7 Ways To Make Your GTI Faster

Mk6 and MK7 GTI Tuning Guide for New Owners

So you’ve taken the first step to actually enjoying your daily commute and bought yourself a Mk6 or Mk7 GTI. It makes all the right sounds and feels like an upper-class performance car while providing you the unique versatility that only the VW GTI can. But what happens after you’ve had it for a few months and gotten used to the performance? Have you found yourself asking any of the following questions:  
  • What mods should I do to my GTI?
  • Which mods should I do first?
  • Which GTI mods will give me the best bang for the buck?
  • Who should I trust to tune my Mk6 or Mk7 GTI?
  If so, you’ve been bit by the tuning or “modding” bug! Don’t fear, these exact questions are literally asked everyday by thousands of other new GTI owners just like you. Owners looking to personalize and improve upon their current stock GTI. Luckily for you, and the thousands of other new Mk6 and MK7 GTI owners, we’ve put together this list of the best Mk6 and Mk7 GTI mods a new owner should begin with. We should caution you though, that modifying and tuning your GTI can become addictive. For that very reason we’ve narrowed this list down to the most effective, highest return GTI mods you can start with and build upon.  

1. General Maintenance

Not commonly thought of as a “mod”, general maintenance items are actually a great starting point for you on your quest to improve and modify your GTI. Upping the general maintenance items for your Mk6 or Mk7 GTI help ensure your GTI performs the best it can for the duration of your ownership and beyond. The age old adage of “you get what you pay for” rings very true when it comes to the maintenance parts you put into your GTI. A few of the higher quality maintenance products to consider include:  

Spark Plugs

After putting about 20,000 miles on your new GTI it is time to start thinking about a better performing spark plug. Aftermarket spark plugs have been proven to increase performance and efficiency. Who doesn’t want a little more power and few more MPGs?  

Engine Oil

While German manufacturers like Volkswagen don’t scrimp when it comes to motor oil, using well known full synthetic brands like Castrol Edge or Rotella T6, there is an obligation to maintain that same level or better oil in your GTI. Be sure to change your oil regularly, keeping it around the 5,000 mile range.  

2. Tires

Tires. This is one of the best ways you can effortlessly boost your GTI’s performance. It’s so simple that sometimes enthusiasts overlook this step. If you can increase traction you increase performance. Unless your goal is to create a tire smoking burnout machine, adding power and reducing weight is useless without the traction needed to effectively put it to the ground.  

Choosing new tires for your GTI

The stock mk7 GTI came from the factory with a set of decent all-season tires and a summer-only tire option giving new GTI owners quite a bit more grip from the get go. While the stock summer option is a great one, as in all things GTI tuning, there are better options to consider. Depending on what your goal with the car is- autocross/track days/canyon runs etc there are a slew of tire upgrade options available. A few that come to mind include:  
  •      Michelin Pilot Super Sports
  •      Toyo R888
  •      Hankook RS3
  •      Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec


3. Wheels

While often seen solely as a cosmetic modification for your GTI, the right set of wheels can actually give you the best of both form and function. There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to modifying and/or improving your GTI’s performance:  
  • Increase power
  • Decrease weight
  And wheels definitely fall under the “decrease weight” category. Wheels are what we call “unsprung” weight, basically meaning the mass of the suspension, wheels, and other components directly connected to them, but not supported by the suspension or springs. If you can reduce the unsprung weight of your GTI you will definitely gain performance due to the reduction in rotational mass.  

Wheel Weight

To help give you a better picture, the stock wheels found your Mk6 GTI weight (without tires):  
  • Factory "Detroit" style wheels: 29 pounds each
  • Factory "Denver" style wheels: 24 pounds each
  The new Mk7 GTI stock wheels are pretty similar (without tires)  
  • Factory "Austin" style wheels: 25 pounds each
  • Factory "Nogaro" style wheels: 24 pounds each
  Unfortunately, for most weight seems to be an afterthought when shopping for new wheels. Many just go with what looks good on their GTI, not considering that they may actually be bolting up heavier wheels, reducing performance in the process. Now, if you were to replace your stock wheels while keeping form AND function in mind, you will be in the money when it comes to performance gained. For instance, here’s how much a similar sized wheel (18”) from popular wheel manufacturers Enkei, Volks, or OZ Racing weigh:  
  • OZ Ultraleggera: 18.8 lbs
  • Enkei RPF1: 17 lbs
  • Volk TE37: 17.2 lbs
  Now let’s do some math. But first let’s get the basics of our equation. Famed wheel manufacturer Rays Engineering has been quoted to say that for every 1kg (2.2lbs) of weight eliminated from unsprung weight is basically the same as eliminating 15kg (33lbs) of overall vehicle weight (think seats, carpet, stereo etc) that your suspension has to manage. So, say you bought a set of one of the wheels listed above for your Mk6 GTI replacing your stock Detroit wheels. Here is the total estimated reduction in un-sprung weight using our little equation above we find the reduction of weight off of your suspension:  
  • OZ Ultraleggera: 612 lbs
  • Enkei RPF1: 720 lbs
  • Volk TE37: 707 lbs
  These weight savings translate to improved handling and more power that your “butt dyno” will most definitely feel, all while looking good at the same time.

4. Adding A Cold Air Intake (CAI)

Now that you have the look AND performance you want from a set of new lightweight wheels and tires, it’s time to start modifying the engine of your GTI. The first place you should start “tuning” your Mk6 or Mk7 GTI is with a cold air intake. A cold air intake does just what it says, it helps provide colder, denser air to the intake systems of the engine through a larger diameter filter and smoother, more flow optimized piping. The factory OE air box isn’t designed with max performance in mind, not maximizing the flow of air to the engine. These budget friendly Mk6 and Mk7 GTI performance upgrades also make your GTI sound better. You’ll get more intake sound and the classic Volkswagen recirculating valve “woosh” with the addition of a GTI cold air intake. Just the sound is worth the investment! Take a look for yourself: https://youtu.be/yk4ARP0Ci24 When you get down to the performance of a CAI, you’ll find that you stand to gain 8-15 horsepower and an equal amount in torque. We’ve actually found that our MK7 GTI cold air intakes increase airflow to the turbo by an outstanding 17.3%! When it comes to bang for the buck mods for you GTI, a cold air intake is hard to beat!  

5. Exhaust

  Now that your Mk6 or Mk7 GTI is breathing a bit easier with the addition of a cold air intake, it’s time to take the next step and get an exhaust system. Just like stock intakes, stock exhausts can be restrictive and reduce the potential for power and sound. Adding an aftermarket exhaust to your GTI will open up it’s ability to evacuate air, or “exhale” more easily. This, of course, translates into more horsepower. But a huge factor in adding a custom exhaust to your GTI is the SOUND! You thought the 2-liter turbo sounded pretty good before, you’ll LOVE it after adding an exhaust. There are three types of exhausts you can consider when modifying your Mk6 and Mk7 GTI:  
  • Cat-back exhaust
  • Down pipe
  • Turbo-back exhaust

Cat-Back Exhaust

A Cat-back exhaust (also known as axle-back) replaces the rear section of the GTI factory exhaust system after the catalytic converter. These bolt-up to the factory exhaust after the catalytic converter, replacing the heavy and restrictive stock muffler with a better flowing muffler. Cat-backs improve the sound of your GTI and may add a small amount of horsepower. Because it retains the stock portion of the down pipe and catalytic converter, the horsepower gains aren’t as high as they could be with a Turbo-back exhaust.

Down Pipe

The largest performance restriction in the factory GTI exhaust setup is in the down pipe. The down pipe is the first section of the exhaust directly off the turbocharger and contains at least one catalytic converter. Some models will even have two catalytic converters. When looking to go stage 2 or above, a performance down pipe is a must! Aftermarket downpipes include high-flow catalytic converters and larger diameter piping for a huge increase in flow and big gain in power.

Turbo-Back Exhaust

Just as it sounds, turbo-back is a complete exhaust from the turbo all the way to the back of the car. This exhaust setup replaces the restrictive factory components with increased diameter piping, down pipe, choice of resonator, and lighter muffler. A turbo-back exhaust opens up the full horsepower potential of your GTI while providing yet even more fantastic sounds! You can expect 15-30+ horsepower gains depending on the turbo and tune setup.

Catless Down Pipes or Test pipes

IE does not condone the use of "catless" or"test pipe" setups that remove the catalytic converter(s) completely. A quality high-flow catalytic converter will perform in line with a catless setup without the smell and increased carbon emissions associated with test pipe designs.  

6. Intercooler

Adding an intercooler to your mk6 or mk7 GTI is one of the best bangs for your buck! A quality intercooler will dramatically cool the charge air from the turbocharger resulting in more power and efficiency. Because aftermarket intercoolers utilize a larger and more efficient cooling surface they are better able to create and optimize the power of your GTI. Be very mindful of what intercooler you decide to go with, as not all intercoolers are created equal. In fact, our unique MK6 & MK7 FDS intercoolers utilize a proprietary design to better optimize air flow, known as the IE FDS (Flow Distribution System). This design helps ensure that the charge air is the coolest temperature it can be, thus increasing your performance. Luckily intercoolers are relatively easy to install, usually not requiring any major modifications to your GTI. When it comes to power for your money, it's hard ot get better as this GTI modification will net you 15-25 additional horsepower by simply bolting it up.  Check out our Mk6 intercooler FAQ here for more information:  

7. ECU Tune

The final, and in our opinion the best Mk6/Mk7 GTI modification a new owner could do is a performance ECU tune. Now that we have the maintenance, wheels, tires, intake, exhaust and intercooler taken care of, it’s now time to optimize those modifications by customizing the ecu’s tuning to your GTI’s setup. The stock ECU is conservatively programmed from the factory, leaving a great amount of safe and reliable power available through a custom tune. Tunes usually come in stages, adding more power in each stage by further optimizing the engine’s fuel, air and supporting mapping.

Top benefits of a Mk6/Mk7 GTI tune:

  • Increased Power
  • Increased Efficiency
  • Maintain stock drivability
  • More Fun
  In our Mk6 GTI stage 1 tune, we were able to extract an additional 39 horsepower and 51 ft/lbs of torque at the wheels. This is a massive gain in power over stock and one you’ll feel immediately as throttle response is improved over stock.
Not only will you gain more power you’ll also gain the opportunity for increased efficiency. We say “opportunity” for increased efficiency because we know how addicting it can be to mash the gas pedal, which is not conducive to efficient driving. When you are able to contain yourself you’ll find that your GTI may gain a few extra miles per gallon. ECU tuning may often be a modification that new GTI owners can be a little apprehensive about due to concerns with warranty work. Most GTI tuning companies, ourselves included, go to great lengths to test and over engineer their work to ensure safe power increases throughout the ownership of the car. We will also provide our Mk7 GTI tuning customers with their stock ECU file enabling them the control to simply revert the car back to the stock ECU tune for any need. These 7 simple but effective GTI modifications will help take your car to the next level of performance and beyond! If you have questions about any of these GTI tuning or modification suggestions, contact us at support@performancebyie.com - Happy tuning!