Whenever I talk about the current VW Golf GTI, I’m like a broken record. I’ll tell people I’ve loved running one for the last five or so months, but each and every time I’m asked what it’s been like, conversation will turn to the GTI I ran before it: the Clubsport. With some extra power and some chassis fettling it unlocked a potential that probably won’t be seen for the rest of this Golf generation, and that seems like a massive shame.
But where VW have ditched the anniversary-special GTI and won’t offer a replacement, can the aftermarket fill the void? That’s what I intended to find out, by borrowing the stickered-up Golf you see here.
It’s a pre-facelift GTI Performance Pack demonstrator model lent to us by a Dudley-based firm called Co-ord Sport, the UK distributors of the Steinbauer Performance Module. The car has one fitted (among a few other things), and it’s an interesting setup as it leaves the ECU entirely alone. It doesn’t even leave a footprint - it plugs straight into the injectors, the turbocharger and other parts of the car, giving anything up to a 20 per cent increase in power.
To go along with that, this Golf has a Cobb catback exhaust, an AMS carbon intake system, Whiteline lowering springs (25mm rear and 30mm front), and Rays wheels. And as we’ve already mentioned, stickers. Lots of stickers.
Normally, adding the Steinbauer would give the pre-facelift GTI Performance somewhere in the region of 260 - 275bhp, but since this one has breathing mods to support it, its potentiometer has been cranked up a little bit to give a total of 297.7hp. Oh, and 341lb ft of torque, up from the standard car’s 258lb ft of twist.
As you’d expect, this all makes quite a difference. As standard the EA888 has - for a turbo engine at least - a fairly linear power band, but in this fettled Golf there’s a much more defined ‘step’ where the turbocharger comes on song at about 3000rpm. It’s a boosty so-and-so, with the sort of mid-range thrust that makes it feel up there - if anything a little more potent - than a Honda Civic Type R.
It’s probably about as far as I’d want to push it, and not just to preserve the life of the TSI engine’s internals. No - it’s about on the limit of what VAG’s trick ‘VAQ’ locking differential can handle, both when putting the power down in a straight line, and when getting greedy with the throttle on the exit of a corner. The front end is on the whole a little scrabbly, but I rather like that. The extra bit of throatiness from the exhaust pipes is a welcome addition too, without adding any annoying boom.
These choice tweaks unlock the potential the Golf GTI has always had, without any severe bastardisation going on. It gets better, as the Steinbauer system only kicks in at 65 per cent throttle and up, so drive it normally, and fuel economy and general driving characteristics will remain unchanged. So is it a no brainer? Not quite, as the costs do add up quite quickly.
The Steinbauer system on its own is £739.13, with an extra £129 for a wireless remote to switch the system off and on. The intake system is £530.73, and that cat-back exhaust is £703.27. There’s a Turbosmart blow-off valve (don’t worry, the noise it makes is subtle and rather pleasing) that’ll set you back £164.90, while those lowering springs are the cheapest item on the menu at £115.99. Want the wheels too? They’re £290.42 a corner.
When it comes to totting things up I’m going to ignore the wheels as they’re mostly an aesthetic choice, and I’ll miss out the lowering springs too - they give the car a lovely stance, but it doesn’t need them, and they result in a punishingly hard ride. Particularly on the rebound stroke, which is brutal in this demo car. So, that gives us a total of £2138.03. Not exactly pocket change, and a simple remap is going to be a lot cheaper while giving similar power.
But then you have the footprint thing - which may or may not be an issue for you - and the Steinbauer’s switchable nature is definitely a plus. There’s a temptation to go for the Performance Module without any supporting mods at all, particularly given that adding one to the more powerful post-facelift GTI Performance Pack would see you knocking on the door of 300bhp.
However you choose to crank up the power of your GTI, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it. The car can clearly take it, and it feels awesome with a bit of extra poke.