I spend way too much time thinking about how I would build a car that I don’t own and most likely never will. Today isn’t much different. I parked next to a coworker’s car today that he barely drives and was reminded that the Volkswagen MK6 GTI exists. Really, it doesn’t just exist, it’s a great looking car. I know, it’s probably the forgotten child of GTI enthusiasts right now. It’s a face-lifted MK5 overshadowed by its MQB successors. Now that the MK4 is closing in on 20 years old, it’s loved more and more every day, which you can read about in an article we published not too long ago. The MK6 is the middle child right now, but, strangely enough, the first thought exercise in mildly modifying one has the most reads currently on this blog. So I thought I’d re-visit what I would do with a MK6 GTI if I had one myself. Here are the best mods I could find in ten minutes for a VW MK6 GTI.
In no particular order, I’d want to touch everything. If this was a perfect world, I would just do everything all at once. Why not? I’ve been doing it that way with my own project car lately and only slightly want to commit hari-kari for having only driven it once in the last twelve months because ‘it’s not perfect yet.’
Last time we talked about Coilovers as an excellent way to lower the ride height and improve overall handling while tackling the maintenance concerns of old shocks and struts. However, if it were my car, I would put it on air. I love our MK6 GTI (yes, it’s a GTI, not an R. Get over it.) It sits just right on air. I’m not a fan of our wheel choice, but we’ll get to that later. Air Lift has one of the best kits available for any car, the MK6 GTI being no different. I’d go with the V3. If you’re just looking to get low on a budget, check out the ECS Street Coilover system, too.
Bushings, arms, sway bars, end links, and chassis bracing. All the old, worn-out, stock equipment will be much more noticeable once the car is slammed on its face, whether you go air or static. I would instantly go with the ECS rear subframe locking collar kit, rear chassis brace kit, and the UB underbody brace. All those reinforcement modifications will reduce chassis flex and improve handling, allowing me to get the most out of the suspension.
The obvious sway bar/end link upgrades are the ECS front and rear upgraded adjustable sway bars and polyurethane bushings. These will help reduce the body roll of the car and work in tandem with the chassis reinforcement.
Finally, as we mentioned, those stock control arms have got to go. Our upgraded suspension refresh kit includes the control arms with preinstalled ball joints and poly bushings, plus all the hardware and other suspension bits I would want to replace due to age and wear.
With that, the suspension of the car would be well sorted and ready to look fantastic while parked or perform beautifully on a back road.
I say power, but really, all the engine needs is a little wake-up. An intake, intercooler, downpipe, exhaust, and a tune make a world of difference to the MK6 GTI. It is a fantastic little platform already, so it doesn’t need much to make it my version of perfect. Lately, I have been more apt to improve the brakes and suspension while only moderately improving power output as it forces me to be a better driver rather than rely on my right foot. The same principles will apply here.
Intakes will let me both improve the power output and give me room to add parts later. They don’t do much on their own, but with a tune and supporting mods, our Luft-Technik intake adds up to 31whp, which is no small number.
For the intercooler, the APR front mount intercooler kit is just what I’d need. Intercoolers are just air-to-air charge air coolers, but construction still needs to be considered. The volume of the intercooler and its build quality need to be things on which I can rely. I trust APR for their kit. It is almost three times the size of the factory version and will drastically reduce charge air temps, which will translate to a significant power gain.
As for the exhaust, the easiest solution would be to just go with a turbo back system off the bat. Since I’d do it all at once, why not? I thoroughly enjoy everything from Milltek Sport, so their resonated 3-inch race exhaust would be my choice. Of course, you can always build an exhaust in pieces and go with what you think sounds the best. As long as it is designed to improve the flow, the outcome will be down to what your budget and preferences are.
Lastly, to tie it all together, an APR Stage 2 software upgrade would let me get the most out of the bolt on upgrades mentioned above. The tune requires a high-flow downpipe, intake, and theoretically works best with an intercooler upgrade, all of which are present in my fictitious MK6 GTI. With all those upgrades and the Stage 2 tune, the 2.0T will see gains of about 87hp and 125tq. Definitely a different car at that point, I think I would be satisfied with a 300whp GTI on bags and built suspension.
Obviously, with an additional 100hp or so, this GTI will need to stop. The MK5 R32 Big Brake Kits from ECS upgrade the rotors and calipers for better brake performance and decreased stopping distances. 345x30mm rotors, stainless steel lines, fresh high-temp fluid, and some grabby pads will help reign in the additional power of this GTI.
Finally, ECS mounts will help reduce deflection from the engine and improve throttle response while the ECS Adjustable Short Shift Kit will give me a satisfyingly engaging shifting experience when I drive the car. These subtle final changes will ultimately be the icing on the cake that makes this car feel more raw, more rough-and-tumble, than the soft bushings and mounts supplied by the factory. Plus, they probably should be replaced anyway.
OZ Futura III in polished lips/gunmetal faces/gold hardware. 17×9.5 ET30 square. ‘Nuff said.
With that, this hypothetical GTI would be satisfying to me, at least, until I get bored enough to upgrade the turbo to a K04. Regardless, by improving the engine power output, the sound, the feel, and look of this GTI, I have touched nearly every corner to make the car an exceptional example of a moderately tuned MK6. Hopefully, someone out there with a few grand to spare and some time will do just this….