Upgrading your seventh-generation Volkswagen hot-hatch with the right performance MK7 GTI mods can be extremely rewarding. The car is simply too enjoyable to ride, and it functions well in accomplishing tasks like your daily morning drop-off duty or joyrides with friends during weekends. Modifying it with the best performance modifications will make it perform better and drastically improve your driving experience.
Hardly nothing can beat the Volkswagen MK7 GTI’s desirability and quality. Even if there are prominent competitors like the Ford Focus ST, there’s so much to like about the car, and overlooking them can almost make you feel a little bit guilty. This level of desirability captures the hearts and attention of many enthusiasts who decided to make their hatchback a project car and upgrade it. Performance mods are readily available for the vehicle, and there’s a bunch of them out there, to the point that you’d be spoiled for choice.
If you own a Volkswagen MK7 GTI and you want to equip it with the best performance mods, then you’re in for a treat. Below is a list of the best performance mods you can get for your car to improve its power, handling, and looks.
Should You Get Performance MK7 GTI Mods?
The short answer is, YES, you should.
You may be a seasoned tuner who knows a lot about the seventh-generation VW hot hatch. Or maybe you’re just a regular car enthusiast, and you just want to make driving your Volkswagen MK7 GTI more fun. Whatever the case may be, upgrading your hatchback with the proper performance modifications will drastically improve your driving experience.
It’s almost a sin not to modify the Volkswagen MK7 GTI, considering how well it handles and performs on various driving applications.
#1 Intake System
Why You Should Get It: Better airflow and air quality, “whoosh” engine sound
Price Level: $$$
There’s a good reason why most enthusiasts opt for aftermarket intake systems. For them, giving the 2.0L turbocharged TSI engine with more volumetric airflow is a good idea. Most manufacturers create their intake systems to work within standard driving conditions. But once you drive aggressively, you’ll see how restrictive they can get. By replacing the stock intake with a proper MK7 GTI intake, you’re allowing your car to breathe much better than before.
Most aftermarket air intake systems boast larger, seamless pipings that provide a smoother pathway for the air to reach your engine. Such piping comes with innovative air filters that can filter out the smallest of air contaminants. Some air filters can even screen up to a micron!
The performance gains you’d get from an aftermarket MK7 GTI intake system are not astronomically high, but the other benefits you can get are worth the investment.
Recommendation: AWE Tuning S-Flo Carbon Intake
The AWE Tuning S-Flo Carbon Intake is one of the most preferred intakes by the Volkswagen MK7 GTI community. Among the few reasons why is because they’re reliable enough to provide cold and oxygen-rich to the engine properly. This intake system comes with the S-Flo filter, a washable and reusable large conical air filter that outflows the stock filter by 34%. Because of the seamless piping, S-Flo filter, and the use of the factory airbox for heat protection, the AWE Tuning S-Flo Carbon Intake can give you as much as 10hp and 9lb-ft of extra torque.
#2 Exhaust System
Why You Should Get It: Sound quality improvement
Price Level: $$$$
A project car like the Volkswagen MK7 GTI should sound good, or else, what’s the point? To transform how your car sounds, you should equip it with an aftermarket exhaust system. These types of MK7 GTI mods will not only make your vehicle sound a whole lot better, but they will also add in some extra horsepower. Quite frankly, car enthusiasts usually get into the whole exhaust system hype not because of the performance gains but because of sound improvement.
Since there are many MK7 GTI exhaust systems out there, you can freely choose what sound level you’d prefer to have on your car. Some like it loud, some like it deep, and others like to keep it in between. The level solely depends on what you think would fit your car. This is the reason why exhaust systems are such a banger of a mod; how your car sounds is one of the most obvious ways you can express yourself through your vehicle.
Recommendation: AWE Tuning Touring Edition Exhaust Diamond Black Tips
Here’s another AWE Tuning upgrade that can be a great addition to your project car. The AWE Tuning Touring Edition Exhaust System can make your car sound a lot better with its Touring level sound quality. It’s neither too loud nor too silent; it’s just the right mix of depth and richness. With this exhaust system, you can be civil while on idle or cruising. However, once you give it the boot, you’ll discover how aggressive it can be.
On top of the sound quality, this exhaust system also comes with some sick-looking diamond black tips. Those exhaust tips will look phenomenal in the eyes of the driver you’ll be gapping!
#3 Front Mount Intercooler
Why You Should Get It: Better heat dissipation
Price Level: $$$$
We all know for a fact that the Volkswagen MK7 GTI makes use of an impressive turbocharged engine to keep itself rolling. However, the stock intercooler is not that impressive at all. OE intercoolers have a knack for heat soak and can’t really put up a show in the long run. Replacing your stock intercooler is crucial to avoid heat soak, a phenomenon where the intercooler can’t keep up with the heat the turbo creates.
When an intercooler fails to keep up with the turbocharger, the car tends to run slower or produce less power. This is especially true in warm weather. Most aftermarket MK7 GTI intercoolers are thicker and more efficient, and they can dissipate heat much faster than the OE. A new intercooler may not be directly responsible for producing extra horsepower, but it’s essential to provide more relaxed and denser air, which helps create more power.
Recommendation: Wagner Tuning Evolution Competition Core Intercooler Kit
The Wagner Tuning Evolution Competition Core Intercooler Kit can provide 90% more volume than the stock. Wagner Tuning engineers did so by increasing both the intercooler core size and efficiency, which results in increased flow rate and charge cooling properties. With the help of features like air guides and inside inlet, this intercooler can achieve excellent cooling properties and lesser pressure drop compared to the stock intercooler. It’s only 18.5lbs, an ideal weight for people who want to keep their cars light but robust.
#4 Ignition Coils and Spark Plugs
Why You Should Get It: Preventative maintenance
Price Level: $
You can modify your hot hatch all you want, but if the ignition coils or the spark plugs won’t work, it’s all for naught. One lousy spark plug or coil will prevent the engine from running at an optimal level. Spark plugs have a tendency to depreciate over time, and failing to replace them will put your car in a bad situation. A bad spark plug will result in avoidable problems like incomplete combustion, power loss, and the worst-case scenario, a check engine light turned on (a bad omen for your engine).
A bad ignition coil can pretty much pose the same problem for you, with some added dilemmas like engine misfire, rough idle, loss in acceleration, and bad mpg. You should definitely check out first if your spark plugs and ignition coils are in tip-top shape to avoid these stressful problems. You should do it as preventative maintenance, even if you’re not planning to equip it with some MK7 GTI mods.
#5 Aftermarket Downpipe
Why You Should Get It: Significant horsepower gains
Price Level: $$$
A downpipe is essentially non-negotiable if you want to squeeze out as much horsepower from your turbocharger. Much like the intercooler, the downpipe helps the turbocharger function efficiently. Replacing your stock downpipe will rack you up a decent amount of horsepower, enough to make a noticeable difference. The extra 10-20hp it adds may be laughable at first glance, but the power gain is very much noticeable once you engage the turbocharger.
The downpipe is basically a choke point that needs to be figured out as soon as possible for the turbocharger to function at a higher level. It’s one of the most restrictive stock parts of your car, and it needs to be replaced if you really want to unlock your car’s full potential. For aftermarket MK7 GTI mods such as this, you’d need one with a larger diameter. Some options come with a high-flowing catalytic converter, while others will have no cat at all (catless downpipe).
By replacing the OE downpipe with a much more free-flowing one, you permit the turbocharger to build boosts faster. An aftermarket downpipe with a much larger diameter will efficiently help the turbo expel gasses away from the engine.
Now, the choice between a catted or a catless downpipe is highly debatable, but we’re sure about one thing. By itself, a downpipe can only bump as much horsepower, but when it comes with a tune, you’d definitely see some massive power gains of up to 100hp.
If you want to make the most power out of your stock turbo, then a down-pipe is a non-negotiable component.
#6 Performance ECU Tune
Why You Should Get It: To maximize horsepower gains
Price Level: $$$
You can upgrade your car with a bunch of MK7 GTI mods all you want, but all of those are nothing without a proper ECU tune. By getting a performance ECU tune, you’re basically letting your car know that you’ve installed third-party components. And by doing so, you’re letting your car’s brain adjust, allowing the engine to function accordingly with all of those said parts.
Additionally, there are also some sweet benefits to getting a performance ECU tune. Aside from the surge of horsepower, you’re also bound to have better fuel efficiency and a cleaner burn. More importantly, you can tune your hot hatch to fit your driving style.
#7 Lowering Springs
Why You Should Get It: Cheap yet effective way to lower your car
Price Level: $$$
Perhaps one of the most prominent reasons why enthusiasts love their Volkswagen MK7 GTI is because of how satisfying it is to drive. Many enthusiasts know the car for its sophisticated and refined powertrain, which makes driving fun and satisfactory. However, there’s still one prevailing problem that bogs the living crap out of some VW fans, especially those that love to drive spiritedly: understeer.
Luckily for VW GTI owners such as yourself, there’s a straightforward solution that may solve that problem: installing stiffer springs. To combat understeer, you need to maximize the front-end grip (here’s an impressive explanation on how to combat oversteer on FWD cars). By maximizing the front-end grip (and somehow sacrificing rear grip), you can find the balance to overcome understeer.
The beauty of lowering springs is that they’re straightforward. Not only does it help solve the inherent understeer problem of the MK7 GTI, but it also eliminates those nasty fender well gaps that make the car slightly undesirable. By dropping your car with lowering springs, you not only improve your car’s handling but also make it look quintessential.
Recommendation: H&R VTF Adjustable Lowering Springs
Most of the time, lowering springs can only offer a preset ride height. Enthusiasts have no choice but to abide by it and accept that lowering springs can only offer ride height reduction and not adjustability. Manufacturers like H&R Springs decided to heed their call and create the VTF Adjustable Lowering Springs.
It’s not just your typical lowering springs. With it installed on your beloved hot hatch, you can adjust how low you want your car to go. The height adjustment scope ranges from 1.2″ to 2.0″ for both the front and the back. This feature alone makes the H&R VTF Adjustable Lowering Springs an outlier and perhaps the best out lowering springs out there today.
Why You Should Get It: Suspension fine-tuning
Price Level: $$$$
Coilovers are the choice of demanding drivers and serious tuners who want to fine-tune their suspension to fit their specific driving styles. Unlike lowering springs known for their straightforwardness, coilovers can actually offer ride height and damping adjustment to whoever is brave enough to wield it. Some coilovers offer only ride height adjustment (fixed damping), while others extend the ability to adjust the height and damping.
Keep in mind, however, that coilovers may come with a pretty steep price tag. Affordability is not the strongest suit of MK7 GTI coilovers, but we’re more than sure that the money you’d spend on it will be worth the splurge. Considering how coilovers can change the handling and looks of your hot hatch, we can confidently say that it’s well worth your money.
Recommendation: ST Suspensions XA Coilover Kit
Many Volkswagen MK7 GTI owners recommend the ST Suspensions XA Coilover Kit. The ride it offers is excellent and not that bumpy. On top of that, they can go plenty low, about 0.6″ to 1.8″ for the front and 0.8″ to 2.0″ for the rear. The springs are stiff enough and are easily applicable for sporty driving.
Adjustment is relatively easy, too, all thanks to the easily accessible knob on the chrome piston’s upper end. More importantly, they’re made by KW Suspension, so it’s safe to say that these coilovers are by no means an average-run-of-the-mill coilover kit.
#9 Rear Sway Bars
Why You Should Get It: To solve understeer
Price Level: $
Most cars head out straight from the factory with modest understeer. Manufacturers do so to make their vehicles more predictable and somewhat easier to drive at their limits. The Volkswagen MK7 GTI is no exception because it clearly has some understeer issue that needs to be dealt with.
To deal with understeer, you don’t necessarily have to get some expensive coilovers or even a set of lowering springs. The problem is solvable by using a simple suspension upgrade; a rear sway bar. Using a sway bar lets your hot hatch have a bit more oversteer bias and, in turn, do turn-ins better. With sway bars, the front tires can grip more, and overall rotation can be entirely satisfactory than it was before.
A rear sway bar can fix your car’s understeer without affecting its ride quality that much.
Recommendation: APR Rear Roll-Control Sway Bar
Many MK7 GTI enthusiasts opt for the APR Rear Roll-Control Sway Bar because it radically improves corner handling without negatively affecting the ride quality of their cars. APR manufactured it using high-end techniques, making it strong, and more than capable of withstanding harsh track conditions.
More so, it improves the MK7 GTI’s understeer and oversteer balance, allowing the vehicle to have more excellent stability and control, all thanks to a firmer grip.
Remember that rear sway bars work in tandem with front sway bars, so it’d be in your best interest to get them both.
#10 Wheels and Tires
Why You Should Get It: Style points and better road traction
Price Level: $$$$$
The addition of new wheels and tires aren’t just for aesthetic purposes; they also do wonders to a car! Whether you use your Volkswagen MK7 GTI mainly for the track or just flaunt it on the streets, getting your hands on them can do you a lot of good.
Bumping up your wheel size can open the doors for more driving benefits. Assuming that you opted for bigger tires, you’ll have improved grip and traction. Cornering can be a lot better too, since bigger wheels have more road contact. More so, braking will be far better than it used to be too, and it can even set up your car to look better. Admit it or not, how good your wheel setup looks says a lot about the person behind the steering wheel.
If you’re upgrading your wheels, then you’re most likely to get new tires as well. Larger tires can improve handling and cornering because of their wider tread faces partnered with stiffer sidewalls. They may also increase your car’s acceleration, especially if you’ve invested in some major power mods like the ones mentioned above.
MK7 GTI mods like this can present a night and day difference once installed. On stock, the MK7 GTI wheels are okay. However, we can all agree that refusing to upgrade it with sick-looking (and performing) wheels and tires is akin to wasting its full potential. Whether it’s for track purposes or spirited street driving, adding new tires along with a new wheelset can set you up for a fantastic driving experience.
Aside from the MK7 GTI mods mentioned above, you can do yourself a favor and consider some of these optional mods as well. These modifications are what most Volkswagen MK7 GTI owners do to their cars that aren’t really a priority but can serve you in the long run.
- Blow-off Valve
- Lug Stud Conversion
- DSG Tune
- Remove the Soundaktor
If you really want to transform your beloved Volkswagen MK7 GTI into something more sinister, then you should definitely consider the performance modifications we’ve mentioned above. Some of them will improve your car’s power production, while others will make positive and practical changes to your car’s handling.