Hopefully this will be the first of many "Owner Spotlights". Our community is filled with awesome members doing awesome things with the platform. While most are active Facebook and forum members, I wanted to get a better idea of who these people are. Turns out most are laid back, down to earth guys, willing to share their story. Ryan Johnson is one of those members, and the current 1/4 mile record holder for the IS38.
[Karl]: Coming from Evo 8, what make you interested in the Mk7? Obviously your current mod list doesn't read like "I bought this car as DD". I personally feel the EA888gen3 is a spiritual successor to the 4G63, but I know many would disagree.
[RJ]: I've owned several VWs in the past (1.8T's, VR6's and R32) and have always loved the community, but the MK7/MQB chassis is the first VW chassis that has real tuning/performance potential with just minor mods IMO and that's what really caught my eye in 2013-2014 watching some of the MK7s overseas perform so well. My intentions were to do just minor bolt-on's as I have a race car, but modifying can be slippery slope and I still feel as if there is more I can extract out of this chassis. I still daily drive the car most days with a baby seat and all during the week, so I haven't ruined it's drivability or reliability quite yet, but I am teetering on that fine line where the car is right now.
[RJ]: I can see why people might see these two engines as being in a similar playing field as they are both inline 2.0T engines with aluminum heads and Iron blocks, have larger factory turbos that can produce a decent amount of boost, respond very will to minor modifications and both hold a lot of boost/power in stock form (500whp is easy for both engines if torque is detuned slightly). The engines themselves are quite different though and most of it has to do with the head designs. The Evo comes with very large ports from the factory and a head design that can outflow the EA888.3 by over 60%, and with a proper head-job, the 4G63 can outflow our heads by ~100%. Our heads use an integrated exhaust manifold with narrow exhaust ports for emissions reasons and to lower manufacturing costs, they work well for spooling up the smaller factory IHI turbos fast, but are a major restriction when you want a turbo capable of making 600whp or more, even with a proper port and polish. The EA888.3 has a major advantage over the prehistoric 4G63 head design though too, its ability to control both VVT and VVL allows for more precise tuning and a wider powerband front top to bottom. Both are great engines though, punching well above their weight and giving V8 owners nightmares!
[Karl]: No really, check out these kills.
[Karl]: You really know your stuff when it comes to, well, really any kind of tuning with the Mk7. Let's start with some engine stuff. For people looking to go beyond just an OTS flash tune, what do you recommend starting with? Now there's everything from JB4 stacking, to Cobb ProTunes and now Maestro. Does this change depending on the car goals (reliable power vs. drag times vs. circuit use)?
[RJ]: Thanks for the kind words! Your goals, budget and resources play a big roll here. The SIMOS ECU is an amazing unit that is highly adaptable due to the fact that it uses over 96,000 maps within, this is why OTS tunes have worked as well as they have so far. The fact that custom tuning options are finally available for this chassis is huge, but many of them are still too new for me to suggest one over another. I think for 90% of people, an OTS tune is all they will ever need and/or want, as it's easy, reliable and pretty affordable.
[RJ]: JB4 is kind of a curveball and offers an even more affordable tuning solution that has other benefits that no other programming can offer such as remaining undetectable to dealerships. Plus it can control your methanol injection system, monitor and log everything wirelessly and more. JB4 can be added to an OTS tune (aka Stacked tuning) and this can bridge that gap between custom tuning and OTS tunes, offering the best of both worlds as you can add more boost and fuel to an already well developed OTS tune. Custom tuning will likely make the most power if you have a tuner that really knows what they are doing, but keep in mind that pushing your setup to its limits comes as a price, both financially and the potential wear on your entire system, so that path is not for everyone either. We have tons of options right now; choose the path that fits your goals the best.
[RJ]: Keep in mind that in drag racing you are only running the engine hard for a few seconds, so you can turn it up to “kill mode” without too much to worry about usually. In road racing, you are usually running your car hard for about 20 minutes straight… so you wouldn’t want a tune that is as aggressive or that could potentially cause engine/turbo/trans damage due to excessive heat and stress. This is were most box tunes can work very well at playing both rolls, or you can have different files for each condition.
[Karl]: What do you recommend for data logging? Is there specific sets of parameters you monitor when trying to setup different things? I know when I tune I look for a ~1-2 degrees timing pull in a few frames, and I personally (remember, circuit tune here), like to see my wastegate at least 30% open under a steady WOT pull. Any numbers you can share with us there? (P.S. Readers -- How to Data Log article in the works as well!)
[RJ]: It really depends on what you are trying to monitor. If you are using JB4 for instance, you may be logging a new tune and you will want to watch for timing pull, throttle closure, AF ratio, ign1 timing, boost curve and fuel trims. If you're logging to find help diagnose a problem such as low or erratic boost pressure, you'll want to log it with VAGCOM monitoring the MAP sensor readings, WG, DV, throttle position and others. For basic monitoring on a road course or "Mexico" runs, I love using the JB4 mobile app with the Bluetooth unit as it self logs all the important parameters under WOT, it's just too easy.
[Karl]: How do you go about modding your car, i.e., what does the build progression look like? In what order do you upgrade components? (I know this one can be a bit long, feel free to be as simple or long winded as you like).
[RJ]: Money rules here, so it all depends on the budget and what your goals are. You can save a lot of time and money by buying good parts the first time around and planning your mods in advance. I started modifying my MK7 as the first aftermarket parts were hitting the market for this car, so my progression wasn't ideal... but if I were to do it all over today with what is available on the market right now, here is how I would do it. Start with tires and suspension, a set of good wheels/tires is often overlooked in an effort to get more power, but you won't be going faster in any direction w/o getting that power to the ground and the factory tires are garbage. The factory shocks/struts and springs are heavily under dampened and sprung, so a good coilover and rear sway bar with endlinks would be next. Then some good brake pads and brake fluid upgrade or a proper BBK. Next stage I would focus on power, so I would go with the basic "stage 2" package (intake/DP/tune of your choice) if I wanted ~300whp SAE or directly into IS38/IC/I/DP/Tune of my budget allowed for 350-375whp. Keep in mind DSG TCU flash or MT clutch upgrade is highly suggested (basically required) for all tunes. Those are the basics in performance for our cars IMO, but there is obviously a lot more that can be done if you have bigger plans or goals.
[Karl]: You're nearly 2 years into the GTI build, what modifications are you most proud of? Do you have any mods you consider "regrets" or "if I could do it again I would -- "?
[RJ]: I'm 2yrs 8mo into ownership and as of tomorrow, it will be exactly three years since I placed the order on my PP GTI 😝. I'm most proud of how far George at JB4 and myself were able to push my basic off the shelf IS38 setup to 11.17@126mph with just a little JB4 tuning on top of the APR software with my daily driven streetcar on a completely stock drivetrain car. Most of the regrets that I have are from buying cheap parts at first that I later had to replace with ones of better quality due to failure or not performing as advertised... I've gone through several downpipes, intercoolers, diverter valves, exhaust systems, engine mounts, end-links, suspension setups, tires and more just to find that "perfect setup" that works well as a daily diver, yet performs at the level I expect an upgrade to perform at. If I were to do it all over today, I would buy a new PP/Sport/R and go directly into a reliable turbo that is 500whp capable (like a GTX3071r) with a solid tune and fuel system with all the chassis mods to support it. Do it all at once and enjoy the car is the best way to go about modifying IMO :)
The CTS Boss 600 Kit offers a GT3071r turbo. Requires fueling for maximum power. https://www.moddedeuros.com/products/cts-turbo-mqb-boss-600-turbo-upgrade-15-17-a3-s3-gti-golf-r
[Karl]: Any closing thoughts?
[RJ]: Like I said in the beginning, this chassis is simply one of the best tuning platforms in the industry today and you would be hard pressed to find a car that will put a bigger smile on your face than an MK7 Golf/GTI/R for the money. The community is also second to none, as most of you who are part of it already know, I’m just happy to be part of it all 🍻