Tracing its roots to the MK2 Golf Rallye, the latest iteration to bear the R badge from Volkswagen is the MK7/7.5 Golf R. The legendary Golf R is the beefier big brother to the GTI, which already sports amazing performance potential, but lacks the total package found in the top-of-the-line hot hatchback from Wolfsburg. With a Haldex 4motion AWD system, lightning-quick DSG gearbox, and nearly 300hp at the crank from the reworked 2.0T FSI engine, the Golf R is a capable platform out of the box and competes directly with the Subaru STI, now dead Mitsubishi EVO X, and the Ford Focus RS. However, what if you want to make your Golf R something a little more ‘you’? We at ECS Tuning know a few tips to help get you started by improving the little hatchback efficiently with the most bang for your buck, so follow along for the best mods for your VW MK7 Golf R.
Ordinarily, we would begin with maintenance needs. In the case of the MK7 Golf R, these vehicles will be new enough even second-hand to just touch the basics. As with any new-to-you car, we do suggest an oil and filter change, new cabin air filters, and to inspect the brakes and tires. For the purposes of our mod list, we will touch on what to do with those stopping and rolling components later in the article. Let’s dig in!
While the Dynamic Cassis Control (DCC) is incredible and allows you to switch between three suspension settings on the fly, it still isn’t anything compared to a competitive set of coilovers. Some folks like to install lowering springs, like those offered from Racingline or H&R, in order to retain the DCC functionality. We, however, want a little more adjustability and performance from the suspension department. A set of KW V3 coilovers will match the quality of your Golf R and effectively reduce weight transfer, body roll, and the ride height while offering geometry adjustments like camber and caster as well as ride control with damping and height adjustment abilities.
Some people say sway bar upgrades are useless, others swear by them, especially in Auto-X. Upgrading your sway bars to larger diameter units with adjustable mounts allows you to dial in how much body roll you experience in the corners and can help dial in under or oversteer to work in your favor. For this, we recommend H&R Front and Rear Sway Bars. If you are driving the car hard on technical courses or roads, pairing upgraded sway bars with coilovers is a sure-fire way to improve your times. Remember, it’s all about using the performance the car already has more efficiently! These suspension upgrades will reduce the amount of time off the throttle in corners, which translates to better performance even without increasing power.
Along the same lines as the suspension recommendations, higher-performance pads, rotors, and lines will decrease your stopping distances and increase the amount of time you can spend with your foot on the go pedal. By allowing your brakes to work more efficiently, you can achieve the same or better braking performance in much less time and distance for better corner entry and more power on the exits. We suggest Hawk Performance pads and their new Hawk Talon rotors as a great starting point. For builds that are exploring the upper limits of available power from the car, though, you might want to consider choosing a true big brake kit like the ones from StopTech.
So far, if you’re on a budget for modifying your MK7 R, you are probably feeling the strain on your wallet. While the Golf R has respectable fuel economy, it still isn’t the cheapest car to own and the mod list to this point is quite pricey, which somewhat comes with the territory when modifying new cars. That said, your bank account can rest easy with our wheel options we’d suggest. You can, of course, go all-out and pick up some BBS wheels or Rotiform 3-piece forged wheels, but for the purpose of looking good and performing well, we’d rather steer you towards something more affordable that won’t make your stomach tie in knots over every bump or if you happen to curb a lip. Our Tekniform rotary-forged line of wheels are right at home on the Golf R and offer the benefits of a lightweight design with similar durability to forged wheels – at half the cost. While the style selection is somewhat limited now, there are still plenty of options, sizes, fitments, and finishes that can give you the sense of individuality you need to set your car apart.
The 2.0T, especially with the DSG, makes some incredible noises. Unfortunately, the quiet factory exhaust system stifles them with baffles and routing that leaves plenty to be desired from your MK7 R. APR and Milltek Sport both produce exceptional Cat-Back Exhaust Systems that turn up the volume while providing the same quality look you’d expect from your top-shelf Golf R. Additionally, an exhaust system will be necessary for the most aggressive off the shelf software tuning, which we will cover shortly.
Once again, many will argue the cold air intake is a waste of money since it doesn’t really add power by itself. This is patently untrue. It doesn’t add a lot of power by itself, but it does add some. More importantly, it improves the sound from your engine and cleans up the bay of space while separating the air inlet from the rest of the relatively hot engine bay for colder, more dense airflow through the turbo, intercooler, and throttle body for more power. Beyond that, aftermarket intakes with a better flow are usually required for tuning software to take full advantage of the engine’s potential. Our Luft-Technik intake for the MK7 Golf R is one we have tested that offers proven power by itself and significant gains when paired with a downpipe, exhaust, and tune, so definitely pick one up early on for a noticeable improvement to your driving experience.
The third piece to the holy trinity of modern forced-induction engine performance, a software tune will slightly change the air/fuel mapping and timing to more efficiently deliver power, as well as improve throttle response and remove the top speed governor. With the DSG transmission, a TCU software upgrade is also recommended to quicken up those already snappy shifts for optimal performance. APR software is the general go-to in terms of VW tuning, so that’s who we’d recommend as well. You can have the APR software installed right here at ECS Tuning through our Chip-and-Ship program which lets you have the work performed without leaving your house.
Maxton Design exterior upgrades are pretty much the best solution for adding a bit of personality to your MK7 Golf R that will allow you to daily the car low with a front lip, side splitters, and rear diffuser without worrying you’ll break something expensive. This isn’t a knock on Maxton for their affordability, but rather a testament to their durability and looks that give you the same feel and appearance of much more expensive aero pieces you wouldn’t want to risk breaking. Remember, the point is to drive the car and enjoy it, not create something that is akin to an expensive piece of garage art.
The Golf R has a fantastic interior. Volkswagen has done an amazing job creating a luxurious feel inside the sporty hatchback without stepping on their Audi brand’s toes. Honestly, we would only suggest changing the paddle shifters for our aluminum paddle shift extensions for a better feeling when driving hard. The longer reach makes shifting and steering simultaneously much more ergonomic and the billet aluminum paddles in different color options give you a little spice to the interior. You can take it a step further with other accents to match and create a theme, but realistically, we love the interior as-is. However, those changes are all up to your personal preference! Keep it stock or go wild, you can’t go wrong either way.
This list should give you a solid base for improving your Golf R over time. Remember, you don’t need to change everything at once, just make adjustments as you go along and enjoy them one at a time. By giving your car better handling, braking, and power delivery abilities, the already performance-oriented Golf R becomes a truly incredible machine with just those few adjustments. That said, there are almost endless numbers of other areas to upgrade on the car, but this list should touch every major corner and give you a fairly complete feel throughout the car. So go out, pick up a wrench, and never stop tuning!