My 1998 GTI-VR6

  Well, it's a pretty simple formula. Take a small 2 door hatch-back with room inside to seat four full sized adults, and throw a 172hp/175ft-lbs narrow angle V6 under the hood, and what you have is a one hell of a sleeper. This is the 2 door VW Golf with a performance bent.

If it wasn't for the VR6 badge on the grill, you'd never see this one coming. It does 0-60 in 7 seconds. It's got enough torque to pull convincingly from a dead stop, starting in 2nd gear, all the way to 70mph where one has to shift to third. That thrill is only topped by the 55 to 85 passing rush in 3rd gear. 2 more gears to go. Given that it's a German designed car with a sporty suspension and a real good feel for the road, this car feels absolutely rock solid at speeds double the double-nickel and has gone almost triple the double-nickel.

Believe it or not, I didn't buy it because it goes fast. Well, ok that was part of it. But I could have spent the same money and gotten a faster car. I wanted something that was comfortable, with that distinctive European engineering, with some serious practicality thrown in. One of my workmates is 6 foot 3 inches tall and he fits comfortably in the back seat, with ample leg-room and headroom. Try that in a Mustang, Z28, Acura Integra, or BMW 318.
I'm also partial to a sleeper. Some people like to advertise what they've got under the hood to the whole world, including the cops. I just like to know it's there when I need it. Setting the cruise control at 65 in 5th gear at the bottom of a mountain road and watching it climb all the way up without losing any speed, is so satisfying.

Another thing is just how relaxed I feel on two lane highways. Let me see if I can explain. When I ride my motorcycle, I never worry about passing. I just cruise along at a comfortable, not all that fast speed, until I encounter a car, and then I pass them and continue on, with no pressure. When I was driving my Celica I'd cruise along for a while and then see some car going slowly far ahead and I'd start worrying about catching up at the right spot so I could pass in the best place, or risk getting stuck behind them through several shorter passing zones further down the road. What I wanted was a car where I just don't have to worry about it. If there's an opportunity to pass, I pass, if there isn't, I don't, but I'm not constantly speeding up to be at the right place at the right time.

So what are the downsides to this car? It's front wheel drive. I love rear wheel drive cars. There is no way to fix *all* the quirks when you try to put a lot of power through the tires that have to handle steering as well. The GTI is a very nice handling car, but it tends toward understeering like all FWD cars. Nice for a predictable family car feel, but more than a little annoying when barreling into a 20mph turn at 45mph. New tires helped a lot, as the stock tires are typical America "wear like iron at the expense of everything else" kind of crap. (Goodyear Eagle GAs) Somewhere down the road I'll look into upgrading the suspension too [done it].

The biggest problem will be leaving this thing alone. There are scads of aftermarket products to turn this car into a serious performance monster. (Chips, suspensions, super/turbo chargers, and so on) But this is my first new car, and it has a warrantee, which I intend to not void if I can help it, so new rubber and a new engine management chip (both relatively cheap) will probably have to do me for a few years.  [Update:  It's been a couple years now, and I've done a few mods].

There are those, of course, who look at a car like this and just don't "get it". I can only offer the suggestion, that you try a test-drive. If you still don't get it after that, forget it. Back to the rice burners or American iron for you, as there is no more that can be said.


My Current Mods

  • Shine "Lite" hybrid suspension.   Bilstein Sport dampers all the way around.   Shine Racing front springs (200lbs) from the 4cyl GTI and stock rear springs (should really be using Corrado rear springs to match resonance frequencies but my setup works fine).   Shine's big ass rear sway bar.     The "Lite" approach was to deal with Colorado's nasty roads (rated 2nd worst in the country), but I generally have no problem running away from *anyone* in the mountains, and it's not half bad at the Auto-X.   It's very flat until the rear inside tire lifts and then the car has very neutral handling and oversteer can be dialed in with rear tire pressures.   
  • Turn2 lower engine mount.    Controls engine lurchiness in low gears and makes for smoother shifts.
  • Jason Whipple upper rear stress bar.    Kills a lot of body squeaks and makes the rear end stiffer and more predictable.
  • Gary Peloquin's  torsen limited slip differential.    It's a good redesign of the Quaife.  Unbelievable mod.  Every front wheel drive car should have one.   It allows power to be put down evenly in a straight line, eliminating torque steer, and uneven wheel spin at the drags.  It also allows for the car to pull hard around sharp corners without losing traction on the inside.    Need to turn tighter when the tires are spinning.. turn tighter.   It's pretty amazing how it'll hang on.   Works nicely in the snow too.
  • AWE Short Shift kit.    The stock shifter throw is so long it's like rowing a boat.   This kit is pretty inexpensive as it's a hybrid rebuilt unit and he'll take your old shifter for $100.  
  • VF-engineering supercharger - This replaced my old Z-engineering supercharger.  The problem with the Z-eng blower was that the step-up was driven by belts and they slipped.  The tensioning system also seemed to have issues and required enormously high tension on the belt to not slip, but it generally slipped all the time anyway above 6200 rpms.   The high belt tension went through water pump pulleys and water pumps and the alternator bearings.   The replacement VF-engineering blower has been rock solid. 
  • ( no longer installed) Z-engineering supercharger - It's a belt driven centrifugal supercharger, stock-like performance below 3k rpms, nice  between 3k and 4k, and hauls ass after 4k.    My installation Photos here.     I chose it over some of the other kits because of it's ease of installation, and because of it's very smooth power delivery.   I drive my car in the snow and I didn't want to break loose every time I touched the gas.   It makes more power below 3.5k rpms, but it *feels* stock.
  • The Z-eng chip.   I list this separately because I hope to find a way to get a new chip.  I like the charger, but the software for it sucks.   [updated.. GIAC finally made a chip for it.  Have it, it's good.]
  • A new set of performance tires every summer (I wear em out in less than 8k miles, plus a set and a half of snow tires every 2 years).  Dunlop sp4ks one summer, sp8k's the following two.   Maybe Khumo Ecsta 712's this summer.
    Too much time in the mountains, and at the track and so forth.   I work from work, and still put 15k miles on the car every year in recreaction miles.     [2002 update.. ran Falken Azenis Sports for a summer.. WOW!! I'm seriously addicted.  Super stiff sidewalls keep car even more level and the grip is to die for.   Just this side of race rubber. ]
  • ATE Powerdisc front brake rotors plus ATE Super Blue brake fluid.   Ferodo brake pads all the way around.  Pretty serious stopping power, no fade even on the track
  • Alignment specs  -1.8 degrees negative camber, 0 toe "pressed" meaning it comes out probably 1/16" total toe out static, and 0 toe under acceleration.   This really improves turn-in, and lateral grip and at least for me made the front tires wear evenly, where they used to wear on the outside faster.   (Rear tires don't wear at all)  Get a good shop to do this.  A tire store will screw it up because the above specs are outside of the factory specs, and they rarely know how to make their machines do it right, or the machine *can't* do it.   Oh, and make sure they loosen the clamps on the tie rod end boots, or they'll tear.   
  • Jetex 2.5" Aluminized Steel cat back exhaust system. - A fairly conservative exhaust for the VR6.   It sound much like stock, but a little louder.    It has a wonderful burble at idle, and you can hear and  feel it all through the lower rpms but it doesn't drone at all like some of the other 2.5" freer flowing exhaust systems.  It's also quite a bit lighter than the stock exhaust and I've been real happy with it.  Now power gain claims, but certainly nothing lost either.    One photo of it during installation.
  • Projektwzo dual round headlights - Hella lighting and the dual round look I fell in love with on the old Mk2 GTIs.
    Have the lights set up to run high and low beams together, or with together fogs (useful for fast driving at night on twisty roads), and can even run fogs alone through some special hacking. 
  • Autolamps Online Philips based H1 4100K HID retrofit into the Hella projectors in the Projektzwo low beam housings.    Modified the projector shields to eliminate/modify the e-code upward splash, plus final results.
  • Euro side molding - Finally the door molding doesn't fall off any more.  
  • Custom DRL switch, so I have Daytime Running Lights only when I *want* to be seen.   
  • Programmable Intermittent Wiper relay.   
  • I/C/E.  Stock + 6 disc changer.. :-) 

GTI VR6 stuff.. 

  • Various Video and Photo links for the car including my 18 minute Mt. Evans run and some fun track time at Second Creek Raceway.
  • A bunch photos of my car
  • And more recent pictures after mods (Pzwo headlights)
  • Some sound clips of this sweet engine  (VR6 Sounds)
  • Technical Links and other people pages

  • My page on how to replace the handbrake/e-brake cables on a GTI-VR6
  • My page on how to adjust your VR6 cable shift linkage for perfect operation
  • A page I created describing various limited slip differential systems
  • My way to describe the relationship between Torque and Horsepower using simple examples.
  • My description of how Sway bars work, and how they affect handling
  • A post of mine on the Vortex on how lowering a MacPherson strut equipped car adversely affects the suspension complete with diagrams.
  • Check out the Car Stuff section my Web/Usenet Posts page for lots more technical posts.
  • The GTI-VR6 mailing list technical library
  • VWVortex Lots of info on VW/Audi products and discussion groups.
  • Another site with a great collection of links to technical articles.
  • Eurotuned - A great collection of VW and other performance car movies
  • Gavin Dennis's writeup on replacing the ABS module.
  • Inline versus Vee.. What is the VR6?

    • On the GTI-VR6 list we hack on the the inline versus vee thread now and again. I threw together an interesting little diagram showing the actual geometry of the VR6 and a blown up version of what it might possibly imply about crank geometry. Here's the diagram. The bits of interest are that not only is the vee extremely narrow (as shown on the left) but the vee also meets below the center of the crank, as shown on the left and expanded upon on the right. The VR6 has the firing order of a straight six but is barely longer than an inline four.   The drawing on the right shows an exaggerated version of what's on the left, and what I was investigating was the fact that the piston acceleration profiles for the left and right banks are different. The right bank moves slower through the middle part of the stroke than the left bank because of the angles of the connecting rod relative to the center axis of the pistons. An interesting trick, and yet the engine is supremely smooth. More on this topic in the above list archives (user: driver password: hired).
      Here's a couple diagram showing the firing order of the VR6 first with the cylinders arranged in  firing order and then in physical order.    Note how two cylinders always move together and they're balancing each other.

      And here's a really cool AutoZine article on the history and design of VW's VR and W engines.
    • And I thought I'd just throw this little bit in. Here is the absolute best spot to install the Panasonic CX-DP601 CD changer (for 98.5 model head units).
    • Info on Projektzwo Dual Round Headlights
      My install of the Projektzwo dual round headlights, entailed almost a week of painting and some moderate cramming to get onto the car. I love the look though. Check it out:
      Projektzwo headlights and some painting .
    • A page detailing the Installation of my Philips H1 4100K HID conversion kit.

    To Do

    • Write an article about the evils of ABS.   How it's both saved my life, and almost killed me.
    • Finish my Z-engineering supercharger install page.  Currently just photos.
    • Create a  water pump installation page with some photos. 
    • Maybe some day write a page about the lost art of passing on two lane roads.
    • A description of the Shine "Lite" suspension and how to install the rear bar.

    Where now?

  • Back to my home page for various other esoteric nonsense.
  • Or straight to my motorcycle page or the somewhat more interesting Montana Motorcycle trip page I put together some years ago.