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2018 GTI SE: How would you mod with $5k? $10k? $15k?

Hoff

New member
Location
Tennessee
Car(s)
2018 GTI SE
Hey All! Let me know if this is a redundant question as I’m a newbie to the GTI modding world.

I have a 7.5 GTI SE automatic with 20k miles. It’s stock except for an off the shelf Cobb stage 1 tune and a K&N air filter - see? I said I was a newbie.

I’m trying to figure out a budget for the build and while I could swing $15k in upgrades over the next year I’m curious how an experienced tuner would spend their money. Also, I don’t have a garage or access to one so I will need a shop to do the upgrades.

Looks are important but I’m more concerned with performance. I know I want new wheels, tires, and coilovers.

If you were me, how would you spend $10k to $15k ranked in order of performance?

Thank you in advance for your help.
 

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odessa.filez

Autocross Champion
Location
Roswell, GA
Car(s)
2016 GSW 1.8tsi auto
What is your intended use?

If I had a budget for mods like that, I might look for an R or a TTS.
 

daujin_mk7

Go Kart Champion
Location
PA
Car(s)
2016 GTI DSG
Performance for the track or street? Daily or weekend warrior?

I've noticed in my area starting shop rates are $100+/hr and can eat up a budget quickly. At least something I considered. Then again, $10-15k is a very sizable modding budget.
 

GTI Jake

Autocross Champion
Location
Charlotte, NC
Tell us more about how you use the car & what your goals are.

In the meantime, this is a podcast style video where I dive into how & why I feel these top ten mods enhance this platform without going into brand bias.

 

odessa.filez

Autocross Champion
Location
Roswell, GA
Car(s)
2016 GSW 1.8tsi auto
Seriously, if you're not going to ax or track, you're wasting money. And you're going to blow a considerable amount on labor.

If you're considering ax or track, most likely you are the weak link in terms of performance. No offense intended. You might be better served saving your money for tires and seat time. You'll improve your driving skills immensely and have a great time
 

Hoff

New member
Location
Tennessee
Car(s)
2018 GTI SE
Thanks for the quick replies and great questions/insights everyone. I live in Chattanooga, TN so the only tracks around here are some small autocross and a 1/8th mile drag strip. If I lived close to a track like Road Atlanta I’d be up for stripping it down and making a track car.

Since I don’t have a good track, I’d really like to make it a killer street car. I agree with the seat time comment and I know there are better platforms to start with. I do have a pretty hardcore racing sim setup so I’m getting track time on that but I know it’s not the real thing.
 

GTI Jake

Autocross Champion
Location
Charlotte, NC
I’ve actually had two cars from Tennessee make the drive to my shop in SC this month. This is a shameless plug, but also tried and true combination.

Since nobody else has made a list I will, this same list is on dozens of cars on these forums including my own.

-BFI dog bone insert

-Michelin PSAS4 tires on 18x8 wheels (ideally lighter than stock, & of equal or greater quality).

-Bilstein B14 (or the adjustable version B16) from FCP Euro so they’ve got a lifetime warranty

-H&R rear sway bar & Moog endlinks

-Baun Performance FMIC

-EQT ecu & tcu tuning for your Cobb AP (stage depending on your goals).

Everything above this line will ring in near that 5k mark give or take (depending on what wheels & labor rates/if you buy some parts used). Real world about 300whp on the conservative side (EQT’s dyno reads a little on the high side, but nothing crazy). Expect to trap 110mph if you ever do a 1/4 mile run, so plenty of power to hang with your run of the mill V8 cars.
————————————————————

Beyond that it gets expensive quickly to go “stage 2”. Expect to gain 20~30whp

Downpipe is the minimum requirement, but they range wildly in price from $400s to 2k+. If you go cheap here it’s a good reason not to cross that line, because there’s several draw backs including CEL Cobb doesn’t allow to be turned off. My downpipe is CEL free thanks to the GESI Gen2 400 cell cat but as a result also very expensive for the same reason.

Next step beyond that, & what I’d consider the most popular end point would be a turbo upgrade. Lots to cover there, so another video on the two most popular options.

Note, a lot of money can be saved by doing everything at once so being honest with yourself about goals is important for the total cost of these modifications.

 

Hoff

New member
Location
Tennessee
Car(s)
2018 GTI SE
I’ve actually had two cars from Tennessee make the drive to my shop in SC this month. This is a shameless plug, but also tried and true combination.

Since nobody else has made a list I will, this same list is on dozens of cars on these forums including my own.

-BFI dog bone insert

-Michelin PSAS4 tires on 18x8 wheels (ideally lighter than stock, & of equal or greater quality).

-Bilstein B14 (or the adjustable version B16) from FCP Euro so they’ve got a lifetime warranty

-H&R rear sway bar & Moog endlinks

-Baun Performance FMIC

-EQT ecu & tcu tuning for your Cobb AP (stage depending on your goals).

Everything above this line will ring in near that 5k mark give or take (depending on what wheels & labor rates/if you buy some parts used). Real world about 300whp on the conservative side (EQT’s dyno reads a little on the high side, but nothing crazy). Expect to trap 110mph if you ever do a 1/4 mile run, so plenty of power to hang with your run of the mill V8 cars.
————————————————————

Beyond that it gets expensive quickly to go “stage 2”. Expect to gain 20~30whp

Downpipe is the minimum requirement, but they range wildly in price from $400s to 2k+. If you go cheap here it’s a good reason not to cross that line, because there’s several draw backs including CEL Cobb doesn’t allow to be turned off. My downpipe is CEL free thanks to the GESI Gen2 400 cell cat but as a result also very expensive for the same reason.

Next step beyond that, & what I’d consider the most popular end point would be a turbo upgrade. Lots to cover there, so another video on the two most popular options.

Note, a lot of money can be saved by doing everything at once so being honest with yourself about goals is important for the total cost of these modifications.


Thanks for the info! I’ve watched both of your vids and subscribed to your channel as I really like your approach with mods. I am looking for daily driving reliability with 400+ hp and I’ve never heard of the vortex option, I always assumed the is38 was the only game in town.
 

ElectricEye

Autocross Newbie
Location
Central NJ
Hey All! Let me know if this is a redundant question as I’m a newbie to the GTI modding world.

I have a 7.5 GTI SE automatic with 20k miles. It’s stock except for an off the shelf Cobb stage 1 tune and a K&N air filter - see? I said I was a newbie.

I’m trying to figure out a budget for the build and while I could swing $15k in upgrades over the next year I’m curious how an experienced tuner would spend their money. Also, I don’t have a garage or access to one so I will need a shop to do the upgrades.

Looks are important but I’m more concerned with performance. I know I want new wheels, tires, and coilovers.

If you were me, how would you spend $10k to $15k ranked in order of performance?

Thank you in advance for your help.
Wheels, tires, and a tune.
Everything else fucks up a perfectly good car.
 

Daily Driver

Drag Racing Champion
Location
New York
Car(s)
2020 GTI SE
Hey All! Let me know if this is a redundant question as I’m a newbie to the GTI modding world.

I have a 7.5 GTI SE automatic with 20k miles. It’s stock except for an off the shelf Cobb stage 1 tune and a K&N air filter - see? I said I was a newbie.

I’m trying to figure out a budget for the build and while I could swing $15k in upgrades over the next year I’m curious how an experienced tuner would spend their money. Also, I don’t have a garage or access to one so I will need a shop to do the upgrades.

Looks are important but I’m more concerned with performance. I know I want new wheels, tires, and coilovers.

If you were me, how would you spend $10k to $15k ranked in order of performance?

Thank you in advance for your help.
Screenshot_20230319-202618.jpg
You want to make 400HP reliably, cool.

A Hybrid IS20 Turbo or EQT Vortex standard Turbo with HPFP will make 400Hp reliably and its cost effective. this setup alone with the tune will run you $4,200
other mods needed Intake, Intercooler and Downpipe. add $1,000-$2000

if you enjoy street racing and mostly do straight line roll racing get good quality tires and some suspension to drop it a little. add $2,000

having to get everything installed at a shop. add $2,000

so i believe it will be around $10,000 give or take for your current goal.


*the most important thing you need to decide on is Turbo Option IS20 or IS38? if your goal is 400-500hp they can both achieve that but its where you want the Powerband. If you like that power at 3500RPM to go in and out of traffic when your daily driving to work, stick to the IS20 or standard Vortex. the IS38 or XL vortex power will start around 4200RPM. doesn't seem like much but its a noticable when driving, i have IS38 Hybrid it feels slower then my IS20 until you reach the mid 4000RPMs then it launches you back and keeps going. with the IS20 hits immediately then relaxes about 5500RPM. so if you dont want to live that higher RPM life to redline stick to IS20. you can red line both but you should decide if you want the power earlier or later.
 

Hoff

New member
Location
Tennessee
Car(s)
2018 GTI SE
View attachment 276024
You want to make 400HP reliably, cool.

A Hybrid IS20 Turbo or EQT Vortex standard Turbo with HPFP will make 400Hp reliably and its cost effective. this setup alone with the tune will run you $4,200
other mods needed Intake, Intercooler and Downpipe. add $1,000-$2000

if you enjoy street racing and mostly do straight line roll racing get good quality tires and some suspension to drop it a little. add $2,000

having to get everything installed at a shop. add $2,000

so i believe it will be around $10,000 give or take for your current goal.


*the most important thing you need to decide on is Turbo Option IS20 or IS38? if your goal is 400-500hp they can both achieve that but its where you want the Powerband. If you like that power at 3500RPM to go in and out of traffic when your daily driving to work, stick to the IS20 or standard Vortex. the IS38 or XL vortex power will start around 4200RPM. doesn't seem like much but its a noticable when driving, i have IS38 Hybrid it feels slower then my IS20 until you reach the mid 4000RPMs then it launches you back and keeps going. with the IS20 hits immediately then relaxes about 5500RPM. so if you dont want to live that higher RPM life to redline stick to IS20. you can red line both but you should decide if you want the power earlier or later.
Thanks for the info, this goes deeper into one of the questions I had. My previous car was a BMW M4 Comp and the power delivery was instant even at low rpms and throughout the whole rev range. In the GTI, there is a big hesitation when you give it throttle. I don't think it's a turbo spooling difference, it's just there was no hesitation to apply even small amounts of power from the pedal in the BMW. Is this something a DSG tune might address or is it because the BMW had more power and twin turbos?
 
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EpicTech

Autocross Champion
Location
Houston
Car(s)
MK7 GTI 6sp w/PP
I'll share what I did as my goals were performance, and handling and to create a balanced driving experience. My mods were in stages. Not sure the power I make now but I think Diggs knows as he is the one who tuned me after I swapped to IS38.

1. Tune and downpipe - both from Unitronic. ( I see you already are tuned so just look at a downpipe. Suggest catted and get a good brand.
2. Exhaust (AWE track) and lowering springs (H&R). Wildly different handling, feel, and driver awareness with the increased sound and the springs.
3. Wheels and tires - Originally went Michilen PS4 and Rotiform KPS (stolen a week later) then got Rotiform six. I have Rays 57FXZ now and Conti Extreme's. Tires and wheel weight are a big deal on this platform.
4. Coilovers and Macan brake swap - further improved handling and braking became a comedic event. Realized I could now play tag with M3's in the twisties.
5. Mishimoto IC and charge pipes kit, CTS turbo inlet elbow, Cobb air intake system. - noticable gain up top.
6. IS38 turbo swap and tune switched to Open Source - Holy #$# !! .. she's fast and has most of the suspension goodies to handle it. (I need sway bar upgrades)

At this point Im near 15k in on those particular mods & Labor. Car is a near perfect blend of power and handling. I will review again once sway bars are in and a seat swap I am doing.

Edit: somewhere in there I had an ACT clutch and SMF installed. Somewhere around the IC install timeframe.
 

Hoff

New member
Location
Tennessee
Car(s)
2018 GTI SE
I'll share what I did as my goals were performance, and handling and to create a balanced driving experience. My mods were in stages. Not sure the power I make now but I think Diggs knows as he is the one who tuned me after I swapped to IS38.

1. Tune and downpipe - both from Unitronic. ( I see you already are tuned so just look at a downpipe. Suggest catted and get a good brand.
2. Exhaust (AWE track) and lowering springs (H&R). Wildly different handling, feel, and driver awareness with the increased sound and the springs.
3. Wheels and tires - Originally went Michilen PS4 and Rotiform KPS (stolen a week later) then got Rotiform six. I have Rays 57FXZ now and Conti Extreme's. Tires and wheel weight are a big deal on this platform.
4. Coilovers and Macan brake swap - further improved handling and braking became a comedic event. Realized I could now play tag with M3's in the twisties.
5. Mishimoto IC and charge pipes kit, CTS turbo inlet elbow, Cobb air intake system. - noticable gain up top.
6. IS38 turbo swap and tune switched to Open Source - Holy #$# !! .. she's fast and has most of the suspension goodies to handle it. (I need sway bar upgrades)

At this point Im near 15k in on those particular mods & Labor. Car is a near perfect blend of power and handling. I will review again once sway bars are in and a seat swap I am doing.

Edit: somewhere in there I had an ACT clutch and SMF installed. Somewhere around the IC install timeframe.
Awesome, thanks for sharing!
 

EpicTech

Autocross Champion
Location
Houston
Car(s)
MK7 GTI 6sp w/PP
But its cooler and more stealthy to have a modded GTI. Only other car-people would know that something is up. To me its so funny to get challenged by someone, and then just gap them and the dumbfounded expressions are priceless. S3, R. TTS, and others are what I call "expected fast." If you go fast in those or otherwise horsing around, people don't care because they know those cars are already fast. Plus the 5- oh is more likely to notice you. I've chased a Cayman, and M3 and others through surprise speed traps at 90+, and never get pulled over because the po-po too busy looking at the other car that more looks the part.
 
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