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2003 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T - Budget Suspension Upgrade, Part 2 - Tech

Continuing To Improve Our Mk4 GTI, We Add A Neuspeed Rear Sway Bar.

Justin Fivella
Nov 25, 2010

Welcome back to the second and final installment of the budget suspension upgrades on our '03 GTI 1.8T. Last month, we ditched the blown-out stock suspension in favor of Neuspeed's new Koni Cup kit to prove you could improve handling and looks without resorting to expensive coilovers.

Eurp_1012_01_o+2003_vw_gti+budget_suspension_upgrade Photo 2/12   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T - Budget Suspension Upgrade, Part 2 - Tech

This month, we're back to reduce body roll with a 28mm Neuspeed adjustable rear sway bar. This quality piece is made from aerospace-quality 6150 steel and comes with everything needed to corner flatter, including polyurethane bushings. The bar is also three-way adjustable, ranging from 428 inch-lb/degree in the softest setting, to 560 inch-lb/degree in the stiffest, allowing you to tailor the handling to your requirements.

VW did a good job with the Mk4's trailing-beam rear suspension, but it's designed to understeer (push the front tires) at the limit. And while this is the safest characteristic, it's not the fastest. Instead, we'll gain a little oversteer (tail out), with a good rear bar to give us more flickability at speed.

In essence, if a front-wheel drive car is equipped with a rear sway bar and is running wide (pushing the front) in a turn, simply lifting off the throttle pedal will cause the rear to come around (oversteer). When the rear starts to come around, the driver can pickup the gas, rotating the car and tightening the line through the corner.

We have to warn you that this point, lift and shoot cornering method can be tricky for novice drivers and, while popular, it isn't recommended for the street. You definitely need space to practice. But on the track or autocross, you can gain serious speed and control. In our case, setting the Neuspeed bar in the softest position (the furthest hole from the bar ends) gave the owner the most forgiving setup to learn the technique. But remember, if you don't know what you're doing, and something causes you to swerve in a turn, you could end up spinning into a nasty accident.

This mod is a more advanced driving upgrade and we'd probably recommend that you fit front and rear sway bars in unison for a more balanced, safer setup. You have been warned!

Eurp_1012_02_o+2003_vw_gti+budget_suspension_upgrade Photo 3/12   |   28mm Neuspeed adjustable rear sway bar comes with everything needed. Before you begin, ensure the car is securely elevated on wheel ramps or axle stands

The bar installation took little more than one hour, with nothing more than simple hand tools and jackstands. The hardest part was slipping the securing clamps over the trailing beam, but otherwise it's a breeze.

Testing After the install we returned to our "top-secret proving grounds" abandoned road to taste the fruits of our labor on the same half-worn Zexius ZE-326 tires.

Previously our best trip through the 700ft slalom with the Neuspeed Koni Cup Kit was 69.4mph (up from the stock 65.2mph).

With the bar fitted, the GTI galloped through the cones at 70.5mph. It gave us an increase of 1.1mph, while lateral grip went from 0.88g to 0.90g (0.82g stock).

These numbers represent an increase of 5.3mph in the slalom and 0.08g over the stock car.

But more than just better numbers, the car now corners flat, and the turn-in is nicely predictable. The car now rotates like a proper sportscar, with the aid of some right-foot steering, once you get the hang of it.

In the end, we took our GTI from simple stocker to a back-road rocker for just a few bucks. While coilovers and big-ticket suspension items would have been nice, we've proved big performance can come at a small price.

Parts Price Supplier
Neuspeed Koni Cup Kit $499.99
Neuspeed 28mm rear sway bar $399.95
By Justin Fivella
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