The 5 Best Mods for the Volkswagen MK6 GTI
Trey is an automotive enthusiast and has a huge passion for Volkswagen and Audi vehicles of all kinds. His enthusiasm started with the MK5 GTI, and he has massively expanded his knowledge over the years. When Trey is not delivering high-quality and in-depth content, we can usually find him working in his garage on his modified Genesis coupe. Trey created VW Tuning several years ago, and he is the primary visionary behind the content.
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The Volkswagen Golf MK6 GTI was introduced in 2009 and continued production through 2013. It houses a 2.0-liter TSI engine that puts out an impressive 207hp and 207lb-ft out of the box, but have you ever thought “How can I make my MK6 GTI faster?” Well good, now you’re here, where we are going to tell you just how to do this. The first thing you will find to make your MK6 faster is probably an upgraded turbo, but some of us don’t have $6k – $8k to spend! So, I created this guide to get the most out of your MK6 GTI, without having to spend $6k.
Pre-Tuning: Ignition Coils & Spark Plugs
Before going into the best MK6 GTI Mods, we are going to address upgraded ignition components. When an engine is tuned, there is typically more power made. More power requires more fuel which results in higher engine temps in the combustion chamber. While OEM spark plugs are sufficient enough for GTI’s on stock boost, they tend to fail on engines with higher boost, or tuned, due to hotter engine temps. This would lead to pre-detonation and engine misfires.
We highly recommend running 1-step colder spark plugs if you plan on tuning your MK6 GTI and increasing boost levels. 1-step colder spark plugs burn cooler than OEM spark plugs which keeps engine temperatures lower and prevents pre-detonation, engine misfires, or knocks. Since they’re relatively inexpensive, there shouldn’t be a reason not to run them to keep your engine healthy and free from any misfires. If you plan on sticking with OEM spark plugs and your current spark plugs have more than 15,000 miles on them, we recommend replacing them before modding your vehicle.
Here are our spark plug recommendations:
- OEM MK6 GTI Spark Plugs: use these OEM spark plugs for stock or modified GTI’s on stock boost. We recommend replacing these every 40,000 miles.
- 1-Step Colder MK6 GTI Spark Plugs: any tuned GTI above-stock boost levels should be running 1-Step Colder MK6 GTI Spark Plugs. We recommend replacing these every 10,000-20,000 miles.
- MK6 GTI OEM Ignition Coils: coils provide voltage to the spark plugs. Foiled ignition coils can cause cylinder misfires, rough idling, and so on. We recommend replacing your ignition coils every time you replace spark plugs.
How to Make Your MK6 GTI Faster
- Add an Intake
- Upgrade your Exhaust System
- Add an ECU Tune
- Add a Downpipe
- Upgrade your Intercooler
Now with all of these modifications, there are multiple brands of MK6 parts that we will get into.
1. Adding an Intake to Your VW MK6 GTI
An intake is a fairly inexpensive modification that reaps large benefits. It allows your engine to finally breathe properly. Cold air intakes allow cooler (denser) air to be brought into the engine, which in turn means more power. Given the CAI may not give you the most power benefits on its own, but once you start to introduce the modifications listed below, the benefits of a cold air intake add up. As I said, there are MANY brands out there that make a cold air intake, but these are our favorites.
APR Stage 1 Cold Air Intake
APR LLC makes a great combination of products for the Volkswagen MKVI GTI, one of those being the APR Stage 1 Cold Air Intake. Although it is on the pricey side of CAI’s, it adds an under the hood aesthetic that a lot of enthusiasts strive for. Not only does it look good, but it also sounds even better. Some compare the sound to Darth Vader, which in other words you will hear a profound “whoosh” noise. An intake combined with a loud BOV is what turned me to a GTI in the first place. The perks of adding an APR intake to your MK6 GTI are increased outflow compared to the stock intake, sharpened throttle response, and less strain on your turbocharger. It is advisable to get the rear turbo inlet pipe to further increase the airflow to your engine.
Power Gains: +15hp
Price: $354.99 – $604.98 + Shipping
Buy Here: CAI CBFA Engine
Buy Here: CAI CCTA Engine
K&N MK6 GTI Cold Air Intake
K&N offers a great lower-cost alternative Cold Air Intake. K&N is very well known in the automotive industry for all types of air filters. One thing that makes this intake stand out is the proprietary air-box it uses to fuse to the fresh air ducting on the grill. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as the APR intake, the K&N Cold Air makes up for it in performance and sound. Compared to the APR cold air intake, the K&N pulls harder in lower gears, especially with a tune.
Power Gains: +10-12hp & +8-13lb-ft
Price: $374.99 + Shipping
Learn more about MK6 GTI/R Intakes.
2. Upgrade the Exhaust System on Your VW MK6 GTI
I think what people like most about upgrading their exhaust system is the sound they get from it. We love the sound upgrade, but they are also performance benefits to upgrading your exhaust. Aftermarket exhaust systems tend to produce more airflow due to the larger diameter in the piping, which in turn makes the airflow faster. When you have faster airflow, it will increase the high-end power of your vehicle’s engine. Like the cold air intake, an upgraded exhaust system helps the engine breathe easier which will produce a slight boost in performance gains. These options are on the pricier end but are the best sounding systems in our opinion.
APR MK6 GTI Catback Exhaust System
APR LLC is back with its catback exhaust system. Like the cold air intake above, it is on the pricier side of the exhaust category for your MK6 GTI. The APR Catback in our opinion has the sleekest design for your GTI.
Power Gains: +3hp & +4lb-ft
Price: $999.99 + Shipping
NEUSPEED MK6 GTI Cat-back Exhaust System
NEUSPEED offers a comparable alternative to the APR catback exhaust system in performance. But what makes the NEUSPEED MK6 GTI exhaust system stand out is the manufactured quality. The fitment, quality, and design are second to none to all the exhaust companies out there for the GTI VI.
Power Gains: +3hp & +4lb-ft
Price: $934.96 + Shipping
Learn more about MK6 GTI Exhausts
3. Add an ECU Tune to Your VW MK6 GTI
This is where you will get the most bang for your buck when it comes to power. A tune can drastically change the way your car runs. Manufacturers normally install a “one-size-fits-all” engine that meets the ever-changing emissions standards. Often times these “one-size-fits-all” engines are not pushing your engines to the max, although it’s not a good idea to push your engine to the max, a tune allows the engine to produce more power, run more efficiently, and get better gas mileage.
APR 2.0 TSI / TFSI Gen 1 ECU Upgrade (Stage 1)
The APR tune is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to MK6 GTI tunes. Now I know I have featured an APR product all the way through, but that is because, with all of the products (Intake + Exhaust + Tune), you will get the most power out of it. The only reason I say this is because APR designed all their products in-house and tested them together on the MK6 GTI. But as proven, the APR Stage 1 tune works well with any brand of intake + exhaust.
Power Gains w/ just APR tune: +67hp & +93ft-lt
Power Gains w/ APR Intake: +75hp & +95ft-lb
Price: $599.99 + Shipping
COBB Accessport V3 Stage 1 Power Package VW GTI MK6
COBB specializes in the “plug-and-play” functionality of their tunes, which is why we like this tune so much. Simply put, once this tune is installed, the AccessPort allows you to store different tuning maps to be used in specific driving conditions. Not only is it easy to use, but COBB offers FREE firmware updates + updated maps for your vehicle. Although it doesn’t provide the best power out of the box, the customization the AccessPort allows you to do is second to none in the tuning industry.
Power Gains w/ just COBB tune: +33hp & +37ft-lb
Learn more about MK6 GTI/R/GLI Tuners.
Price: $675 + Free Shipping
4. Add a Downpipe to Your VW MK6 GTI
After installing a tune, a downpipe is the next modification you’ll want to invest in. An upgraded downpipe will improve exhaust flow from the exhaust side of the turbo, which in turn will produce more hp and torque by allowing the turbo to spool quicker/stronger. You’ll feel your car hitting boost sooner and pulling harder at higher RPMs. When looking at a downpipe, there are two options you can go with: catless vs high-flow catted. When looking for power gains, you’ll want to go with the catless version, but that comes with emission problems when it comes to your inspection.
ARM Motorsports MK6 GTI Downpipe
ARM Motorsports offers a high-quality full 3″ stainless steel downpipe at a reasonable price. Something that is good with ARM is they give you the option to purchase a catless or include a catalytic converter. Something to be careful when purchasing a catless is that your O2 sensor WILL go off and more than likely you will not pass your emissions test depending on where you live. So, if you don’t want to bother with welding your own catalytic converter, then the add-on is worth it. You can expect a bump up to +20whp and +30wtq or higher depending on what tune you are running.
Price without Catalytic Converter: $327 + Shipping
Price with Catalytic Converter: $367 + Shipping
RACELAND MK6 GTI Downpipe (Discontinued in US, but available in UK)
Raceland offers a cheaper, but comparable, 3″ stainless steel downpipe. Like the ARM downpipe above, the Raceland also directly fits on a stock catback exhaust, but only for CCTA engine. We don’t have exact figures for hp or tq increases, but we can assume they are around the same as ARM. One thing to note with the Raceland, is that it is catless with no option to add in a catalytic converter. So, if you are wanting to send it for a reasonably priced downpipe to get to Stage 2, we would recommend Raceland.
Price without Catalytic Converter: $179 + Shipping
Learn more about MK6 GTI Downpipes.
5. Upgrade your Intercooler on your VW MK6 GTI
Much like the intake, the intercooler brings in cooler (denser) air to your engine, which in turn means more power, but don’t hope to gain very much horsepower with just adding an aftermarket intercooler. The main reasons you would want an aftermarket intercooler is for cooling efficiency and preventing heat soak. What is heat soak? Essentially heat soak occurs when your engine gets hot enough that it overwhelms your cooling system. When this occurs, power tends to drop off substantially.
APR 1.8T/2.0T Front Mount Intercooler System (FMIC)
The APR intercooler is different than competing FMIC because of its Easy-Flow silicone hose design. In other words, some competitive intercoolers don’t have a smooth transition from one pipe to another in the housing, which causes restrictive airflow. But since APR engineered their intercooler specifically to connect to the factory charge pipes. It is definitely one of the most expensive options for FMIC, but it is proven to be the most efficient in the industry.
Price: $999 + Shipping
European S3 Intercooler
A very common cheaper alternative is the OEM S3 Intercooler. We will say, it definitely is not as efficient as the APR FMIC above, but it can get the job done. In fact, it improves your intercooler efficiency by about 30%. If you don’t have the money to pony up for the APR Front Mount Intercooler System, the OEM intercooler will suffice.
Price: $407.52 + Shipping
Learn more about MK6 GTI Intercoolers.
In our opinion, these are the 5 best performance mods for your Volkswagen MK6 GTI. With all of the above mods installed, you should be near a 300hp MK6 GTI, which makes this an all-around gem for the price you will pay. Once you have the downpipe and intercooler installed, look into a Stage 2 tune to up the power a little more, you won’t be upset about it. Add a comment if you disagree or found this helpful!
Thanks so much for such an informative article. I own a 2014 GTI which I call my fountain of youth. I’m a disabled 50 year old that absolutely loves my GTI go cart. I’ve done the first two mods which are the cold air intake from DFG Tuning and also installed a Magna Flow Cat back exhaust. I am now saving my pennies for the next step of down pipe and tuning. Will adding these new items have any effect on reliability? I live in Honolulu, Hawaii and we do not have any emissions check here. Would it be better to go with a cat less down pipe? Are there any down sides as far as error codes or engine malfunctions with going cat less? Thanks in advance for any help that you can give me. Take care.
Thanks for checking it out! GTI’s are so much fun… Whenever you put mods on in general, whatever it may be, it will have an effect on reliability just because it’s not how VW intended the car to be out of the factory. However, if you follow your maintenance schedules by the tee, you should be okay. Cat less vs catted is always a heavily debated topic. Catless is always going to be louder, which we like, and will allow more air into the engine. If you go catless you will get a CEL, just because of emissions and the cat delete, but there are some tunes that will let you void the fault. Hope this helps and would love to hear more that you do on your GTI!
Hey so I have a 2010 VW Gold with Apr inter cooler, apr Downpipe, apr cold air intake and bore exhaust. How much boost should I be running? My gauge said I hold at 12 but I have had multiple people say I should be able to to that with stick turbo. Can I get some help. Have no tune
Thanks for reaching out. We think the best thing to do would be to get a tune and have a professional make a map specific to your car. Every engine is different, but a professional should get you to the safest psi for your engine.