The 5 Best Performance Mods for the MK7 GTI
The Volkswagen 7th Gen (MK7/MK7.5) Golf GTI is the successor of the MK6 GTI and was first introduced in 2013 through 2020. The MK7 GTI houses an updated 2.0t TSI engine (CHHB) and IS20 turbo that puts down 217hp (+10hp) and 258lb-ft (+51tq) out of the factory. While it is quite impressive, it has us enthusiasts questioning, “How can I make the MK7 GTI faster?”. According to some sources, APR pushed the MK7 GTI R (same engine internals as the MK7) internals to the limit and couldn’t break them at 500hp. The possibilities of getting a 350hp MK7 GTI are entirely possible without breaking the bank with these MK7 GTI mods.
Ignition Coils & Spark Plugs
Before getting into the mods, let’s talk about ignition coils and spark plugs. We highly advise changing both your spark plugs and ignition coils to ensure you get the true sense of power out of your engine and mods. If there is one bad plug or coil, it will cause the engine to not run at optimal levels. When you spend money on mods, you expect to see a difference, so before ordering any of the mods below get some fresh plugs and coils.
How to Make Your Golf Mk7 GTI Faster – MK7 GTI Mods
To make your Volkswagen MK7 GTI a 300hp – 350hp machine, you will need to add these aftermarket MK7 GTI mods:
- ECU Tune
- Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC)
These are basic bolt-ons for most DIY’ers, aside from the downpipe, so let’s get into these mods and then go into brands. When recommending brands, this is OUR opinion on who we think the best aftermarket options on the market. Everybody has their own preference, so please do your own research on the brands suggested since these aren’t low priced parts.
1. Aftermarket ECU Tune
A tune IS the best bang for your buck when you’re trying to get the most power out of your Volkswagen Golf MK7/MK7.5 GTI. An OEM tune out of the box has way more conservative software settings than aftermarket tunes. Not only does an aftermarket tune provide more power, but it can make your car run more efficiently. So, there are more perks than you would think with an aftermarket tune:
- More power
- Better fuel efficiency
- Best bang for your buck
- Easy install
- Fits your driving habits
- Provide a cleaner burn
There are quite a bit of aftermarket tuning companies on the market, but the ones listed below are our favorites.
Cobb is well known in the aftermarket industry for their true plug and play engine tunes with preset maps. Although it is a little more expensive than other tunes on the market, we recommend going with them because it is a simple install that packs a punch for your ride. Also to mention, they have tunes all the way up to Stage 3 if you want to continue ramping up the power gradually to truly get the most out of your Volkswagen MK7/Mk7.5 GTI.
Stage 1 Power Gains 91 Octane: +16.6% hp (35hp) & +16.7% lb-tq (43lb-tq)
Stage 1 Power Gains 93 Octane: +23.9% hp (51hp) & +26.9% lb-tq (69lb-tq)
Dyno Results: https://media.cobbtuning.com/catalog/dyno/dyno-vw-mk7-stg1.jpg
Price: $675.00 + Shipping
Video Install: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CV2syexXWI
APR is another well-known aftermarket manufacturer in the VW space. There tune packs more of a power punch but is not necessarily plug and play. You will have to go to an APR Dealer to upgrade to Stage 1. This may seem like a hassle, but if you are in it for power, you won’t regret it. Like the Cobb tune, the APR tune does have up to Stage 3 tunes. However, the APR tunes give you the option to have “high” torque or “low” torque from Stage 1 – Stage 3.
Stage 1 Power Gains 91 Octane (Low Torque): +77hp & +47lb-tq
Stage 1 Power Gains 91 Octane (High Torque): +69hp & +68lb-tq
Stage 1 Power Gains 93 Octane (Low Torque): +82hp & 47lb-tq
Stage 1 Power Gains 93 Octane (High Torque): +76hp & 79lb-tq
Dyno Results: https://www.goapr.com/products/software/ecu_upgrade/parts/ECU-20T-EA888-3-T-IS20
Price: $699.99 + Free Shipping
2. Aftermarket Downpipes
A downpipe (DP) connects the turbo to the rest of the exhaust system. The stock Volkswagen Golf MK7 GTI downpipe has 2 catalytic converters to ensure the vehicle is compliant with emissions, but this restricts airflow substantially and produces noticeably more back pressure. A downpipe itself can produce anywhere from 5-25hp without a tune, but with a tune, a downpipe is one of the most important mods to purchase. With a tune and a downpipe, you could net almost a 100hp gain (depending on your setup). Now there’s always a debate between catted vs catless downpipe.
The aim for any vehicle is to reduce back pressure, which in turn will increase performance. Catalytic converters “filter” exhaust emissions and restrict airflow from the turbo. So, if you go with a catted downpipe (even a highflow option), it will produce slightly more back pressure than a catless. Plain and simple. For people less concerned about emissions, go catless as it will produce more power. If you are in a state or country that is all about limiting emissions, go catted. A popular topic on downpipes is it being just a metal pipe, so why not go with an eBay downpipe? Don’t. Go with tried and true aftermarket brands.
Milltek provides a cheaper, but high-quality, downpipe option for the Volkswagen Golf MK7/MK7.5 GTI. What we like most about the Milltek downpipe is they let the customer decide if they want a catted (regular or high flow) or a catless option. It also allows customers to choose between the downpipe being able to connect to the stock catback exhaust or a Millteck catback exhaust. With this customization comes cost, as you can see with the price listed below. We would suggest if you’re going for catless, go with Milltek.
Price: $509.00 (Catless Option) – $2,089.00 (Race Catalytic Converter)
Sound Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQUG3keRj0c
Unitronic provides a great catted downpipe option for your Volkswagen MK7 GTI. It comes equipped with a 200-cell high flow catalytic converter and an OEM inspired cat heat shield to protect it from unwanted heat radiating from the exhaust. One thing to note with a high-flow catted downpipe is your vehicle may still fail an emissions test.
Price: $799 + Shipping
Sound Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKMmWPuFmbc
Learn more about MK7 GTI Downpipes: https://vwtuning.co/mk7-gti-downpipe-guide/
3. Aftermarket Intercoolers
An often-overlooked mod for somebody going for real power is an intercooler. Although it is expensive for not a lot of power, it is justified. An intercooler is more of an efficiency and reliability mod. Why do we say this? An aftermarket intercooler brings in cooler air into the combustion chamber, which in turn produces more power. The cooler and denser the air going through your engine, the more power it generates. Heat is what kills power the most and an upgraded intercooler combats this.
Intercoolers are also said to make vehicles more consistent by not experiencing as much heat soak. Have you ever hopped into your car, waited for it to warm up while driving around, and once it warms up, you go for a pull? But then the more you run it, the more the power falls off. An intercooler fights against heat soak, by ensuring the engine doesn’t get too hot and overwhelm the cooling system.
The Wagner Tuning award-winning competition intercooler is one of the biggest on the market and provides 90% more volume than the OEM intercooler. Wagner Tuning manufactures their products in the US, so you can expect exceptional quality for all their products. The intercooler goes under rigorous testing to ensure it is one of the best aftermarket intercoolers for the Volkswagen Golf MK7 GTI. Also, it does replace the OEM intercooler without any additional parts needed to fit.
Price: $900.00 + Shipping
Temperature Comparison: http://www.wagner-tuningshop.de/_pictures/flow/200001048-Temp.jpg
Pressure Drop Comparison: http://www.wagner-tuningshop.de/_pictures/flow/200001048-Airflow.jpg
APR is another well-known Volkswagen aftermarket manufacturer proven to have high quality products. Their intercooler features a bar and plate core, which is more favorable vs a tube and fin, and is organically shaped to maximize airflow through the core. This intercooler is also much bigger than the OEM MK7 GTI intercooler, which provides less pressure drop and cooler intake air temperatures. The data for these intercoolers speaks for itself.
Power Gains: +21hp
Price: $899.95 + Free Shipping
4. Aftermarket Air Intakes
An aftermarket intake is always a debatable, rather expensive mod, some people feel is not necessary because you only gain a measly 3-5hp. But people, or at least hopefully, don’t get intakes for power output. The reason why it is debatable is because the OEM intake on the VW MK7 GTI is way less restrictive than model years prior. Some benefits worth mentioning with a VW Golf GTI MK7/MK7.5 aftermarket intake:
- Engine bay aesthetic
- “Whoosh” turbo sound
- Increased air flow to the turbo
- Less pressure drop
Integrated Engineering is a well-respected aftermarket manufacturer for German brands Volkswagen and Audi. They provide an excellent cheaper option for an aftermarket intake. It features a high-flow built in velocity stack and a 5″ filter. You can expect to see a +10hp gain after a tune.
Power Gains: +5 – 10hp (Depending on if you are tuned)
Price: $349.99 + Free Shipping
Sound Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-vABOFkPyc
Unitronic is another German car brand aftermarket manufacturer working on brands such as Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini. They offer a performance air intake for the Volkswagen MK7 GTI on the higher end of the price range but feature a “radius faced air filter base for maximum airflow”. Again, unless you are tuned, don’t expect much more than 5hp.
Power Gains: +5 – 10hp (Depending on if you are tuned)
Price: $499.99 + Free Shipping
Sound Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ2KqNsZTXk
Learn More about MK7 GTI Intakes: https://vwtuning.co/volkswagen-mk7-gti-upgraded-intake-guide/
5. Aftermarket Exhaust Systems
An aftermarket exhaust, like the intake, is not going to give you huge power gain numbers, but what it will give you is the sound you are looking for. Besides sound, an aftermarket exhaust usually has a wider diameter, which reduces back pressure caused by the more restrictive stock exhaust. There are many exhaust systems on the market to choose from, but we’ll narrow it down to the two most prominent in the Volkswagen Golf MK7/MK7.5 GTI aftermarket industry. Something to note about both brands listed is the amount of extensive research they have performed to make sure their exhaust systems are the best on the market.
AWE tuning is another US based aftermarket manufacturer known for its high quality aftermarket parts. Something we like about the AWE tuning catback exhaust is they guarantee no CEL and perfect fitment. Another positive, is AWE provides a lifetime warranty (one year on catalysts) for their exhaust system. AWE Tuning also provides a track or touring option to customize to the drivers liking. The track edition (pictured above) replaces the resonator, coming from the downpipe, with a straight pipe for a more aggressive sound and increase performance. Luckily, if you aren’t satisfied with the sound of the Track, you can easily transform it to a Touring with a simple conversion kit.
Power Gains: +21hp & +24lb-tq (Without a tune)
Price: $749.00 (Track) – $949.00 (Touring) + Shipping
Sound Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-Uw49VKYKU
APR provides a direct fit and easy to install alternative catback exhaust system. They allow you to choose your sound by providing a front muffler option or a mid muffler option, for a more conservative sound to a more aggressive sound. They also created a low-profile design for the lowered MK7 GTI’s out there to prevent scraping. The fitment they provide is simple, yet precise and it shows with the clamps, hangars, and brackets they have designed for the best fitment possible.
Price: $1,029.95 – $1,235.95 + Free Shipping
APR Sound Clips: https://www.goapr.com/products/engine_hardware/exhaust_systems/catback_exhaust_systems/apr_catback_exhaust_-_20t_gti_mk7/
Conclusion – MK7 GTI Mods
We want to reiterate with the manufacturers we picked for the products listed, PLEASE do your own research. The brands were chosen based off forum feedback and personal preference, but everybody is entitled to their own opinion. If you go with the above mods, you can easily get a 350hp Volkswagen Golf MK7 GTI. Add a comment if you disagree, found this performance guide helpful or have any feedback on this guide!