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Volkswagen Golf MK7 R Tuning Guide

The MK7 Golf R has proved extremely popular with hot hatch fans, VW fans and petrol heads alike. It’s not hard to see why, it’s a Golf. So it’s built to be everything, comfortable, spacious, practical. All the boring stuff that a normal golf can do, except the R is faster than an entry level Porsche out of the box and with a little bit of help it can be faster than just about anything you are likely to encounter on the road. The Golf R is by far the most common car to enter the CLP workshop, with fantastic tuning potential and an enormous range of aftermarket upgrades the R is an ideal candidate for tuning. Impressive power gains can be had on a totally stock car and 400bhp is a realistic target with additional hardware. In this article we will cover what is available and feature our upgrade recommendations and go through why we choose the hardware and software we use.

APR Stage 1.

Why APR? We use APR because the software is exceptional, always makes claimed power and produces super smooth power curves that translate into fantastic power delivery on the road. APR are so confident of this that they offer a 30 day money back guarantee if you are not happy with it. APR is just a generic file though isn’t it? APR have invested huge amount of time and money into the development of their tunes, with constant revisions and updates being made to ensure it is the best it can be. With APR you are paying for all that research and effort to produce the best software on the market. Think of it this way, would you rather have a file that has been tested over 1000’s of hours of road testing, dyno testing and engine dyno testing and is already on 1000’s of happy customers cars worldwide? Or would you prefer a cheaper “custom” with no evidence of R and D?

Stage 1 is the best bang for your buck modification you can make to your R. Power outputs range from 350bhp and 360lbft to 365bhp and 380lbft dependent on your file choice (we will cover than in a second) and fuel quality. No hardware required at all for stage 1, although an intake can yield better results.
At stage 1 you have the option for a low, medium and high torque file and the option of 95 or 98ron fuel. No cost difference, and you can swap between them should you wish to change from one to the other. So why low/high power files? Low torque files are intended for those who do not wish to run any TCU upgrades or for manual owners clinging on to the life of their stock clutch (just change it, it’s only a matter of time!). For Mk7.5 owners with the 7 speed DSG, you need not worry. 6 Speed DSG (DQ250) owners, it is recommended that you run performance TCU software alongside the high torque file to minimize any chance of slip, it is a requirement for stage 2. Software is available from APR and TVS. TVS features much more than just performance upgrades too, but we will cover that in a separate post. Manual owners, if you’re lucky and your stock clutch is still alive, we highly recommend changing to a performance clutch before tuning. Most manual cars without a performance clutch will suffer from clutch slip instantly after tuning. It’s a very disappointing experience, trust us, we have seen the faces of people who have fallen fowl to a slipping clutch on the first dyno run. Lucky for you, there is a package available.

TVS Stage 1.

Hang on, isn’t TVS DSG software? While TVS are very well known for the fantastic TCU calibrations they also produce some ECU calibrations that rub shoulders with APR in terms of power, torque and usability. TVS is a little more flexible than APR too, in the sense that it is “custom” with adjustments made throughout the tuning process. Power and torque are similar to that of APR, although with a touch less peak bhp and a smidge more torque. Worth noting that TVS software is for 98ron and above only. If you have limited access to premium fuels APR 95 might be a better option for you. We highly recommend taking advantage of TVS’ bundles with ECU and TCU software. It will save you some money, help your gearbox handle the extra torque and future-proof your TCU for stage 2 should you wish to go further.

TVS Stage 2.

Stage 2 requires some hardware that is detailed below. You can expect around 385bhp and 400lb-ft dependent on hardware and fuel. Stage 2 is a great set up, making the R a seriously capable hot hatch Obviously at this stage, the gains are not as big as stock to stage 1. But it will get you as close as you can be to 400bhp. So 400bhp? Can it be done at stage 2? 90% of cars won’t, they will get close but realistic stage 2 figures are 370-390bhp and 410-420lb-ft. A handful of cars hit 400, but with minimal differences in power there are dyno cell variables in play here too. So if you do go stage 2, don’t get too hung up on hitting 400. You won’t feel the difference between 390 and 400 on the road. As mentioned above DSG software is required at stage 2 for 6 Speed (DQ250) and 7 Speed (DQ381),


There are LOADS to choose from and most of them are pretty good so picking one can be tricky. Lots of variables to consider here, enclosed or open, cotton or foam, price, looks, performance.
Our pick? The Racingline R600. Based on intakes used in the VW cup this intake is our most popular. Proven performance, built well and looks very smart in the engine bay. To get the best from it we recommend you add the intake hose and turbo inlet pipe too. This kit is good for stock right up to stage 3. Order here
Racingline R600 Silicone Intake Pipe 2.0TSI

Not pretty enough for you? Do you prefer to have something you can show off at meets? Something shiny? Something more prestigious? Go for the APR Carbon intake. Beautiful glossy carbon fibre with a matching intake pipe. Again, make sure to add a turbo elbow to get the best from it.

APR 1.8/2.0TSI Carbon Intake

If you have checked out the intakes above and are scoffing at the price, don’t panic. If you like a bit of noise from your intake and you’re not looking to spend that much go for the RamAir. No frills, does what it says on the tin. Great fit, great price and is perfectly suitable up to stage 2 and beyond.

Too low rent for you? Try the Proram kit instead. Smart black finish, hardpipe all the way from filter to turbo. Again, an open filter so you can make wooshy noises to your hearts content.


Not as tricky as intakes, less choice and not something that needs to look good. So the cheapest will do right? Not really no. Good fitment and quality of build are factors here as well as a few manufacturing techniques such as cast sections.
Something else to keep in mind is the type of downpipe, Decat or a Sport Cat?
Decat downpipes will NOT pass an MOT in the UK and are intended for motor sport use only so a sport cat is the more sensible option.
Our Choice:
Milltek Cast downpipe. Decat or sport cat both feature a cast elbow from the turbo. – More info and pricing here

What’s so good about a cast elbow? Heat management (cast retains heat which improves flow – also reduces the under bonnet temps as per the previous retention of heat) Better flow as the transition from flange to pipework is smoother due to the casting design.


The last piece of the stage 2 puzzle, essential for getting as close to/over that 400bhp figure.
Choosing an intercooler will pretty much come down to price and fitment. They all look the same, you can’t really see them once fitted and from a distance, would you even know the difference between them?
So which one do we recommend?
Our best seller is the Wagner competition. Great data proving efficiency, reasonable price but some trimming of the back of the bumper and rad housing is required to fit. Nothing drastic, but needs to be done.

Wagner Tuning 1.8/2.0TSI Competition Intercooler Kit

The best fitting is the APR. Also has data to back up efficiency, doesn’t require trimming and this is the intercooler used to develop APR stage 2 software. It is however more expensive than the Wagner so it’s a tough call here.

Finding those options a bit hard on the wallet? The Airtec might be the one for you, comes with similar fitment issues to the 2 above with trimming required and they are a touch on the heavy side. But their price point makes them a bank balance friendly part of your build.

Stage 3.

Stage 3 usually consists of a hybrid/upgraded turbo on top of all the bolt on’s listed above. We will talk about that in a separate post.

We hope this information gives you a good insight into tuning your Golf R, all applicable to the S3, TTS and Leon Cupra too. Remember there are many different hardware options available than just what we have mentioned above and we encourage you to browse the store or ask us before making any decisions.

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