since I had added over 100 lb-ft to the mix. Plenty of towing putting it through its paces, too. I upgraded to an RSR Clutch Kit by HS Tuning at around 34,000 miles. The RSR clutch uses a factory dual-mass flywheel and will hold 380 lb-ft, which is 100 lb-ft less than what was advertised when I bought it. I’d buy their RSR Hybrid Clutch Kit if I was shopping today. 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. The factory all-season tires compromise traction for longevity, especially during the winter. Using dedicated summer performance tires (or even some high performance all-season tires) makes a huge difference in the driving dynamic. I’ve tried and like the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500. It’s an excellent tire for the money. I also like my current tire of choice, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. It’s more expensive than the Indy 500, but it performs better and is suitable for year-round driving. Next, I may try the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, which is a summer-only tire. Someone local to me says his 400+ horsepower GTI grips very well with these tires.

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