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Animal Handling

Part III: Autotech’s Suspension Upgrades for the Mk 4 GTI

Cullen Clutterham
Nov 1, 2001

If you have absolutely no quibbles with the way Volkswagen tunes the engines in its GTIs, then you probably could care less about how horrible the suspension is. If, however, you’re always looking for a little better performance—whether it be better power, harder braking, or more aggressive handling—then you know that VW has really been skimping on the handling aspect for the last couple of years. More impressive than Autotech’s line of performance parts that we installed in the first segment of this buildup on our 1.8T GTI, were the suspension and braking components we’re using in this segment.

The first thing you notice when driving a GTI anywhere near its limits is that those limits are thanks, in part, to the overly compliant suspension. While it makes things very comfortable on trips from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, it doesn’t mesh very well with engines that are very capable of propelling the car into triple- digit speeds. Autotech has a complete regimen of suspension parts designed to transmogrify the suspension from something you’d expect to find on an American road boat into a suitable partner for VW’s awesome engines.

Autotech’s complete suspension setup for the Mk IV GTI consists of a set of lowering springs with higher spring rates, paired with Bilstein Sport struts and shocks, and Autotech’s lightweight, tubular sway bars, upper strut tower bar, and lower tie-bar. Combined, the parts work wonders and make you forget you are driving the same car.

Although VW’s brakes on the Mk IV cars are very powerful, they have the tendency to fade under repeated hard stops. We replaced the rotors with Autotech’s own cross-drilled and slotted versions, and also replaced the pads with Mintex ones. Autotech’s braided stainless steel brake lines with stainless steel ends were also added, and the brake fluid was replaced with DOT 5.1 fluid, making for an awesome braking upgrade that easily handles anything thrown at it.

With the deceleration characteristics improved upon, the engine and suspension tuning could be fully exploited on our favorite mountain roads. The car lives up to the GTI moniker and raises the bar for VW GTI owners the world over. Come back next month, when we finish up Autotech’s transformation of a mild-mannered GTI into something truly worthy of that trio of letters.

By Cullen Clutterham
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