When we tested this Jetta initially, it took 167 ft to stop from 60 mph and cruised through the slalom at 60.5 mph. The slalom driver had no kind words for its handling, and the skidpad revealed only 0.77g of cornering power. Clearly, the suspension, wheels and tires were the first and most important place to start making improvements.
H&R has touted the benefits of its Cup Kit suspension systems for several years. european car had yet to evaluate one on any car, so we took this opportunity to do so. H&R's Cup Kit is a combination of shortened struts and shocks with stiffer springs. Most aftermarket performance dampers are stock length so they can also serve as replacements with stock springs, but that limits suspension travel when the car is lowered. H&R's Cup Kits, because they are designed to achieve significant lowering from the start, maintain as much travel as possible with their low ride height. The spring rates and damping are engineered by H&R to work perfectly together in a street application. Some Cup Kit applications are infinitely adjustable in rebound damping, but this one is not.
Because this was european car's first experience with a Cup Kit system, I chose to install it myself in the Primedia tech center, which has an Autolifters two-post lift and a large selection of Craftsman tools. I brought my own Sir Tools spring compressor, which worked perfectly. (For more information, see Tool of the Month, December 2000.) I have changed struts on many cars. This Mk3 had the fewest attachment points of any, and was somehow still the most-involved procedure. In addition to the notes here, we strongly recommend following the instructions in the Robert Bentley manual, p/n VG99, or Volkswagen p/n LPV 800 116 at your dealer. It has the correct torque specifications for all fasteners, and exploded parts diagrams that make the process clear.
The H&R Cup Kit turned out to be an excellent choice for a budget-priced, matched suspension set. The author hasn't stormed up any mountain roads with it yet, but the ride and handling on everyday roads is excellent. The vehicle is lowered considerably, with no rubbing, and suspension travel doesn't appear to have been adversely compromised.
The "next first step" is a 280mm front brake upgrade from Autotech. That installation will be here next month. After we get the chassis dialed to our satisfaction, we'll go to the test track and measure the improvements. Hopefully, this black dog will begin to be capable, faithful companion.
Harbor Freight Tools
H&R Special Springs
The Tire Rack