There's something charming and innocuous about the Rabbit - whether you're talking about the small, furry rodent or the five-cylinder Volkswagen reintroduced in '06. Originally marketed at city dwellers and fuel misers, the hatchback found a dedicated following of enthusiasts who liked its affordable price tag and torquey 2.5 liter inline-5. Many thought it had the potential for a badass project car, which is where software specialist Unitronic Chipped joined the conversation.
Not just any old project, this Mk5 goes beyond the norm. The car is built like a weightlifter, summoning an astounding 600+whp. To ensure it doesn't shred tires, 4Motion was added to transfer power to all four wheels. It also looks the part, sporting a clean body kit, functional rollcage, Porsche seats and a detachable stereo.
The project started two years ago when Unitronic discovered the abused vehicle. The Rabbit had survived a front-end accident but required a front bumper, fender, hood and core support. The low ender mileage motor and factory interior were still in top shape, so the Unitronic crew decided to repair it.
After replacing the fender and hood, a Caractere styling kit was fitted. It included the front and rear bumpers, grille and roof spoiler. Clean Votex side skirts were incorporated, while a little extra effort was taken to shave the side moldings.
The busted headlights were replaced with FK smoked housings. To contrast the paintwork, piano black was applied to the mirrors and roof.
With the exterior finished, it was time to have some fun. Unitronic delivered the Rabbit to partners in crime, DM Motorsport. No stranger to et, DM was responsible for the 10sec R32-powered "Red Rocket" Mk2 Jetta Coupe in et 3/09.
"There's not a lot of parts available for the 2.5 liter engine," explained Michel Szmigiel from Unitronic. "This engine has a lot of potential. It's a solid base to work on but we wanted to show what was ultimately possible."
The engineers at DMM started stripping the engine and interior. The head was ported to eliminate unwanted meat. The block was also taken apart and strengthened with Supertech pistons. A set of 144mm Pauter rods reduced compression from 9.5:1 to 9.2:1, while the crank was knife-edged. Lightening the crank would help increase the rev limit, so ARP bolts secured the motor. The block was then painted white.
With the motor prepared, DMM shifted its focus to the turbo build. An exhaust manifold was fabricated to fit the tight confines of the Rabbit bay. The design featured equal-length tubing for greater efficiency from the HTA 3582R turbo. "The turbo spools nice and quick. It keeps the power for a long stretch and is a good option for this engine according to our calculations," explained Mike.
A TiAL wastegate controls boost while dual 3'' exhaust pipes shove spent gases through. To cool intake temps, a Precision front-mount intercooler was plumbed into the system. And to accommodate the thirstier motor, an uprated Bosch fuel pump and 830cc injectors were installed. Finally, a custom intake manifold would improve airflow.
Having insane horsepower is awesome, but front-wheel drive with more than 350whp tends to be useless until the higher gears. So Unitronic and DMM performed the next logical step and converted the Rabbit to a 4Motion drivetrain.
"We had to remove the floor, then replace it with an R32 floor. The 4Motion was pretty much bolt-on after that, but we had to adjust everything to fit properly," Mike revealed.
A six-speed manual from the 225hp Mk1 Audi TT became the transmission of choice. It was mated to an R32 driveshaft, which was cut, welded and balanced to fit the undercarriage. The rear axles were also R32. Even the fuel tank came from an R since it featured a notch to clear the driveshaft.
With all the components working like clockwork, Unitronic took control of the Mk5 and tuned the software. Boosting at around 21psi, the motor created approximately 600whp. "With the same turbo on a built 1.8T engine, we can get 500whp. So with the 2.5-liter, we're capable of 700whp. But we're playing it safe for now," explained Mike. "The car runs very smooth. The 2.5 has so much torque that when the turbo kicks in, the car rips. It's like a rollercoaster, but we can still daily-drive it."
The focus shifted to the chassis. While the interior was out, DMM built a eight-point rollcage. The NHRA-spec cage wouldn't only qualify the Rabbit for safe passes on the track, but also add reinforcement.
Stopping power came from upgraded OE brakes. The fronts received 13'' rotors from a Passat 3.6L 4Motion, while the 12.2'' rears came from an R32.
Lowering the car were H&R Premium coilovers. Weighing less than the standard coils, it helped reduce unsprung weight. H&R sway bars were installed next to ensure the Rabbit experienced less body roll.
Unitronic plans to debut new three-piece wheels on the car, but the first examples didn't arrive in time for our shoot. So they appropriated the next best thing: 19x8.5'' BBS CH wheels painted flat black. A set of 235/35 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires fit the profile for the car's many purposes.
With the cage already welded in, Versatile Auto set about rebuilding the interior, starting with Porsche 997 GT3 seats upholstered in leather and suede. New brackets were fabricated to mount the seats, with carbon covers to complement the seat backs.
Unitronic felt suede gave the interior a touch of class, so Versatile reupholstered the shift boot, door panels and sunvisors. Traces of Candy white on the trim and steering wheel matched the rollcage.
Taking the interior to another level, the rear seats were ditched, and a custom delete panel was molded to incorporate a Soundstream capacitor. This flowed like butter into the trunk, which housed 10'' carbon-look Kenwood subs. The rear quarter panels were molded in carbon, while the sub enclosure was upholstered in suede. "What's cool about the sound system is it takes two minutes to remove the box. All the wires are easy to disconnect..." Mike told us.
The next plan for the Rabbit is to hit the show circuit, with appearances planned for Waterfest, H2Oi and Canada's Vagkraft. Mike concluded, "This is a unique project. There's not another converted like this in the world. It's an original project and we were able to accomplish something amazing for the track, drag strip and shows."
Unitronic Chipped Michel Szmigiel and Michal Zielinski met while building computers but their job wasn't exciting, so they decided to try something new. At the time, Mike Z was driving a 1.9 TDI and found the car slower than slow. He sampled different chips but couldn't find the right mix of power, smoothness and reliability. So he spent the next few years researching and understanding Bosch ECUs. With diesel engines dropping out of the picture, he moved his studies to the 1.8T. "We asked ourselves why the software does what it does. So instead of eliminating sensors or the original engineer's work, we tried hard to understand these solutions. This enabled us to know how to tune the cars," explained Mike S.
After developing a range of software options for different injectors and turbos on the 1.8T, Unitronic was born in '03. Based in Montreal, Quebec, the product range spread across VW, Audi, Porsche, Volvo, Seat and Opel. Mike Z took charge of product development, while Mike S became manager of marketing and sales. Over the years, Unitronic continued to build its database and dealer program, currently managing 114 dealers worldwide from South Africa to China, Europe, South America and, of course, North America. (unitronic.ca)
2007 VW Rabbit
Owner: Unitronic Chipped
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Occupation: software tuning
Engine: 2.5 liter five-cylinder with Supertech pistons, 144mm Pauter connecting rods with force-pin oiling and 20mm wrist pins, knife-edged crank, ARP bolts, ported head, DM Motorsport equal-length exhaust manifold, TiAL 44mm wastegate, HTA 3582R turbo with Force Performance/TiAL GT35 V-band housing, Precision front-mount intercooler, CNC aluminum valve cover, custom intake manifold, dual 3'' exhaust system with two 4'' Vibrant Performance tips, 830cc injectors, Bosch 044 fuel pump, Unitronic big-turbo software, VF-Engineering motor and dogbone mounts, dual Flex-a-lite cooling fans, custom radiator core, R32 fuel tank
Drivetrain: Audi TT six-speed manual with R32 4Motion Haldex conversion, custom front axles, R32 rear axles and driveshaft, VF-Engineering transmission mount
Brakes: 13'' Passat 3.6L 4Motion front brake and 12.2'' R32 rear brake conversion, calipers and rotor hats painted black
Suspension: H&R Premium coilovers, H&R 24mm front, 26mm rear sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5'' BBS CH wheels painted flat black, 235/35 R19 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires
Exterior: Caractere front bumper, grille, rear bumper and rear spoiler, Votex side skirts, shaved side moldings, FK smoked headlights, R32 tail lights, stubby antenna, piano black roof and mirrors with smoked indicators Interior: DM Motorsport eight-point chromoly rollcage, Porsche 997 GT3 leather and suede seats with custom embroidery, custom seat brackets and carbon covers, GTI steering wheel and headliner, steering column and vent gauge pods with Defi and Innovative gauges, Defi electronic boost controller, door panels, sunvisors and shift boot upholstered in black suede, steering wheel inserts and trim painted Candy white, custom floor mats, carbon rear quarter panels, rear seat delete
Audio/Visual: Kenwood Xcelon XR-S17P component speakers, two KFC-XW1022D subs and X600F amp, Soundstream 8-farad capacitor
Contact: Unitronic Chipped (unitronic.ca), DM Motorsport (dmmotorsport.com), Versatile Auto (versatileauto.com), Continental Tire (conti-online.com)