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2006 Volkswagen Golf GTI Project Car: Act 2

We continue the story of our beloved Mk5 GTI

Alex Rogan
Apr 10, 2013
2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car left Photo 1/6   |   2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car

After some years out of the spotlight we've decided to re-introduce an old friend and do a little shuffling of projects over here at Eurotuner. Project GTI has been with us since it turned its first wheels in anger back in 2006, and it's been good to ET photographer Josh Brown as a daily-driver streetcar. Good power, handling and looks, but nothing too aggressive.

At the same time we had been running our budget-build Project 2.Slow with a little more of a track-oriented bent. More aggressive suspension tuning and aggressive brakes (to make up for the lack of power) meant it handled like a dream, but it was admittedly long in the tooth.

With Josh moving up in to the nosebleed budget world of Porsche ownership (and no we're not at all jealous of the mint 911 GT3 he just picked up, we swear), it was the perfect time to retire 2.Slow and transition Project GTI back into the full-time mix. So with 300,000 miles on her tired old bones, our 1995 Golf Sport will no longer be developed.

Although we're sad about it, at the end of the day it was a no-brainer. Project GTI's Mk5 chassis is stronger, safer, more comfortable, it's 2.0t FSI engine easily twice as powerful, and it does all this with the same fuel economy as our old 8v. The AC works, it has heated seats, and having had the car in the ET family since new, we know the history.

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With all this in mind it seemed a perfect time to put in some miles behind the wheel of our GTI to get re-acquainted. It also just so happened that we were called upon to support our sister mag European Car in their coverage of the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Sounds like an ideal road trip to us. And thus began the fifty hours of Daytona...

Before we could hit the road however we needed to put some new winter shoes on Project GTI. As it was Josh had been running a mix of Fifteen52 Tarmacs and Continental Conti SportContact3 summer tires. Good stuff when the weather is warm, but decidedly less-so when the temperature dips, and even worse when there's snow on the ground. Summer tire compounds quickly stop being able to deliver proper traction when it's cold, even if there's no slippery stuff on the roads. This means acceleration, handling and braking all suffer. If we were committing to help cover the race for EC, not getting there because of a snowstorm or poor road conditions was simply not an option.

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So a call was made and Continental Tire sent over a set of their all-season ultra high performance Extreme Contact DWS in 225/40 R18, which we had mounted on the OEM Huffs by longtime project partner New German Performance. The DWS stands for Dry, Wet, Snow. With its advanced silica-based / high-grip asymmetrical tread, large outside shoulder blocks for sure-footed handling and a complex inner design for improved foul-weather grip, the Extreme DWS is an ideal choice for an enthusiast looking to make it through winter without any hassles from extreme weather but doesn't want their car to handle like a bus either.

Continental tire also happens to be the solo tire supplier to the Rolex Sports car series, so it was particularly fitting that we embarked with related rubber on Project GTI. It was also a case of perfect timing. No sooner had we fitted our all-season rubber that it began to snow the day before our departure. It wasn't much, but it reaffirmed that we'd made the right decision in rushing to update our tires.

Our schedule was going to be a grueling one. So at approximately 10:30pm Eastern Standard Time we started south from Baltimore. Project GTI covered in salt and filth, dodging ice and snow, us full of Redbull and the hope of warmer weather some 850 miles south, thirteen hours ahead was our ultimate motivation.

Thirteen hours is plenty of time to learn to either love or hate the car you're in. Lowered on its Vogtland coilover suspension, Project GTI could have very well become road trip hell. Banging, clanging and wallowing over every bump, dip and piece of broken concrete. Luckily, despite the 75,000 hard North Eastern miles the Vogtland set has managed to escape with all facilities in tact. Absolutely the ride is sporty and a bit firm but it is by no means harsh or overly abusive. The fact it still handles well and copes with all this says a lot about choosing a quality suspension over a cheap one.

While a sport suspension provides improved aesthetics and handling, which is great when you've got an immense distance to travel. Horsepower becomes more important over a long trip when the hammer needs to come crashing down at a moments notice. Here project GTI has quite a bit of help, thanks to APR Stage 2+ programming with an APR high pressure FSI fuel pump and turbo-back exhaust, aided by a VF-Engineering intake system and Forge Motorsport Twintercooler.

2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car front right Photo 4/6   |   2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car

On the dyno at NGP Racing, Project GTI has shown as much as 226 horsepower and 287 ft-lbs of torque to the wheels, and with the frigid 15-degree temperatures it certainly felt like all those ponies were showing up for work. Putting your foot down in lower gears either smokes the tires or lights up the traction control light, depending on your choice of VW's ESP being either off or on. In 6th passing is as simple as adding throttle, no need to change up gears unless you really want to.

Up top it just keeps pulling like a freight train, and it's in almost no time at all that you are reminded that traveling at triple-digit speeds through the dark of southern Virginia is a bad idea. Better to set the cruise control and enjoy the miles as they roll past.

With temperatures dipping to a brutal 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the first half of the trip, it was better to keep the car moving despite our fatigue. The option was to either park with the engine off and wake up freezing in a matter of minutes, or keep the motor running and the heat cranked and hope not to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sleeping in a car with the engine running no matter the circumstance never strikes us as the best idea.

Even so we did fall asleep with the engine on and the heat on full blast, waking up soaked in sweat rather than freezing cold, which is only a marginally better option we'd say. After a few aborted attempts of trying to get comfortable and stay warm, we hit the road. Besides, the sun was rising and we had much warmer weather waiting for us in Florida.

Slowly but surely as dawn rose, so did the temperature. By the time we were in Georgia things were bright and sunny enough to warrant a quick car-wash detour to knock off the grime. The thought of that bright southern Sun baking the salt into Project GTI's paint was more than we could bear. Besides, who could show up at a race like the Rolex in a filthy car?

You can read about the race by picking up a copy of the June European Car or checking Trust us that it's well worth it.

After 24 hours of racing with about 6 more tacked onto the beginning and 4 more onto the end, we crashed hard in our seaside hotel room. Project GTI, earning it's slumber after the long drive down, was resting comfortably in the parking lot waiting to hit the road come Monday morning. After what seemed like way too little sleep we were back up and heading north, not stopping until the fuel light came on somewhere in South Carolina.

2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car continental dws sidewall Photo 5/6   |   2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car

Even with the hours we had already spent in Project GTi, it wasn't a bad trip back at all. With the stereo cranked the miles rolled by and before we knew it the temperature was back below freezing and it was time to enjoy the comfort of our own beds. Of course with the Conti DWS on the GTI, there really wasn't any question of the car's ability to make it, only our own.

If we had to choose only one tire to run all season long, summer or winter, the impressive combination of handling and traction from the Continental ExtremeContact DWS would definitely be at the top of a very short list of truly great tires that can do it all. We've even seen some cars running ExtremeContact DWS at weekend track events, and doing well too, which is really saying a lot for the versatility of the tire and its tread design and compound.

Thoroughly back in touch with all the pluses and minuses of Project GTI, we came up with a few areas that we can definitely improve, even while maintaining the car as a daily driver. Brakes, suspension and more will all see changes, along with a little more power from the stock K03 turbo as well.

Watch this space. Maybe with a little luck we'll be able to trim that Daytona trip time down to 12 hours flat by 2014.

2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car left far Photo 6/6   |   2006 vw golf gti mk5 project car
By Alex Rogan
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