Thursday, October 27, 2011

GTI unleashed

The new Serron wheels available only
in the autobahn package for the GTI
So...the standard GTI sold by VW in the US is rated at 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque.  It is a nice looking car, with superior interior and exterior build quality, and if you splurge on the top tier package, the Autobahn, you get leather seats, navigation, sunroof, fancy LED daylight driving lights, and a new kind of allow wheels, known as the Serron, which were introduced first in Europe in the Adidas edition of the GTI.

It is no slouch on the road either.  It can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, but if driven conservatively, yield a generous 25 mpg combined for the manual transmission.  Fancy pants DSG (a hybrid automatic/manual transmission) yields 27 mpg combined.  However, these numbers fall short of other import competitors such as Subaru and Mazda.  Of course, the Japanese imports lack some of the finesse, in both interior and handling, that the GTI brings to the table, but the GTI still falls short.

Here is where the world of aftermarket tuning comes in.  Basically, there are a host of companies that will charge you between $600 and $900 to take the ECU - the computer brains of the engine - and remap the turbo/engine characteristics of the car.  The largest such tune, APR, located in Alabama, offers an entry level tune, known as the Stage 1, that only requires the ECU reprogramming.  After you do this - and in the process, give up your rights to VW warranty on your engine - your car is reborn.

Reborn as is 254 hp and 297 pounds-feet of torque.  Reborn as in similar numbers to the yet to be release in the US Golf R, which boasts similar numbers as well as all-wheel drive.  Reborn as having over 25% more horse power!  The torque and hp delivery of the engine becomes smoother, you get more power sooner and longer in the RPM range.  The engine sounds more alive, throatier, vigorous.

All this does come at a price.  Again, more likely than not, your warranty on the engine will probably be gone.  It will be up to the dealer and VW to decide whether any future damage is a result of this modification of your engine.  The newly-mapped ECU will demand more of your engine - the power comes at a cost of more strain in the engine, transmission, and clutch.  Moreover, the GTI, which handles well, will be tasked to handle even more should you go the route of tuning.  What could be mild-understeer could become severe if you take corners too fast.  Brakes are also going to be asked to do more if you push the newly tuned GTI.

However, used judiciously, the GTI becomes a brand new car, capable of a lot more than what it could deliver on the day it was driven off the dealer lot.  Also, tuning is not some back-alley operation; it is mainstream enough that a lot of VW dealers also will provide tuning services, even if doing so compromises the original manufacturer's warranty.  APR, the company I mentioned above, has done a lot of work with VW of North America itself.

One of APR's monster creations,
which they use in competitive racing
So, if you find yourself with a desire to get more out of your car, and you feel comfortable with the notion that you might have to pay for repair work out of pocket - or if your warranty has already expired - take a closer look at tuning.  The only problem is that tuning becomes a slippery slope of additional modifications to suspension, transmission, engine, brakes, etc.  Just to offer an idea, APR has a Stage 3 tune, which requires among other things, a new turbo system, exhaust, and intake plus chip modification, that yield a mind-blowing 405 hp and 403 pound-feet of torque.  Yes, over 400 horsepower from the tiny little GTI.  Granted, if you have a stock clutch, it won't last long, but more than 400 horsepower! Unbelievable.

No comments:

Post a Comment