How do you define fast? For some, “fast” is a prototype racer tearing around a road course. For others, it’s a big V8 rumbling around an oval. For a lot of people, “fast” is one car outrunning another as both scream down a straightaway at wide open throttle. It’s that last definition that grabs a lot of enthusiasts, because perhaps the oldest ritual of speed is the one that occurs when two people with hot cars — or at least big egos — end up next to each other at a stoplight: the drag race. Dragging is a quick and direct way to see whose car is faster, so the evolution from stoplight racing to the modern quarter-mile drag strip was an easy one. Time slips just don’t lie, and if yours has a lower time than the other guy, you’re faster.
The allure of the strip drew the crew from AWE Tuning in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, to develop its latest creation. In keeping with the company’s idea that a car shouldn’t have to sacrifice daily driveability for power and performance, the team set about building a sixth-generation GTI that would consist of a largely stock engine and transmission with only bolt-on modifications. With a long history of offering aftermarket performance parts for German vehicles, the guys figured it was time to walk the walk and put their own parts to the test.
To begin with, AWE turned to its experience developing products for Volkswagen’s 2.0T engine, taking the K04-based bolt-on turbo upgrade kit and making the needed modifications to fit it to a sixth-generation car. This kit, as with the version for the fifth-generation GTI, includes a new turbo, and a new exhaust manifold, along with the required gaskets, hoses and fittings. Custom engine management software was developed by long-time AWE partner GIAC. To ensure the new turbo has no problem sucking in all the air it needs, a Cold Cone Box air intake was fitted, along with a carbon fiber shield to prevent the engine from inhaling its own hot air. To free airflow at the other end, the crew fitted a 2.5-inch turbo-back exhaust.
With the new turbo moving more air than the stock setup, there was also a need to improve the cooling capability of the intercooler system above the stock capacity. In order to do so, the company turned to the VW Group parts bin and pulled out the same front-mount intercooler found on the Euro-market Audi S3. In addition to offering improved charge cooling, there’s also less pressure drop with this piece. Along with the intercooler, AWE’s in-house developed turbo outlet pipe and boost hose were fitted. All of the intake and exhaust changes work with the new ECU software to deliver more than 350 crank horsepower on 93-octane pump gas.
To monitor the more frenetic underhood activities, AWE’s own vent-mounted boost gauge kit was installed, and a set of in-house sport pedals replaced the stock units. The final modifications to the car were a set of Bilstein PSS-10 coilovers, an AWE/H&R “Time Attack” 28-mm adjustable rear sway bar, and a 328-mm big brake kit with calipers from Stoptech. To clear the new brakes, a set of 18-inch wheels borrowed from an Audi A4 and shod in Dunlop Direzza Star Spec tires were fitted.
With the car complete, AWE set out to discover how fast its newest project car was. In December of 2010, the guys took the car to the NHRA-certified Cecil County Dragway in northern Maryland. In accordance with standard drag racing practice, they stripped unneeded weight out of the car, including the floor mats, all the passenger seats, and the spare tire. They also filled the fuel tank with VP109 race fuel and selected race-fuel mapping from the GIAC-enhanced ECU.
The tires warmed up in the ritual of smoke, the GTI pulled to the start line and waited for the green. A quarter mile later, the car had turned in a run that took 12.26 seconds, with a top speed of 115.7 mph. Both numbers turned out to be records — the fastest quarter mile and the fastest trap speed for a TSI 2.0T fitted with a K04 turbo. In fact, the only faster car with a 2.0T TSI engine was a purpose-built, big-turbo drag car. For curiosity’s sake, the team also did a run with all of the weight added back to the car and on 93 octane, and still managed to turn in a 12.793-second, 112.65 mph run.
Not content with being the fastest K04-powered 2.0T TSI car, AWE decided it should be the fastest TSI car, period. To that end, the crew made a few small changes to the car and made a return trip to the strip in recent weeks. The rear alloys were replaced with thinner, lighter 16-inch steel wheels shod in all-season tires, weighing just 38 pounds per corner. The front wheels were swapped out for a set of Enkei RPF1 17-inchers with Hoosier drag radials, which weighed in at 35 pounds per corner. The loss of rotating mass as well as the increased traction from the front drag radials would mean faster times. As before, the front passenger and rear seats, floor mats, and spare tire were removed, and the tank was filled with race fuel. A quarter-mile run later, there was a new leader at the top of the boards. The car had smashed its previous record, turning in an 11.87-second time. A second go managed a trap speed of 120 mph, making the AWE GTI the holder of both the record for fastest quarter-mile time for a TSI-engined car as well as for top quarter-mile speed.
AWE’s Jesse Kramer points out that although the times make for an impressive record, the important thing is that it is based only on bolt-on modifications. There are no changes to the internals of the engine, and all of the changes are easily reversible for anyone, such as lease holders, who might need to do so. Kramer also points out that the car retains all of its stock driveability; in fact, the record-setting car is used (with street tires, of course) as a commuter, grocery getter, and school bus by several members of the AWE staff when it’s not setting quarter mile records. “I make my 60-mile daily commute in stop-and-go Philadelphia traffic to our Willow Grove office in a Mk VI GTI with the same kit on it.”