Jay came to us looking for some guidance on upgrading his 2013 Volkswagen GTI. Sensing that this was going to be a bit different than many of our other MK6 projects, I urged him to come down to the shop and have a discussion so we can better understand his needs.
As with all things Volkswagen tuning, there exist an amazing number of options and routes than can be explored. From full on street legal race car, to show car bits, there is always a difference between what could be done and what should be the done. Understanding where to draw the line relative to what we recommend to any given client is based primarily on their needs. Every GTI owner is different, and we address our recommendations based on what they care about, and what they need.
So first, we came to know Jay. Jay works for Skratch Labs in Boulder. Skratch Labs is company operated out of Boulder Colorado, they make clean food and clean fuel for athletes. Think hydration mixes, energy supplements, protein cookies and the like. While Jay is their VP of sales, his passion for all things outdoor recreation keeps him constantly in the outdoors, and takes him to some amazing places. As such we wanted to reinvent his GTI, but our focus was set on functionality, and reliability taking precedent over all else.
Step 1: Maintenance and Repair
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, you have to eat your broccoli before you have desert. Adding power and performance are all wonderful, but they mean nothing if your car isn’t as safe and reliable. Jay had racked up 40,000 miles on his 3 year old GTI. But his plans involve carrying bikes, ski gear, fishing gear and his friends to points well beyond the reach of cell coverage. We made sure his GTI would get him there safely, and quickly. To that end we executed the 55K service early, replacing spark plugs, inspecting the cam follower, replacing air and pollen filters early, along with an engine oil service, and also replacement of the known faulty ignition coils. In doing so, our factory trained technicians also poured over every inch of the Volkswagen GTI and ensured that there were no outstanding repairs necessary, indeed there were not. We cannot over stress the importance of this first step on any project or build.
Step 2: Upgrades
We knew that we wanted to address the performance and efficiency of the GTI, but in a very specific manner. The 2.0T FSI motor in Jay’s 6th generation ( hence MK6) GTI responds very well to tuning, this we know. We wanted to strike a balance between adding more power, but not impacting reliability, nor further confounding traction to the front tires. We added a high flow catalytic converter with a high flow downpipe from Eurojet, which paired nicely with the AWE Tuning cat back exhaust system. Once bolted up we loaded a Stage 2 Tune from REVO good for an estimated 300HP //325TQ. Further intake hardware upgrades seemed more cosmetic and less functional, so we left well enough alone there. But we did make sure to upgrade his stock diverter valve with an upgraded unit from Go Fast Bits ( GFB DV+) as this has proven to be a bulletproof solution. Speaking of durability, we knew that Jay’s stock clutch was feeling good now, but with an added 150% more HP and even more TQ, we didn’t want Jay to experience the clutch failing “in the field”. To that end we created a bit of a custom clutch solution. We removed the 6 speed manual gearbox, and replaced the stock friction disc with a Stage 2 friction disc from South Bend. This meant we retain and reused the stock flywheel, and stock pressure plate, replacing only the wearable friction disc, along side new OEM pressure plate fasteners. Ensuring that the oil pan remains protected, we also fitted an aluminum skid plate from Evolution Imports.
Cornering and Braking:
Like us, and perhaps you, Jay is an avid biker ( both mountain and road). And if you appreciate good handling on 2 wheels, well then it should be no surprise that these preferences extend to Jay’s GTI. For me, recommending the Bilstein PSS10 coilover kit was a no brainer. But it took Jay a bit to drink the kool aid on this one. With an extensive range of height adjustment and 10 dampening settings, on the outset, it appeared that this was overkill. But I remained steadfast in my insistence here. “Good suspension is ever present, present under braking, acceleration, cornering, and even when the car is parked. You have to care about these things, but if you do, the PSS10 kit is worth it, at any price,”. With OEM like levels of noise ( or lack there of), a lifetime warranty, and very easy adjustments, this has been the silver bullet for transformative suspension adjustments for daily drivers, as well as full on track cars.Once fitted, we adjusted the ride height to spec, compensated for Jay’s weight in the driver’s seat and executed a precise 4 wheel alignment and corner balance, to ensure the car is as perfectly set up as possible.
To compliment the power and handling upgrades, we sourced all of the brake upgrades from StopTech. Stainless steel lines were a no brainer, we kept stock brake fluid in the lines ( replenished with new fluid from VW) stock pads and rotors in the rear as they had plenty of life left, however we did add more stopping power on the front axle courtesy of the StopTech ST41 big brake kit. This kit utilizes StopTechs ST40 4 piston brake caliper ( finished in red powder coat) with one piece slotted rotors. The one piece rotor doesn’t add as much weight savings as the two piece rotors, but saving weight wasn’t a priority for Jay as he regularly hauls 300lbs of gear in his GTI. Instead the slotted rotors provide the most efficient cleaning of the friction surface, and the one piece design ensures a quick and inexpensive replacement. We ensured that the front pads were fitted with wear sensors to ensure the full benefit of all OEM functionality.
Jay is a serious driver. And his excursions take him on gravel roads, high mountain passes, thru deep snow, and of course on dry roads. To that end we outfitted Jay’s stock wheels with studded Nokian Hakka 7’s for hardcore winter duty, Jay already had one set of BBS wheels ( SR’s ) fitted with Bridgestone Blizzaks for daily winter driving, and added another set of BBS wheels for summer use. We chose the BBS CH-R in gunmetal and installed Michelin Pilot Sport AS3 all season tires, ensuring sufficient dry weather grip, with the traction needed in case Jay gets caught in a storm during the shoulder season.
Step 3: Tweaks
After driving the set-up for the first month we had some small changes to make. The initial ride height looked great, but did not provide sufficient clearance for the big winter storms we saw in mid-March. Thankfully there was plenty of adjustment left in the Bilstein coilovers, and we added about 00.75” increase in ride height, and also adjusted the fitment of the AWE Tuning exhaust tips. Other than that, the set-up has proven to be as enjoyable and bullet proof as intended.