Our long-term 2015 Volkswagen GTI just passed the 6,000-mile mark, and it has been nothing but smiles so far. Our sister publications Motor Trend and Automobile both have long-term GTIs as well, all equipped differently, so I have the opportunity to satisfy second-guessing my choices when necessary. Motor Trend's is a white, DSG, Autobahn without performance package but with Driver Assistance. Automobile's is a Tornado Red, base, manual, Performance Package. Amongst us, we have everything but DCC.
As of this point, still no regrets for ordering the car with DSG. I do, however, gaze longingly at the base car's plaid seat upholstery. I am just not sure there is a better interior material out there and I wish VW would make it available on all trim levels. I also long for the solid metal roof of the base car. I don't necessarily dislike the sunroof, but if I had a choice, I would order it without.
As I feel we have a good handle on how the car is stock, we have made some very minor changes to the car. First, we decided to dip into the VW bin with parts available either online at drivergear.vw.com or even at your local dealership. Although our GTI came equipped with some pretty nice floor mats, we have opted for the industrial strength Monster Mats to protect the carpet. I've had these in several VWs and I love them. The set is $104 but will likely last the life of your car. They clip in with the factory mounts and can be hosed if, or when, it is necessary.
To complement the Monster Mats, we got a Muddy buddy trunk liner. Again, it seems like a steal at $109. It is molded to the shape of trunk and has raised sides, so if whatever is in your trunk spills, it will stay contained on the mat. Sitting on top of the Muddy Buddy is VW's Roadside Assistance Kit. Inside you have everything from a multi-tool to jumper cables and even a safety triangle, an emergency blanket, and Band-Aids. Even if you don't buy the VW kit, every car should have something like this.
Lastly from the VW counter, we have probably the best dealer accessory we have ever seen or heard of. The Pop-In Sun Shades fit in the rear door and hatch windows. Most higher-end cars have roll-up shades to cover the windows to keep out the hot sun and add a bit of privacy. VW doesn't offer those, so instead, these shades are fit inside the window opening, secured with clips, and cover the entire window area, instead of just most of it, like the roll-up options. This is the best alternative to window tint I've ever seen. At $265 for the set, I can't recommend them enough. They took roughly 10 minutes to install with the supplied tool.
How could we make changes without adding some performance parts. We did, however, start off slowly. First, we added a set of Bilstein PSS10 adjustable damping coilovers to give us a decent amount of tuning options in terms of ride height and damping performance. Spring rates feel a little stiffer than stock, and damping rates range from substantially softer than stock to moderately stiffer.
We decided on a ride height roughly 30 mm lower than stock. Surprisingly, our GTI seemed to sit the highest of any of the cars mentioned earlier, so mileage may vary. I've run through different damper settings and so far the best all-around setting I've found is 5 front and 8 rear. I use this for commuting. I've used it for canyon driving, but I haven't had a chance to get it to the track yet for testing. My hunch is that I will go a bit stiffer for track work to try and control some of the oscillations the car gets over bumps while also loaded up from cornering.
The biggest aesthetic difference to our GTI has come from the addition of the Neuspeed RSe52 wheels. The fitment is a bit on the cautious side at 18x8 inches and a 45 mm offset. The stock Austin wheels are 18x7.5 with a 49 mm offset. We could probably go with another half-inch of width and a few more millimeters less offset for a more aggressive look. As they sit, however, we've had absolutely zero rubbing issues, so we can't complain about that. They look amazing on the car, the gunmetal color is a nice contrast on the white car, and I've always been a sucker for a nice, clean, five-spoke design. They weigh in at 20 pounds, which makes them about 5 pounds per wheel lighter than stock.
I was tempted to add the stickiest tires I could find, but since this is still my daily driver, I decided to go with a performance tire that would be good in all-around conditions. The Falken Azenis FK453 is an ultra-high-performance tire designed with GT cars in mind. I used the RT615K on our project Fiat, and as much as I liked it, I wanted something a bit more refined, at least for now. We also decided the factory 225/40-18 would probably be a safe bet as well.
Overall, the combination of coilovers, tires, and wheels has been nothing but a success. The ride quality is similar to stock, but transient response has been greatly improved. Because of the ride height, we still have plenty of suspension travel, so no compromises there. The lightweight wheels and grippier tires give a far more planted feel, even in daily driving. The unsprung mass is clearly easier for the suspension to control, and we noticed this even more so with stock dampers and springs. I will be trying different options for suspension after we get this version of the car out to the track for actual test numbers. The GTI you see here is just the beginning.
I will call these teasers, but some might call them spoilers (in the TV or movie sense). These parts are sitting on my desk waiting to go into the car. The idea is to test the car as described earlier, then add these and test again, to make deciphering what products are responsible for which result.
P3Cars VIDI performance gauge
This isn't so much a performance improvement as it is an analytical tool. We can use this to track changes in boost, engine temperature, and so on in real time. We are told installation and operation are straightforward and will change our lives forever. We will let you know in the next project update.
Neuspeed Power Module
We know the Power Module gave us great results on our 1.8t-powered Passat. Neuspeed is claiming even greater gains on the 2.0t, so I am anxious to get this on the car and to the track. Our Passat shaved 0.9 seconds off its 0-60-mph time. I am hoping this might grab us a full second on my GTI. Installation doesn't seem quite as simple as on the Passat, but still easier to remove for dealership visits than an ECU flash.
If we can't get that full second off the 0-60-mph time with just the Power Module, we are hoping that opening up the car's breathing a bit will push us past our goal. From past experience, we know the P-Flo is well built, adds some nice induction noise, and usually frees up a few ponies, but the real beauty is CARB Certification sticker that means this intake is 100 percent street legal in the great state of California.