Who hasn’t dreamed of giving the finger to European car companies that refuse to bring your favorite car to the US? Who hasn’t been frustrated by the forbidden fruit to do something a bit drastic? “If VW won’t bring me a Golf R, I’ll freaking build it myself,” is an easy thing to say but, in reality, it’s whole lot easier to sit back and complain on the internet.
When you’ve built one of the world’s largest online aftermarket stores, the process of taking such matters into your own hands becomes a bit easier. And when part of the motivation involves a legitimate business consideration, such a project vehicle can even make sense.
So with all that in mind, ECS Tuning set out to turn their ’10 GTI shop car into a Golf R clone, almost a year before the 255hp Golf 2.0T AWD will be available in the US.
The process was straightforward – bring over a bunch of Euro-spec Golf R parts and add them to a US-spec GTI. But even for a big name like ECS, finding parts for a recently introduced special edition can still be a challenge. After all, if VW don’t have what you need, you’re going to have to wait until they do!
According to Chris Wagers, marketing director at ECS, the goals were simple; “We built the car to see if it was possible to take a standard Mk6 GTI and transform it into a European Golf R – not just visually, but internally as well. We wanted to create Golf R performance from a GTI.”
Let’s get it out there now – this Golf R replica is still FWD. Could ECS have converted to 4Motion? Of course they could but, at the end of the day, you need to draw the line when it comes to a project’s budget. And, as far as they were concerned, the AWD set up wasn’t worth the cost and trouble. After all, VW’s Scirocco R does fine powering only its front wheels, so there was no reason why the ECS version of the Golf R couldn’t as well.
The first step in building your own Golf R is to make it look the part. So ECS dug into the parts catalog and realized they were going to need more than just the cool front bumper. They would actually need to swap the GTI’s rear bumper, side skirts, front grille, mirror caps and headlights as well.
The R also has some unique interior parts, and it’s no surprise to learn ECS went after each one for the project. As a result, there’s an R emblem on the steering wheel, pedals and door sills. ECS even considered the super-trick Recaro sport seats available as an option on the Euro Golf R. However, they’d have cost almost as much as the 4Mo conversion, so you’ll understand why they retained the standard GTI buckets.
The Golf R is more than just a pretty face. In fact, it’s received universal acclaim for it’s balance of looks, handling and performance. With a factory-juiced 270hp 2.0T FSI engine (which will probably be reduced to about 255hp once it arrives here), the Golf R can leave a stock Mk6 GTI in its dust. And while ECS could have produced far more than 270hp, they preferred to be as close as possible to the R. With that in mind, they installed their own K04 turbo upgrade combined with APR stage 2 software.
Complementing the bigger turbo and more aggressive tune are an ECS Tuning carbon fiber cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust featuring twin 4" tips.
Perhaps the story so far has been a bit predictable, since we all know the composition of a Golf R by now, but we’ve saved a major plot twist to the end. There’s one place where ECS diverged dramatically from the gameplan and that’s the suspension.
By now, you’ve looked at the photos and have realized no stock Golf has ever sat that low. That’s because ECS is a major distributor for Air Lift, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn their GTI is bagged.
The air-ride industry is maturing at a rapid pace and Air Lift’s current “Slam Kit” and digital management are at the forefront. According to Chris, “people need to ride in this car to see how far the systems have come.” Indeed, compared to some of the super-cheap coilover kits on the market, air-ride like the set-up on this ECS GTI “R” can certainly hold its own. And if we’re honest, the car looks badass aired-out over its mismatched 19x8.5" VMR 718 wheels. We love the mesh-style more than the five-spoke MRR HR2s fitted on the driver’s side – but that’s just our opinion…
Do we need to explain that ECS Tuning is distributor for VMR and MRR wheels? Nope, didn’t think so…
Whatever wheel design you prefer, both house a set of ECS Tuning big brakes front and rear. To be honest, this is a combination the real R wishes it had, especially with those 356mm drilled front rotors and six-piston calipers.
When it comes to building a company project vehicle, it’s not always easy pairing genuine enthusiasm for the modding culture with the demands of running a business. To be honest, we’ve seen some pretty sorry examples over the years but, in our opinion, this ECS Tuning Mk6 GTI-R walks the fine-line with grace and stability. The project was built to explore new territory, raise a few eyebrows and emphasize how ECS knows what they’re doing when it comes to serious VW tuning.
Since the car was built, VWoA finally announced they’ll bring us the real-deal Golf R after all, yet ECS has the satisfaction of knowing they did the work first. And we’re sure the car will be an inspiration for GTI owners around the world.
et Tech Spec
2010 VW GTI
Owner: ECS Tuning
Location: Wadsworth, OH
Occupation: online parts store
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder 16v with ECS K04 turbo kit with upgraded piping, APR stage 2 software, ECS carbon cold-air intake, intake pipe, turbo heat-shield, oil catch-can and cat-back exhaust with Magnaflow muffler and polished 4" tips, Eurojet DV relocation kit, Forge BOV, Audi R8 engine oil and coolant caps, painted engine cover
Drivetrain: stock six-speed manual with ECS clutch bleeder block
Brakes: ECS Tuning 356mm two-piece, floating, drilled front rotors with six-piston calipers, matching 328mm rear rotors with four-piston calipers
Suspension: Air Lift “Slam Kit” air suspension with Auto Pilot Digital air management, ECS dogbone bushing insert
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" MRR HR2 (driver’s side), VMR 718 (passenger’s side) with 225/35 R19 Dunlop Direzza DZ101 tires
Exterior: VW Golf R bumpers, side skirts, front grille, mirror caps, emblems, projector headlights, LED driving/foglights and tail lights (with fog option) with ECS wiring harnesses and split mirrors, OEM VW carbon B-pillar caps, Racing Dash license plate conversion
Interior: Golf R steering wheel emblem, pedals, carbon fiber trim and door sills, VW Euro light switch, Maniacs LED interior lighting, New South Performance boost gauge, ECS hatch-pop kit, window shades
Thanks: ecstuning.com; airliftcompany.com