The Volkswagen MK6 GTI is proof that a hot hatch can be fun and practical to drive at the same time. Arguably the best-looking car amongst all GTI generations, the MK6 remains a great platform, even after its initial release in 2010. A hatchback like this gained popularity over seasoned Volkswagen fans and young enthusiasts alike because it possesses all things a car enthusiast would ask for: a car that’s fun to drive, handles well, and most of all, versatile enough to accept various MK6 GTI mods.
The Volkswagen MK6 GTI As A Tuner-Friendly Hot Hatch
Many enthusiasts would choose the MK6 GTI as their project car because it accepts performance modifications exceptionally well. Oftentimes, you’d see most of them on the streets equipped with various MK6 GTI mods that tweaked the car’s power, handling, and sound output. Modifying the vehicle is a breeze since it’s got massive aftermarket support on its back. And if ever you need help, there’s a gigantic GTI community that’s out there waiting to welcome and support you.
If you recently got a Volkswagen MK6 GTI, and you’re planning to tune it into something even more fun to drive, then you should know that there are some performance modifications out there that can help you out. These upgrades improve the various departments of your car: power production, handling, looks, and sound. More importantly, they’re usually the ones most VW MK6 GTI owners get, so you can be assured that you’re on the right track.
Check out the guide we’ve made for VW enthusiasts like you down below.
#1 Intake Systems
The easiest thing you can do to introduce some raw power and torque to your hot hatch is to install an aftermarket air intake system. The gains you’d get won’t be astronomically high, but it would be enough to improve your car’s fuel combustion, and as well as acceleration. These MK6 GTI mods are some of the most common ones enthusiasts get for their cars.
Most people would soon realize that their intakes need an upgrade even if it’s functioning well for regular daily driving. It’s too restrictive for the likes of many, and it can only do so much when you subject your car to aggressive driving.
Generally, car enthusiasts get their hands on a high-quality MK6 GTI air intake to introduce more volumetric airflow to their engines. Since aftermarket air intakes feature larger and more free-flowing intake pipes and air filters that can sift up to microns of debris, many people would flock to them. They’re relatively cheap as well, so acquiring one wouldn’t be too stressful for your pockets.
An aftermarket air intake system is ideal for Volkswagen MK6 GTI owners who want their engines to receive a better airflow supply. More air means better combustion. Better combustion would mean that your fuel economy would be better. And more importantly, it requires less fuel to achieve an incremental amount of horsepower increase.
RECOMMENDATION: aFe Stage 2 Pro Dry S Cold Air Intake System
- Manufacturer: aFe Power
- Part Number: 51-11892
- Why It’s Great: Pro Dry S filter
If you’re interested in a cheap yet pretty reliable air intake for your Volkswagen MK6 GTI , then you can’t go wrong with the aFe Power Pro Dry S Cold Air Intake System. It features a long transition intake tube, a built-in MAF sensor mount, and an oil-free air filter, which is much better than the typical gauze filter. Overall, this intake system can produce up to 14hp and 15lb-ft of torque. It even comes with a powder-coated heat shield!
#2 Exhaust Systems
After installing an intake system, you should opt for a well-built aftermarket exhaust system to enhance your car’s sound output next. It’s probably the most popular upgrade for the Volkswagen MK6 GTI because it can instantly change the vehicle’s personality sound-wise. Because let’s admit it: a car that sounds great tells a lot about the driver behind the wheels. The addition of such MK6 GTI mods like exhaust systems will tell the people around you that you put significant time and effort in upgrading your car.
There are two types of exhaust system you can choose from. First are cat-back exhaust systems, the one that can deliver improvements in performance and sound quality simultaneously. The second are axle-backs, the type of exhaust system that’s involved more in improving your car’s sound quality than its performance.
Cat-back exhaust systems are preferably better when you’re looking for performance improvement, but they tend to be more expensive. On the other hand, axle-back exhaust systems are the more cost-effective alternative if you only care about how good you want your car to sound.
There’s a lot of valid options to consider when it comes to VW MK6 GTI exhaust systems. Since enthusiasts are more concerned with how it sounds, they are often left with various options: silent to loud. The preference would mainly depend on the driver, but if you’re going to ask us, we prefer a Volkswagen MK6 GTI to sound deep and aggressive but not that overtly loud.
RECOMMENDATION: CORSA Performance Touring Sound Level Cat-Back Exhaust System
- Manufacturer: Corsa Performance
- Part Number: 14491BLK
- Why It’s Great: Reflective Sound Cancellation (RSC) Technology
The Corsa Performance Cat-Back Exhaust System is arguably one of the best-sounding exhausts in the market today. The Touring Sound Level makes driving undeniably more enjoyable. It produces a slightly louder grunt than stock but deep and rich enough to give you auditory satisfaction.
More importantly, this intake is drone-less, so don’t expect unwarranted stress from an annoying persisting sound while cruising. This is all thanks to Corsa’s patented RSC technology that eliminates low-frequency sound waves and, therefore, removes any possibility of droning.
The downpipe is responsible for guiding exhaust gases from the turbine out into the exhaust system. Sadly, it’s one of the most restrictive parts of the vehicle; that’s why it definitely needs an upgrade. Typically, aftermarket downpipes are much larger in diameter and use either a high-flowing catalytic converter or none at all (catless downpipe). It’s also one of the most underrated MK6 GTI mods, judging from how many people actually opt for them first.
By replacing the OE downpipe with a much more free-flowing one, you permit the turbocharger to build boosts faster. You see, the downpipe is basically a choke point. By replacing it with an aftermarket one with a much larger diameter, you inevitably allow the turbo to take out the exhaust gases away from the turbine more efficiently.
If you want to make the most power out of your stock turbo, then a down-pipe is a non-negotiable component.
#4 Spark Plugs and Ignition Coils
Performance modifications are great and all, but let’s not forget about some underrated parts that play a significant role in power production: spark plugs and ignition coils. You can have all the performance modifications you want, but if there’s a bad spark plug or ignition coil, you will have some serious issues. A car with at least one faulty ignition coil will affect the power and make the car run poorly. Sometimes, it may not run at all!
The point is, you should not drive your car if you think you need to replace your ignition coils. Once you do (and there’s actually a damaged coil), then you’re putting your engine at some serious risk,
Don’t forget to check your ignition coils and see if they’re still functional. And also, remember that ignition coils and spark plugs work closely together. If one fails, the other one won’t function properly. So it’d be in your best interest to know when to replace your ignition coil and whether you should replace the spark plug together with the coils or not.
Turbochargers are forced induction devices that compress air then push it down on the cylinders to burn the fuel more efficiently, thus creating more power. Now, we all know for a fact that engines don’t appreciate hot air that much, right? So how does the air stay cool despite being compressed? That’s what intercoolers are for: to make sure that the hot compressed air is cold and dense enough before it’s even allowed to enter the engine. MK6 GTI mods like intercoolers are crucial in supplementing the work that other components (like turbochargers) do.
Intercoolers work much like air intake systems. It brings cold, dense, and oxygen-rich air down to the combustion chambers to make combustion more efficient. This does result in more horsepower, but intercoolers aren’t directly responsible for the extra boost you might gain. The primary reason you’d want to replace your stock intercooler with an aftermarket one is to improve its cooling efficiency and prevent heat soak.
Heat soak is when your engine is hot enough to overwhelm your car’s cooling system. When such a phenomenon occurs, power tends to drop significantly. A MK6 GTI intercooler upgrade will help the turbocharger by preventing a heat build-up and functioning much more efficiently. When this happens, higher power output without any potential damage from any cyclic heat build-up is possible.
RECOMMENDATION: Mishimoto Performance Intercooler
- Manufacturer: Mishimoto
- Part Number: MMINT-MK6-06
- Why It’s Great: 97% increase surface area (external fin)
Volkswagen’s stock intercooler system for the MK6 GTI may be enough for daily driving, but it may not be suitable for driving styles that may require more boost. Luckily, Mishimoto made a performance intercooler that can help your car dissipate heat much better.
The Mishimoto Performance Intercooler has 46% more core volume, 97% more external fin surface area, and can offer as much as a 9% increase inflow. What’s more, it can even drop the charged air across the core by up to 11.1°C.
#6 ECU Tune
Performance modifications like the ones we’ve mentioned above can undoubtedly help you enjoy more horsepower and torque output. However, you can’t maximize the gains those upgrades provide without a proper tune. A tune will help the ECU, the car’s brain, appropriately adjust to the newly installed parts. Allowing it to adapt to the new changes will help it function accordingly with the freshly installed performance mods.
A flash tune allows you to enjoy benefits such as horsepower and torque improvement, better fuel efficiency, and better overall performance. On top of that, you can even remap your ECU to fit your specific needs. This will come in handy, primarily if you use your vehicle in various driving conditions.
However, keep in mind that conducting an ECU tune is exceptionally challenging. Doing it by yourself can be highly challenging, and doing so may put your engine at risks like total engine failure. For this reason, letting a professional tuner do the work for you is more advisable than DYI-ing it.
#7 Suspension Upgrades
Upgrading your Volkswagen MK6 GTI doesn’t stop on engine parts and related modifications. Your suspension system has some elements that need some upgrading too, and that’s what we’re going to talk about next. Upgrading your suspension system can improve your car’s handling, ride quality, and, most of all, looks.
Many Volkswagen MK6 GTI owners started working on their suspension system to accommodate the type of driving they use their cars for. Some just want their daily commute to be slightly sportier both in terms of handling and looks. Others have dedicated their hot hatches entirely to track racing. There are even people who walk the fine line between daily driving and being a weekend track warrior.
Whatever driving style and condition you may be into, we’re confident that the MK6 GTI mods, particularly the suspension upgrades below can provide the type of look and handling that you’ve always wanted your car to have.
If you solely care about achieving a specific ride height to make your car look stylishly aggressive, then you can never go wrong with lowering springs. Installing a good set of aftermarket lowering springs is by far the simplest and most effective way to allow your car to sit a little bit lower to the ground. They’re relatively cheap and effortless to get by since many prominent brands manufactured their own set of springs for the MK6 GTI .
Dropping your car closer to the ground would mean slightly better handling because of a newfound lowered center of gravity. Slight body rolls, by which the Volkswagen MK6 GTI is notorious, will be lesser. And since your car is hugging the ground closer than it has ever done before, it will have better aerodynamic properties, which ultimately translates to slightly better handling and improvement in fuel economy.
More importantly, a good set of lowering springs will allow you to enjoy a terrific-looking car without hints of fender well gaps. Just imagine your car, equipped with your choices of power mods, sitting lower to the ground, equipped with new wheels and tires like a showroom sports car. It’s pretty cool, right?
RECOMMENDATION: Eibach Sportline Performance Spring Kit
- Manufacturer: Eibach
- Part Number: 4.10985
- Height Reduction (F/R): 1.4”/1.3”
- Why It’s Great: Awesome looks
The Eibach Sportline Performance Spring Kit is one of the most loved sets of lowering springs in the MK6 GTI community. They can undoubtedly make your hatchback look stunning, all thanks to the aggressive ride height drop they offer.
Many current and previous users claim that the ride is not bad, even if the kit is sports-oriented. These Eibach lowering springs for the MK6 GTI work better when matched with proper sports shocks like Koni Yellows or Bilstein Sports.
Lowering springs are pretty good at doing their job, but they don’t offer any kind of adjustability. They’re not tuner-friendly and cannot accommodate the suspension tuning needs of some enthusiasts. If you prefer adjustability over simplicity, then you should consider opting for coilovers instead.
Coilovers, coined from “coil-over struts,” are suspension components that let users enjoy more degrees of suspension tuning freedom. With coilovers, you have control over your suspension’s reaction when absorbing road impact (damping). Most of the time, they come with height adjustments too, but not all coilovers offer damping and height adjustment simultaneously.
Coilovers are ideal for VW enthusiasts who’re eager to replace their car’s stock suspension with a sharper, more contained, and more comfortable ride. Whether you’re a spirited street driver who wants to show the world how excellent your hot hatch is or a track menace who’s looking for a competitive thrill, you can get a lot of benefits by just installing the right set of coilovers.
RECOMMENDATION: H&R Street Performance SS Adjustable Coilovers
- Manufacturer: H&R
- Part Number: 36014-1
- Why It’s Great: Ride height and damping adjustment
H&R Springs is widely famous in the aftermarket community because of its arsenal of high-quality suspension upgrades. An example of their dedication to quality would be the H&R Street Performance SS Adjustable Coilovers.
These coilovers are both height and damping adjustable. It offers enthusiasts like you a height adjustment range of 1.0-2.2” for the front and 1.0” -2.0” for the back. They’ve also used Koni shocks to make sure that you’re getting the best damping possible. These coilovers definitely deserve a spot on our MK6 GTI mods list.
Comfort and performance-oriented driving can go hand-in-hand with these H&R coilovers.
Another way to achieve an aggressive stance is through the use of an air suspension system. Over the last years, the use of air suspensions has become more popular, to the point that you’ll mostly see bagged ricer cars on the streets most days. This is because air suspension can help cars achieve a smooth and steady driving quality that comes along with an easy on-the-fly height adjustment. Are these kinds of MK6 GTI mods overrated? Possibly. But we can’t deny the convenience they can bring into the table.
So what is an air suspension? It’s a vehicle suspension powered by a compressor that pumps air into bellows made from reinforced rubber. The airbags behave like springs, thanks to a compressor that inflates them to a certain pressure level.
There are a couple of viable reasons why you should consider getting air suspension instead of lowering springs or even coilovers.
For starters, driving can be more comfortable due to the significant reduction in road vibration, which causes driver fatigue. Another one would be versatility, both on the road and the load your car is carrying. Most importantly, air suspensions offer stress-free height adjustment, ideal for enthusiasts who want to adjust their suspension’s height and dampening on the fly.
RECOMMENDATION: Air Lift Performance Front Slam Kit
- Manufacturer: Air Lift
- Part Number: 75582
- Why It’s Great: 9-way adjustable
Air Lift is arguably the most trusted brand when it comes to air suspension. They have serviced countless cars with their reliable and high-quality airbags, and they have one for your Volkswagen MK6 GTI as well. It has 9-ways of damper adjustability – a feature often only found on high-end coilovers.
This kind of tuning freedom will allow you to fine-tune your car’s ride and handling to whatever you see fit. What’s more, it offers a height adjustment range of up to 5.8”. By simply flicking the switch, you can adjust your VW’s ride height to whatever you see fit.
#8 Wheels and Tires
The MK6 GTI probably has the best set of wheels Volkswagen has ever created. They look impressively well, even on stock. It sure is a shame to swap them out for new and better-performing ones. Or is it?
No matter how good-looking the stock wheels are, some aftermarket wheel manufacturers are always out there ready to overshadow it. As a car enthusiast who may be obsessed with how good your car’s wheels look, you’d be surprised by the number of awesome aftermarket wheels out there that are just waiting for your attention.
There’s actually a plethora of wheel options you can choose from. However, we recommend you play around with these recommended wheel specifications instead, as they’re usually the fitment range most MK6 GTI owners have on their cars.
- DIAMETER: 17” – 20”
- WIDTH: 7.5” – 9.5”
- OFFSET: +35 – +50
As for the tires, MK6 GTI owners prefer summer tires instead of all-season tires. Apparently, summer tires have more grip in comparison to all-season tires. Summer tires can offer excellent dry grip and sufficient wet grip. They also provide outstanding cornering with minimal sidewall flex. And although the ride may be a tad stiffer, the superb handling these summer wheels offer is totally worth it.
MK6 GTI mods like wheels and tires are the ones that drastically affects how your car would look like from the outside. They’re like shoes; if it looks great, people would think that the one who wears it has a taste for the finer things in life.