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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.
Pre-Tuning: Ignition Coils & Spark Plugs
More power requires more fuel which results in hotter temperatures within the combustion chamber. The OEM spark plugs are sufficient for GTI’s that are still running stock boost levels. However, once you are tuned and running higher boost they are prone to pre-detonation and misfires caused by the increased combustion temperatures since the stock spark plugs are too “hot”.
We recommend anyone running above stock boost levels to run 1-step colder spark plugs. These spark plugs burn cooler therefore keeping engine temps lower and preventing any knock, pre-detonation, or misfires. They’re $75, there is no reason not to run them to keep your engine healthier, running better, and free from any misfires.
If you’re going to run a tune, we recommend installing the 1-step colder plugs before you tune the car. If you are planning on sticking with OEM spark plugs and your current ones are more than 15,000 miles old, we recommend replacing them before modding.
Here are our spark plug recommendations:
- OEM MK7 GTI Spark Plugs: use these for all stock or modified GTI’s that are running stock boost. Should be replaced every 40,000 miles.
- 1-Step Colder MK7 GTI Spark Plugs: any tuned GTI running above-stock boost levels you should be using these. We recommend installing them before tuning and replacing them every 15,000-20,000 miles.
- MK7 GTI OEM Ignition Coils: ignition coils power the spark plugs, bad ignition coils can cause misfires, rough idling, and so on. We recommend replacing these every time you replace your spark plugs.
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.
Burger Motorsports supplies a piggyback tune that is a simple plug-and-play tune. They provide up to 8 different maps, for fuel grades and modifications, to choose from depending on the driver’s habits or wants. We are big on this tune because not only does it take minutes to install, but it isn’t VIN locked. Essentially, VIN locked means you can disconnect the tune without a trace and resell it down the road.
Performance Gains: 35hp – 90hp & 45lb-ft – 90lb-ft, depending on the supporting mods installed
Price: $479 New
Buy here: MK7 GTI JB4 Tune
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)
Price: $675.00 + Shipping
Learn more about MK7 GTI Tunes: https://vwtuning.co/volkswagen-mk7-gti-r-tuning-guide/
2. 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 airflow to the turbo
- Less pressure drop
Burger Motorsports not only supplies a great piggyback tune, but also provides an aggressive air intake system to pair it. This intake features 3″ tubing and comes with the turbo inlet, which further allows more air to come into the engine. The high flow filter that is included can be manually cleaned every 15,000 – 20,000 miles and will last the lifetime of the vehicle. Not only does this system perform exceptionally well, but it also gives the whooshing sound every enthusiast thrives for.
Price: $329 (Without Inlet) – $379 (With Inlet)
Buy here: MK7 GTI Elite Intake
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
Learn More about MK7 GTI Intakes: https://vwtuning.co/volkswagen-mk7-gti-upgraded-intake-guide/
3. 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 high-flow 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 is 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 Milltek catback exhaust. With this customization comes a 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)
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
Learn more about MK7 GTI Downpipes: https://vwtuning.co/mk7-gti-downpipe-guide/
4. 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.
Burger Motorsports is back with their aftermarket intercooler. After BMS’ research, they found that their intercooler unlocks up to 10whp and retains 20-30whp during extended runs. It is a direct replacement to the factory intercoolers and can be reversible if need be. Typically aftermarket intercoolers are hard to justify because of how expensive they are, but not with BMS. A customer left this review: “Too good to be true, but it isn’t.” Proving that although the intercooler is on the cheaper side, it is a high-quality product.
Buy Here: BMS MK7 GTI Intercooler
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
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 Catback Exhaust System for VW Golf MK7 GTI
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 driver’s 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 into a Touring with a simple conversion kit.
Power Gains: +21hp & +24lb-tq (Without a tune)
Price: $749.00 (Track) – $949.00 (Touring) + Shipping
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, from 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
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 on 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!