Right now, you're looking at the two most highly developed, street-driven Rabbits in the world. Big power, big brakes, widebody and more, they have it where it counts and both were built to be driven; hard. Both may look familiar because we previously looked at them a little over a year ago (et 4/08) during the early stages of their development. Since then, both have undergone significant updates. Both cars continue to use the turbo conversion from C2 Motorsport. And while C2's own car has been fine-tuned and undergone a widebody conversion, the second car from NGP Racing continues to strive for the ultimate power from the 2.5 liter five-cylinder motor. Therefore, we felt these warranted a second look to answer the thousands of enquiries we receive about Rabbit tuning. And in case you need convincing, check out these machines and realize the lowly Rabbit 2.5 and its Jetta brother can be a serious performance bargain, with new prices starting at just $16k.
At first glance, it's not immediately apparent how much serious development has gone into this car since the last time we saw it, but the clues slowly reveal themselves. Motorsport-inspired wheels shod in sticky BFG KDW tires are the first hint. The bluish hue on the oversized front rotors and the bright-red multi-piston calipers are the next.
Once the ignition was fired and the force-fed five roared to life, all bets were off. Nothing ever sounds quite as perfect as a turbo five, bringing back memories of the glory days of Audi's Group B monsters.
Pushing your foot down on the go-pedal in first gear results in remarkably quick response from the C2 turbo kit, and predictably little traction. Shifting to second and using a bit of throttle modulation lets the tires almost grip. Third is where it pays off as the tires, still spinning at around 80mph, finally gain purchase and slingshot you into the horizon. Fourth gear means excessive speed and time to use those big brakes to slow the car in a hurry for the next corner - perhaps too much speed was shaved, as the APR sway bars and FK coilovers make quick work of the curve, then it's back on the gas for more, the car fighting for traction on its way to the next bend.
It would be remarkably easy to lose your license in a car that's this much fun to drive. And its remarkable how far its come from its lowly beginnings as a lowly 170hp Rabbit.
NGP Racing's owner and president, Dave Graf, explained the changes centered primarily on optimizing the engine build and power output. "When the original et article was written, the car was still under some development," he began. "We originally had built a block with JE pistons but experienced excessive noise. So we've since purchased a new block and built a new motor with Pauter rods and Wiseco forged pistons."
The new slugs give even lower compression at 8.5:1, and are 1mm oversized at 83.5mm. In order to keep the fuel flowing at the necessary rate, a high-flow Bosch fuel pump feeds larger 550cc injectors through a modified fuel rail and Aeromotive pressure regulator. This was necessary because the standard non-return fuel system caused an uneven feed to the injectors at the far end under hard acceleration, creating the possibility of a lean condition, something you don't want with 22psi of boost.
C2 Motorsports again returned to NGP to work its magic during the final dyno tuning, resulting in a very solid 378whp and a huge 441wtq - not bad for pump gas and super-smooth drivability.
As previously mentioned, other crucial systems have been upgraded to cope with all this extra power. The clutch and flywheel had previously been a headache for Dave and the crew, with nothing seeming able to tame those big numbers when mated with the stock dual-mass flywheel. The solution was a billet aluminum flywheel for the 2.5 motor from Four Seasons Tuning and designed for use with the popular 228mm VR6 12v clutch kits. A Spec stage 3+ clutch, intended for high-horsepower street use, was the final piece of the drivetrain puzzle. Surprisingly, the stock differential remains, and so far hasn't been a problem despite all the abuse.
The stock front brakes were ditched for an RPI Equipped big-brake kit, that featured chrome-hatted 13" two-piece rotors and Wilwood four-piston calipers. "With the additional power we had too many close calls last season on the street and track," Dave explained. "The RPI kit fitted like factory and the caliper design didn't cause problems with our wheel fitment. And I chose a street pad to reduce dust and noise."
After a brief flirtation with somewhat controversial 19" wheels last season, Dave saw the light and installed a set of the new Miro MO2 wheels in 18x8" front and 18x9" rear, with 215/40 and 235/35 BFG tires. The change improved vehicle dynamics immeasurably, and Dave can now throw the car through corners as he sees fit, rather than tiptoeing to avoid rubbing. "I can pretty much drive it like an asshole now," he joked.
"The car is an absolute tire-spinning machine," Dave exclaimed. "High power is tough to use on a front-wheel drive car, but it's also cool to hold-on and ride it out. It's like the old saying about dirt bike racing; throttle, point and shoot!"
As we scoped out the C2 Motorsports Rabbit, it was far more obvious that it meant business. No peeking through rotors, no turning of keys or getting behind the wheel was necessary. Chris Collier and Jeff Atwood at C2 had been hard at work, continuing to use the unsuspecting white Rabbit as their development test-bed for all things turbo.
When we left off, the basic stage 1 non-intercooled turbo package was residing in the engine bay, the car had been lowered, and fitted with mild-mannered Audi A8 wheels.
After developing this base $3999 stage 1 kit to 220whp, they decided to add an intercooler and refine the programming slightly. The result was an additional 30whp at the same boost level, this time for just $4499.
While 250whp is good, more power is always better, and the guys knew it was lurking within reach. Making the additional power meant lowering the compression ratio, so C2 designed a laser-cut stainless steel head-gasket spacer with OE metal upper and lower sections for a perfect seal.
Unlike a VR6 engine, there's not enough slack in the timing chains on the 2.5 i-5 motor to raise the cylinder head even a few millimeters. The solution was a longer timing chain and a special tensioner. Both of these items, along with the aforementioned head spacer and programming, are included in the stage 3 package.
Ponying up the estimated $4999 for the stage 3 turbo kit will get you around 280whp at 15psi, depending on the exact modifications.
Installation times are estimated at around 10 hours for stages 1 and 2, with around 18 hours needed for the full stage 3 upgrade. Owners of cars with an automatic transmission need not shed a tear, as all three kits will bolt onto your car without additional hassles. In fact, a C2 customer has been running a stage 3 kit on his '07 Rabbit 2.5 auto for about four months without a hint of trouble.
It's worth noting that C2 now ships all its staged kits with the same 0.5bar (7.25psi) wastegate spring installed, and it's the owner's prerogative to raise boost levels once the remaining parts are in place to handle the power gains of the particular kit chosen.
"So even on a stage 3, it's going to start at 7psi, but obviously it has the capability, fueling and timing to run 15psi," Chris explained. "What we wanted to do with our kits was show a realistic upgrade path. We did that by sharing many of the same parts with stages 1, 2 and 3 so people don't have to re-purchase stuff as they upgrade."
So far, the drivetrain remains standard, including the clutch, and it has apparently held up to the use and abuse of 20,000 turbocharged miles in the development car.
It was at this point in the car's development that Chris began working with Brad Beardow of 1552v2 fame. They decided the plain-Jane Rabbit could use some visual muscle to accompany the increased power. So Brad concocted the genius idea for a fender flare kit for the Mk5 that harks back to the original Mk1 and Mk2 GTI models (see sidebar) This would not only provide a more menacing look for the base-model hatchback, but would allow much wider wheels and tires to be fitted.
How much wider? How about 18x10" all around! Lightweight BBS RE wheels were installed on all four corners, shod in super-wide 265/35-18 Sumitomo HTR Z II rubber.
A set of B&G coilovers have lowered the car and sharpened the handling to a razor's edge. Recaro seats were swapped for the stock items, and keep the occupants firmly in place.
In order to safely slow a car that's making double the stock power, you need better brakes. Alcon is a name that needs no introduction, so when Brad heard UUC Motorwerks was working on an Alcon kit for the Mk5 platform, he wasted no time having a set fitted. The four-piston calipers clamp 330mm discs and provide more than enough stopping power for the 300 horses residing under the hood.
"It looks like an '80s rollerskate," Chris joked. "And without sounding cheesy, speed is nothing without braking, and as exciting as the acceleration is, the brakes offer such a secure and safe feeling. It's just perfectly balanced."
So now NGP Racing and C2 Motorsports have developed their respective Rabbits well beyond what anybody could have dreamed possible, but is this the end of the line? Far from it! Dave tells us NGP will soon fit a Peloquin differential to improve traction for the upcoming season. While Chris also mentioned C2 has a number of products still on the drawing board for the 2.5, including a short-runner intake manifold, performance cams and more.
By the time you read this, the little Bunny with the big flares should have a built bottom end ready for serious horsepower.
Although it would be rare, perhaps third time's the charm with these cars and we'll have to revisit the frontline of 2.5-turbo tuning. Watch this space.
2006 VW RABBIT
Owner: Dave Graf
Location: Aberdeen, MD
Occupation: President/Owner New German Performance
Engine: 2.5 liter i-5 with Pauter forged rods, 8.5:1 compression Wiseco forged pistons, NGP/C2 stage 3+ turbo kit, T3/T4OE hybrid turbo with stage 3 wheel, C2 304 stainless exhaust manifold, C2 software, 550cc injectors, modified fuel rail and return system, Bosch high-flow fuel pump, APR R1 diverter valve, NGP 3" downpipe, APR 3" Race cat-back exhaust, 3" high-flow cat, NGP draw pipe and intercooler piping, modified Eurojet Racing Mk4 side-mount intercooler, modified battery tray with Odyssey battery
Drivetrain: Four Seasons Tuning billet aluminum lightweight flywheel, 228mm Spec stage 3+ clutch, B&M Short Shift
Brakes: RPI Equipped big brake kit with Wilwood four-piston front calipers and 13" rotors, Autotech drilled/slotted rear rotors, Autotech brake lines
Suspension: FK Silverline Plus X coilovers with Koni shocks, APR Motorsport front and rear sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 18x8" front, 18x9" rear Miro MO2 wheels, 10mm FK rear spacers, 215/40-18 front, 235/35-18 rear BFGoodrich KDW tires
Exterior: FK badgeless grille and headlight eyebrows, Abt Sportsline chin and hatch spoilers, metal NACA hood duct, badge notch shaved, GTI rear bumper with smoothed and painted lower trim, shaved hatch, FK black background angel-eye headlamps, smoked NGP side markers, FK Power N-Look mirrors with adaptor plates
Interior: black leather Corbeau CR1 seats, four-point Corbeau harnesses, modified OEM seat brackets, rear seat removed, Momo Nero steering wheel and Race Airleather shift knob, New South Performance ColumnPod with Indigo Boost gauge, Sparco pedals
Thanks: Ron "Ronzo" Weaver and Chad at NGP Racing (www.ngpracing.com), C2 Motorsports (www.c2motorsports.net), FK Automotive, Miro Wheels, Jeremy at Spec Clutch (www.specclutch.com), Four Seasons Tuning
2007 VW RABBIT
Owner: C2 Motorsports
Location: Louisville, KY
Occupation: Performance hardware and software
Engine: 2.5 liter five-cylinder with C2 Motorsports stage 3 turbo kit utilizing head spacer gasket and longer timing chain with tensioner, Precision turbo on Hi Temp-coated turbo manifold, Tial 38mm wastegate, C2 Motorsports stainless downpipe and 3" exhaust, side-mount intercooler and piping, Beetle engine cover
Brakes: Alcon four-piston calipers, 330mm slotted rotors
Suspension: B&G coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 18x10" BBS RE wheels ET30 with 5x130 to 5x112 H&R hub adapters, 265/35-18 Sumitomo HTR Z II tires
Exterior: 1552v2 custom fender flares and Porsche 997 front lip spoiler
Interior: Recaro seats
Audio/Visual: Bring your iPod!
Thanks: C2 Motorsports (www.c2motorsports.net), Brad at 1552v2 (www.1552v2.com), B&G Suspension, BBS (www.bbs-usa.com), UUC Motorwerks, Precision Turbo, Bachman Volkswagen
1552v2 Fender Flares
Brad Beardow, owner of the Sarasota, FL based 1552v2, has been behind some of the best modified VWs in the USA. So it should come as no surprise that he came up with the idea of OEM-style fender flares for the Mk5.
"When VW introduced the Mk5 GTI and used the old-school plaid fabric as an homage to earlier GTIs, it was all I needed to decide more retro GTI themes could work," Brad told us.
Although the aggressive motorsport-inspired kit seen on the C2 Motorsports Rabbit isn't currently slated for production, a more street-friendly version is available; one that won't require cutting the stock fenders to install the new ones.
"Our goal is to mimic how we feel VW would design such flares if they'd chosen to go that route with the Mk5," he continued. "We're integrating the front and rear flares with the factory side skirts, and may even offer a new front valance that blends into the front flares.
The GTI flare kit will offer an extra 2" once the fenders have been addressed for clearance. They will mount with automotive tape and utilize factory mounting points. The finish will be an OEM-style black plastic color, or they can be painted to match your bodywork. The anticipated MSRP is $800 a set, and will include mounting hardware.