Some enthusiasts believe that’s just the price you pay when you want to modify your car. That its undrivability somehow makes the car cooler, or gives you more street cred. Guess what, it doesn’t. Modifying to the extreme just makes you want to jump off a cliff after you see the bill for yet another set of tires, which warped due to your car being a part of the Stance Nation. Daily drivers are meant to be just that–a car you drive daily and not something you loathe after ten minutes. There are ways to build a faster car, yet not sacrifice being able to drive your car without ear plugs and a breathing mask due to gas fumes. Here’s how I built mine.
I currently own a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. It’s the fastest Golf the company has ever produced. With 292 horsepower sent to all four wheels, a zero-to-60 time of around 4.6 seconds, and one of the coolest adaptive suspensions ever fit to a hot hatch, the Golf R has the muscle to punch well above its class. But this makes modifying it rather difficult–how do you improve a car that’s already phenomenal?
Questions Need Answering and Chassis’ Need Bracing
Many enthusiasts make the mistake of modifying their cars immediately after purchasing it. Yet, you need to drive the car, and drive it hard, to find where the car is lacking. Does it need more power? Is there a lack of mid-corner grip? Does the engine sound flat and uninspiring? Where are the car’s faults?
These are the questions you need to be asking before you ever pickup a wrench or drop thousands of dollars on any aftermarket parts.
After spending a few months with the Golf R, I found a few places where the car could be improved. The Golf R sometimes falters when diving into a corner and then launching itself out. Depending on the corner, you can get a fair amount of understeer. You want the car to stay flat, hook up, and launch like it was a Saturn V rocket escaping Earth’s gravity. To help reduce that roll and understeer, The Golf R paid a visit to Pierce Motorsports, which designed a custom front strut tower brace and a full chassis brace.
This eliminated the car’s roll, reduced understeer, and made it feel closer to the new BMW M3 than any Golf has the right to feel. The understeer issue though, could be reduced even greater, which lead me to tires.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Tires are such a simple modification that so many overlook. Having the right tire setup can be the difference of finding tenths of a second to full seconds. Michelin, over the past few years, has been the tire manufacturer to beat. It’s Pilot Cup or Pilot Supersports are widely considered some of the best tires around for any project car.
However, they do have two drawbacks; they wear out strikingly fast, and cost a fortune. For the Golf’s setup, I scoured forums, tire reviews, and manufacturer sites to find a lower cost tire that almost equaled the Michelins performance and settled on a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric IIs. Understeer is no longer a factor. When brought up to temperature, the Goodyear tires are as if the tarmac and the tires are no longer two separate things, but rather part of a harmonious dance that destroys all that dare challenge the Golf R.
While the driving dynamics of a car are arguably the most important aspect when setting a car up, sound is crucial to the sensation of speed. Almost every modern four-cylinder engine produces a sound that’s a cross between a dying cat, and some type of broken fiddle. Manufacturers haven’t been able to tune any four-cylinder exhausts to produce a melodious bellow or high-pitched scream as they have with larger engines. Even the Golf R’s synthesized internal soundtrack, which mimics a five-cylinder, isn’t great. This is in part due to Volkswagen and other companies running countless baffles, mufflers and catalytic converters along the exhaust.
The Golf’s exhaust was then replaced with a brand-new unit from MagnaFlow. Gone are the secondary mufflers, and the exhaust pipe itself has been Increased in overall diameter to allow for better flow. All of which make for a much louder, but not overly drony experience. The up-shifts feel angrier and turbo hisses are far more pronounced. The MagnaFlow system even retains the stock exhaust baffles that change the tone when switching driving modes from Normal, Sport, and Race. Because of that, it remains a perfectly composed daily driver.
It’s easy to go hog wild when modifying a car, giving it four turbos, 2,400 horsepower, and a gutted interior. It’s far more difficult tuning the perfect daily, that’s why basic modifications like tires, suspension components, and exhausts make the most sense. They also are some of the easiest and cheapest ways of making your car faster.