The MK8 GTI has been out globally for quite some time and we’ve had our Pomelo Yellow Launch Edition GTI for several months. In that time, we’ve come to know the car fairly intimately in our quest to develop everything cool we can think of to improve the MK8. Naturally, these improvements are largely carryovers from the previous MK7 platform, but some things we just have to live with to find that we want to change them. This week, we’re looking at our MK8 GTI and talking about everything from ownership to our growing catalog of upgrades you can make to your GTI.
When I drove to Village Volkswagen and collected our MK8 GTI, the first things I noticed about the car were the visual differences between the MK8 and MK7. While it’s been a hot topic online since the car’s debut, seeing the GTI in person, I’ve decided VW made a distinct change without completely ditching the iconic heritage styling of their hot hatchback. Overall, it does feel like a different car. It has an angrier stock exhaust note, the exterior styling feels fresh and modern, the design elements are made popular by our fixation on simplistic, minimalistic, and flat features.
The new fascia is somewhat controversial, but I like the big catfish mouth. It’s certainly a far cry better than BMW’s take on front grilles. The almost two-dimensional design of the exterior makes this feel like a modern and futuristic GTI, though it does make the car feel ‘bigger’ when there are fewer complexities to the bodywork. Sitting next to the old GTI, though, the two cars are more or less identical in dimensions.
Inside the car, I was initially not thrilled with the color choices or lack of physical buttons to control. Once you become acquainted with the screen and digital controls, however, everything feels more natural. Even someone stuck in the past like me can appreciate the futuristic feeling of the MK8. The style of the seats, however, feels almost too inspired by science fiction and video games. Immediately I’m reminded of the seats found in the flying cars of Cyberpunk 2077. Overall, it’s an interior I don’t find uncomfortable, just something that takes getting used to. The gray color aside, living with the MK8 GTI is pleasant.
Wrenching and Maintenance
The issues I have found with the MK8 aren’t necessarily issues, they’re just clearly where VW didn’t spend their money. Sure, the engine is slightly reworked from the previous MQB Gen3 and the GTI sports a new turbo, but mechanically, very little has changed. Under the sleek (if you like it, that is) skin, you’re working with the bones of the MK7.
In fact, that’s how we’ve been able to bring so much to market. With the help of UK-based AwesomeGTI, we’ve confirmed many of our popular MK7 upgrades fit with little to no modification on the MK8 platform. Not insignificant systems, either. The coilovers I just installed on our MK8 this week are unmodified MK7 GTI coilovers. The installation is identical, parts are the same, and it makes me ask this question: ‘if VW was so concerned about keeping their GTI enthusiast base, why did they spend all their development budget making a new skin for the outgoing car?’ Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the visual design relatively the same and bring some serious improvements to the GTI’s performance?
It is, after all, a hot hatchback. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s no longer the seminal example of that category. However, the MK8 GTI is definitely not a flop. The MK7 was phenomenal. The MK8 is basically a MK7 turned up a bit with an angrier set of headlights. If you are going from a MK5 or MK6 platform, it makes absolute sense to jump into a new MK8 instead of a used MK7 if money is no object. Would I trade my MK7 GTI or R for a MK8? Ehhh, maybe. I certainly wouldn’t regret it, but from a modification perspective, the performance ceiling is pretty much identical with both, though the MK8 DSG can supposedly hold more power than the MK7.
Our Upgrades So Far
Regardless, the MK8 is very close to the beloved outgoing MK7. That can be good, that can be bad, it just depends on your perspective. For me, especially after having spent time both driving and working on the car, I’ve decided I like it. It’s basically an alt-take on the MK7, giving VW enthusiasts a choice between two distinct personalities with their cars, ultimately offering divergent evolutions. If you’re stuck in your ways, no need to go to the MK8. But if you want the cutting edge, we have to say you won’t make a bad choice grabbing the new GTI. Especially considering what we have for it already and what will be coming in the near future.
Under the hood, a few upgrades from our catalog are already found. Our Boost Taps allow us to run a few extra vacuum-assisted features, which we’ll discuss later. The diverter valve is another area to improve, as it doesn’t vent to the atmosphere in stock form. With our DV Spacer, you gain the atmospheric venting common to true blow-off valves when you let off the throttle without the negative drawbacks or CEL found with BOVs.
For actual performance, our High Flow Turbo Outlet Pipes bring a 10WHP bolt-on upgrade to your GTI’s power with bigger, better, and much more attractive outlet piping. Our silicone and aluminum piping offers a larger diameter passage for better air delivery as well as improving on the coupler designs to prevent any chance of blowing tubes or couplers under high boost.
Finally, to give your engine a more quality look and feel, our Billet Aluminum Oil Filter Housing and DSG Filter Housing bring functional, durable, style to your GTI. Replacing the plastic filter housings means you’ll no longer have to worry about chewing them up with every removal for service and you’ll have beautiful billet aluminum to look at for the remainder of your ownership.
To stiffen up the engine and transmission, our Dogbone Mount Insert and Pendulum Mount help to reduce deflection for crisper shifts and more immediate acceleration. These mount upgrades are critical for achieving a more connected driving experience in the MK8 GTI, one that we highly recommend. The additional NVH is hardly noticeable, while the crisper shifts and harder punch make for dramatic improvements to power delivery.
Using those boost taps we talked about earlier, our valved cat-back exhaust system is the perfect blend of performance and subtlety. This stainless system is available with the valved option for quietness at the touch of a button, or non-valved for party mode all the time. With the new turbo and same great 2.0T from before, this GTI is the most aggressive sounding yet, especially with our exhaust fitted.
Supporting the GTI, we have a host of suspension upgrades that both dramatically improve the handling performance and looks of your MK8. Starting with the most comprehensive upgrade, our HD install kit and ECS Adjustable Damping Coilovers replace the factory struts, shocks, springs, mounts, and inserts with better performing, adjustable, and stylish components that let you control how your GTI looks and feels.
Paired with the coilovers, our upgraded front, and rear adjustable sway bars further allow you to dial in that perfect suspension setup for a mild, street-driven performance orientation all the way to a dedicated Auto-X or track day toy. Tune understeer and oversteer to your desired settings and virtually eliminate body roll for the best handling package possible with our sway bars and coilovers combined.
Taking things further, every place you can eliminate deflection is a place you can improve performance. Our now famous monoball upgrades are precisely what you need to retain all comfort and articulation without sacrifice to handling. Monoballs offer a completely solid replacement to rubber bushings that completely eliminate deflection for the most direct suspension feeling you can experience.
Finally, our front stress bar and rear stress bar add that last bit of rigidity you need to make your MK8 a nearly telepathic driving experience. Our front upper strut brace ties the two strut towers together, while our rear stress bar adds stiffness to the cavernous trunk. With all these suspension upgrades together, your GTI will handle on rails and maintain its rigidity through even the hardest corners.
On the outside of the car, we started with protection. Since we knew the GTI was going to get low on our coilovers, we had to ensure everything fragile under the car was secure. Our front street shield, street shield tunnel brace, and rear street shield skid plates provide total protection to the underbody of the GTI and are a nearly impenetrable defense against potential road hazards.
For the wheels, we offer some pretty enticing options. If you’re partial to the OEM look but want better fitment, our flush kit is perfect. We’ve taken the time to measure for the ideal spacing for the best combination of looks and functionality so you don’t have to. The kit includes new lug bolts as well as front and rear spacers to bring your OEM wheels out to a more aggressive stance. If you’re ok ditching the stockers, our specific MK8 GTI-fitment Alzor wheels or rotary-formed Tekniform wheels are excellent options.
Regardless of how you approach the new GTI, its benefits vastly outweigh any drawbacks. Sure, it’s a new car. There are things to complain about. But under the surface, it’s mostly the MK7 we’ve come to know and love with mild improvements across the whole car. The MK8 GTI has definitely grown on me in terms of looks and feel, and it’ll only get better as we continue to improve it. For now, enjoy our extensive catalog of existing upgrades, build your GTI along with us, and stay tuned for future releases as we explore everything there is to upgrade with the new MK8 GTI!