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VAG Performance

VAG Performance – Evolution of Custom Audi and VW Performance products & tuning by TurboDirect


Welcome to the most advanced offering for a select few of the VAG group of vehicles. VAG Performance was created to offer the most advanced hardware solutions and matched software tuning for the driver with the ultimate performance in mind. VAG Performance offer any stage performance upgrade from just a simple remap of a stock vehicle with no hardware upgrades, to a complete K04RS upgraded head to tail revamp capable of 450Wheel Horsepower Plus.

All performance hardware is designed and manufactured by TurboDirect S.A – the largest automotive performance outlet in South Africa. The technical expertise and CNC abilities of TurboDirect S.A - give VAG Performance a competitive edge over anyone else manufacturing anything VAG in the world.

The 2 year old K04R Billet compressor wheel has proven itself in many countries worldwide with a best ¼ mile time in a stripped out Golf V GTI of 11.8seconds running in an otherwise stock K04 turbocharger. The proven wheel has been re-designed and reached a new metamorphosis in the shape of an 11 blade full Billet machined product capable of producing sufficient flow to support a 500HP build.

The bolt-on intercoolers available exclusively from VAG Performance are produced by TurboDirect and outperform anything on the market today. The units are a bolt-on product with absolutely no modifications required at all.

Diverter valve relocation kits, custom made flanges, boost pickup parts – all CNC machined are available for 1.4TSI engines right up to the RS6 V10 Twin Turbo monster. Upgrades to the K04 turbocharger which replace the IHI counterparts found on the Golf VI GTI are all done in-house to prevent the Diverter Valve relocation required for these vehicles, you can now purchase your genuine Borg Warner K04 turbocharger in stock trim or CNC machined for a direct bolt on to the Golf VI IHI replacement and with various additional options like staged upgrades to the K03, IHI, and K04 turbochargers internals to provide you with that extra flow required to put you in front!

Golf VI GTI testing ground

This section is designed to show you all the factual, locally tested results on all VAG Performance products in South African conditions, with South African dynamometers and with South African written tuning files – don't be fooled by chip tuning software developed in foreign countries. To date there is no company with the software, hardware and emulation tools that VAG Performance has for the latest vehicles. VAG Performance staff has been abroad for in-depth training on the latest EDC16, MED9.xx, Tri-core, Siemens, and other ECU's. This training has allowed us to design the best South African tuning software for South African fuels, conditions and drivers alike!

Let's start with a baseline – We have a Golf VI GTI with 10 000km's on the clock, and the dynamometer used is a DASTEK dyno, and run with 95 Octane fuel and standard hardware and software. Two runs were taken in 100% stock trim, and the best run of the two was used (1KW at PEAK power was the difference between the two runs) We then upgraded only the intercooler to the TurboDirect Bolt-on unit with the remainder of the vehicle still 100% stock.

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The Standard intercooler found on the Golf VI GTI uses very small cores for the air to flow through, which is very restrictive and the core is not very thick, offering minimal cooling for upgrades like increased boost and software changes.

Once again after the intercooler upgrade, we did two runs and used the best run. The Dastek Dynamometer software splits the power and torque curves and prints them separately.

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The power graph looks very similar to a normally aspirated graph with almost no indication of turbo lag. The torque curve however due to the scale the Dastek dyno software uses, makes the graph look almost like a mound!

The intercooler was fitted to the car and run again on the same dyno, at more or less the same time in the evening with similar ambient temperatures. You will notice that the torque curve is starting to lift in the higher PRM range. The power curve also lifts in the higher RPM range – this is purely because there is almost no pressure drop in the TurboDirect Intercooler, holding a more stable boost pressure. Across the entire RPM range you will also notice an improvement, this is due to the extremely efficient core used in the intercooler, allowing a denser charge to enter the engine. You will see very strong improvements complimenting the software changes later on.

Next we fitted a 76mm downpipe and Decat system, however using the stock silencers and rear pipe work. This change together with the intercooler made absolutely no improvement at all – we ran the car 8 times on the dynamometer with no increase in HP at all – the stock silencers and pipe work behind the Decat, is restrictive and will not show any improvement, however the noise from the exhaust certainly has a welcomed sound!

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Next product I installed into the TSI Golf was the P3cars Digital interface Gauge which TurboDirect are the exclusive importers. The unit installed was the standard version which required installation into the OEM air vent in the car. There is a premium version which includes an OE VW air vent with the interface already installed. This obviously makes for much faster installation, however the total time taken to install our standard version was a little over an hour from start to finish.

Lets get to it – first you need to remove your air vent, its very simple, however the vent sits in place very tight. Remove the fuse box cover from the driver side of the dash. From inside you will need to push the air vent forwards until it pops out. As you remove the vent, careful, the steel brackets might pop off, keep an eye and ear out to see where it falls and fish it out of the dash incase it does fall.

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Now you will need to strip the vent and remove two of the air sliders at the bottom of the vent to make space for the P3cars interface. Start with the top middle clip and work your way round the vent, carefully unclipping the locators – the face will then easily come free from the rest of the vent.

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Once the front panel is free from the vent, you will need to strip the front slider section from the outer surround.

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Careful with the little side locators on the brace pieces – you will see what I mean when you strip your own vent – they are a little flimsy and can break unless you support them when removing the lower two sliders.

Once you have removed the lower sliders, your gauge face has two locators on the sides, this will find its place easily in the gauge surround – then its time to re-assemble the sliders, and the surround. Once the assembly is complete the gauge with the protruding wire out the back of the vent is ready for re-installation into the car. Check to make sure that the direction and open/close operation of the sliders and vent control are working nicely, if not, adjust the position of the wire out the back of the vent until suitable operation is found.

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Now install back into the cars dash as follows:- 

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Note the cable position needs to be through the hole facing downwards and to the side so that you can run and connect the gauge to the OBD connector and joiner block. 

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Gauge in position with the wire connected to the joiner block positioned in the fuse box area. There is more than enough space in the fuse box area for the connector, joiner block and cables. 

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Gauge installed and connected, with cable run up the side of the fuse box.

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The gauge has many options and settings for the plethora of information it provides you with in an amazing interface. Above is a picture of what the gauge looks like in action, I must say its simple to use, and easy to call the peak and hold functions.  You will have plenty fun with the 0-60mph (0-100km/h) timer which times an accurate run from standstill to 100km/h. Try beat my best (with stock GTI 2.0 TSI engine) of 5.73 seconds.  As you will see later on, with all the modifications destined for this GTI, these times will reduce considerably.

The P3cars gauge provides you with the following information:-

  • RPM-Shift Light
  • Speed
  • 0-60mp/h (0-100km/h) timer
  • Ignition advance
  • EGT (exhaust gas temperature)
  • Coolant temperature
  • Air intake temperature – perfect to check how your charge temps drop with the VAG Performance Cooler upgrade kit.
  • Boost pressure – with the VAG software tuning upgrades, you will see the increase in boost together with the adrenaline pumping performance increase! This will also show you vacuum when your foot is off the throttle.
  • Throttle position – throttle adaption can be done to make sure you getting a proper 100% throttle application at WOT.
  • Battery Voltage – this is precise voltage displayed to you, now you can see if your sound is drawing too much power, and you might need a CAP.

The unit can also display error codes, and allow you to erase these – who needs a VAG?!

OK so far we have spoken about hardware and these upgrades and the results thereof. Lets get into the 'dark art' of chip tuning – and shed some light on this dark section of the article so you can see that its in fact not so dark, but easy to be misled by these 'tuners'. Don't get me wrong there are some real tuners out there who are able to make specific changes to parameters and do certain map updates themselves without having to email files all over the world for overseas companies to make the changes for them.

• How do we make more power with a chip upgrade?

• What exactly is a chip upgrade, or software upgrade?

• Is it dangerous, can it break my engine?

• Do I have to use octane booster with software?

• Will my gearbox handle the increase in power?

• What about DSG – will the clutches handle the software increase?

• Will software damage or shorten the life of my turbocharger?

• Will I experience poor fuel consumption?

We will answer all the questions, but first lets get you some background information into how tuning is done in this country. Here is one of the articles i wrote for the MMR magazine – it goes through all the ins and outs. Later I will answer each question individually – keep reading.

Background introduction – I want to educate and enlighten the general public as to the 'dark art' of chip tuning and I believe that the background section of this first article will provide answers to many questions. Many of the people who have emailed me requesting a series of VAG articles, have complained that software upgrades done to their cars have caused all sorts of glitches, sometimes the car runs well, other times it throws error codes, engine check lights come on, and in some cases the cars make less power than the stock software map.

Because of our involvement with Garrett, we carry out failure reports on turbochargers on a daily basis where poor software tuning has led to damaged/failed turbochargers. It is a clear cut outline which will show excessive operating conditions in a turbocharger failure and either lean conditions, over boosting, or over fueling specifically in Diesel engines which cause failures in turbochargers – almost always the cracked manifolds and wastegate ports in the Audi/Golf/Seat K03/K04/IHI turbochargers is caused from poor tuning! Almost all of the 1.9/2.0 TDI turbocharger failures that are not due to lack of lubrication, or foreign object damage are due to poor tuning, specifically over fueling (remember diesel engines make power with added fuel – rich mixture)

Tuning is simply the ability to access, and make changes to fueling, boost, ignition, knock control, and other maps which are responsible for the running of the engine. Like in a stand alone system where the tuner plugs his laptop into the ECU directly and accesses these maps and makes settings on a Dyno in real-time. Due to the design and limited information and controls available, the stock ECU's found in our cars, require a different approach to make the same changes required to the various maps. It is safe to say that the majority of software 'tuners' in South Africa are not tuners at all – instead they are agents for software tuning companies abroad.

Let me explain – a customer will take his/her standard Golf V GTI to 'tunerXYZ' for a remap, lets say stage1 software, the process is as follows:- The 'tunerXYZ' will download the stock map from the cars ECU, email this to 'tunerXYZ' overseas, the tuning company overseas will modify the file received from that specific car, and email the file back to 'tunerXYZ' in South Africa, who will then load this file onto the customers ECU – customer pays and 'job done'

Well not quite! Where is the tuning in that? How does the 'tunerXYZ' in South Africa know that the map he has just received from overseas is guaranteed not to break the customers engine? What checks does the local 'tunerXYZ' do to check the fuel mixtures, boost and ignition advance in ALL conditions to ensure that the customers engine, turbocharger, high pressure fuel pump, and injectors are safeguarded? How does the overseas tuning company know what fuel we use, what quality fuels we have, or barometric pressures, temperatures, humidity etc? The parameters in the ECU that have been modified of which there are MANY (pics listed below) available sectors, have been done according to the tests and fuels and atmospheric conditions overseas where the 'tunerXYZ' resides, on that tuners dyno using that countries fuels. Most of the tuning companies reside in either the USA or the UK or Sweden and the local 'tuners' are simply agents for these companies overseas! Im sure you agree that there is little similarity between our climate and any of these countries, other than the sun rising and setting.

Sure there is atmospheric correction maps inside the ECU, there are also fail safe maps called component protection maps in the ECU too, however these maps, if modified will reduce performance, and in most cases they are adjusted to allow minimal protection and maximum performance, often to the detriment of the engine, and turbocharger!

Let me show you what a map looks like inside an ECU, I will show this to you in three formats, Text, 2D and 3D – then you will know why there is limited expertise to make specific changes in these files. Bear with me, this gets a little in-depth, but I will keep it easy to understand – first is the text view of a specific map – then 2 dimensional, and then 3 dimensional.

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OK – look at the 2D picture, you will see one of the maps is highlighted with a red block – this is actually camshaft control – however look at the maps along side it, they look the same ... they are! Each of these maps is responsible for camshaft control (VVT) now which cam? Under which operating condition? So – which map do you adjust? What are the minimum and maximum limits? How do I see the actual timing in degrees? --- Get the point!?

TurboDirect has invested considerable amounts of time, effort and money in self development, training, and product R&D on the VAG petrol and diesel turbocharged engine software development in the last 6 months, in fact I have just returned from a weeks 1 on 1 training with ex Bosch engineers and top Italian tuners on Bosch, Siemens, Motorolla and Japanese made ECU's we are able to offer safe, reliable tuning solutions on any FSI, TFSI or TSI and all the Diesel engines in the VAG group with FULL control of every aspect of the ECU and ALL its parameters. No more blown turbochargers, no more glitches and engine check lights – just safe, reliable power improvements!

Remember a very important point – there is only so much power and torque you can extract from a specific turbocharger and engine combination RELIABLY! Many of the 'tuners' market themselves by the HP they claim to make – as a customer, you should decide which product to choose based on how the job is carried out, and the fact that whether or not the company of choice has the necessary training, ability and tools to carry out the job offering you RELIABILITY! Anyone can simply increase boost and make impressive PEAK power and torque figures, but I can almost guarantee you that the car will run for a short period, but with minimal reliability!

OK lets get into the questions above!

• How do we make more power with a chip upgrade?

o This is simply adjustment to fueling, boost and ignition values aswell as torque limiter maps etc. There are however many other maps with names that would confuse the normal tuner, and most of these are in other languages, making the translation even more difficult! With a turbocharged engine, increase in boost and fueling with some timing pull where necessary will provide you with more power.

• What exactly is a chip upgrade, or software upgrade?

o This is just a name given to the upgrade, in the newer ECU's there is no physical chip removed and replaced with a new one, as the software is written through the OBD diagnostic port straight onto the existing EEPROM on the ECU's PC board. The changes above are saved in a file format and written onto the ECU's components.

• Is it dangerous, can it break my engine?

o Absolutely! If any incorrect boost or timing values are written to the ECU, and you go into an overboost situation, kiss your engine goodbye! There are protection maps built in, but with emailed files, its not always guaranteed that the file you are receiving will work 100% with our fuels and engines. DO NOT TAKE THE CHANCE!

• Do I have to use octane booster with software?

o If the tune is done correctly, with settings within safe limits of our fuel and conditions, you will not need octane booster. In my opinion, octane booster is a poor excuse for bad tuning!

• Will my gearbox handle the increase in power?

o Yes it will – provided you are not running slicks and doing full RPM launches at a drag strip! The gearboxes are more than strong enough to handle good tuning upgrades!

• What about DSG – will the clutches handle the software increase?

o The DSG clutches handle a MAX of 500NM – once you get there, and these start to slip, you are in for a lot of money to replace these or upgrade them!

• Will software damage or shorten the life of my turbocharger?

o Definitely! The tuning that we have seen coming through our workshop with failed turbochargers are from 'reputable' companies in the tuning scene in South Africa, and yet the manifolds crack prematurely, due to extremely high boost/lean mixtures run, so much so that the bearing housings discolour! Incorrect tuning WILL shorten the life of your engine and turbocharger! Do not choose your upgrade based on the PEAK HP figures that the tuners are marketing – choose a reliable, conservative tune to ensure many happy reliable miles!

• Will I experience poor fuel consumption?

o Yes and NO – if the tune is poor, you will experience increased consumption! If the tune is good, you will experience a savings IN LIKE FOR LIKE DRIVING! E.g If you are driving at cruise conditions and compare a stock map to a good tune – your consumption will improve! If you boot it – do not expect to see improved consumption – Power requires fuel, and the more power, the more fuel required to make that power.

Lets get to the software TurboDirect have written for the TSI engine. I have managed to rectified many VW flaws in the pathetic throttle response and horrible reaction time when suddenly flooring the gas pedal – along with many other throttle related issues! I am actually impressed with the GTI now, as it never has been one of my favorites at all in the past. The car now runs extremely well for what it is, and the response and overall power improvement is the way I believe the car should have been released from the factory!

What I did, was increase boost to just above 1bar 'overboost' and allowed the boost to settle around 0.5bar at max engine RPM. Previously the stock map had a 0.6bar overboost and the settled at 0.25bar at max engine RPM. The result is a nice torque curve with a beautifully smooth power curve. The response was initially too good in 1st and 2nd gears – I dropped the boost pressure in the midrange area to flatten out the torque curve in the lower RPM range and raise it slightly later in the RPM range. The TSI engine with the IHI turbo – certainly wants a larger turbocharger which boosts later in the RPM range, the improved fuel pump and larger injectors in the improved TSI engine can spool up the similar size IHI/K03 family turbochargers very easily – for the power hungry, the K04 turbocharger with TurboDirect K04R billet comp wheel is the perfect solution for a 420Wheel HP monster – the problem >> Front wheel drive .... Alas in 4th gear the acceleration is intoxicating – for a GTI that is.

I have done numerous 0-100km/h tests with the P3 cars digital gauge mounted in my air vent. The gauge is the most accurate timing device on the market today specifically for the Golf and Audi Marques – as it interfaces into the ECU and records the ACTUAL TRUE speed from the gearbox through the OBD port.

Before the VAG project started, I recall doing a 7.4sec 0-100km/h acceleration test on a flat road in both directions and used the average of the two – in the dry. Now the same test after all the upgrades carried out to the car, on the same stretch of road, IN THE WET - I managed to achieve a consistent 6.28sec 0-100km/h acceleration test taking the average between the two runs I did, as you can see by the pictures below.

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With some more tuning and less wheel spin generated from the peaky torque curve, I was able to achieve a 5.73 0-100km/h time in the dry ofcourse! I made less PEAK torque, and better acceleration by raising the end of the torque curve and flattening it out in the higher engine RPM range, and purely because the car is front wheel drive and the stock continental tires only offer so much traction. After all 460NM at the engine Is not easy to put to the ground with a short 1st gear and front wheel drive.

To answer those critics before they bleet away (Bleet = similar to the silly sound a sheep makes!) -- NO the 0-100km/h runs were not biased because of the wet – the P3cars guage will not allow the timing to continue until CORRECT speed is determined from the front and rear wheel speed, so spinning the front wheels at speeds above 100km/h will not stop the timing clock.

OK -- the dyno we used for this final test was the TurboDirect Dyno, and the before and after test results done on the same dyno to compare the tuning improvements. Once again, a dyno is simply a tool to use for benchmarking – run a vehicle/engine on the dyno to get a reading(however accurate) – use the same dyno to do the subsequent runs after mods or tuning changes, to see the increases/decreases. Every dyno will give you a different reading – so try stick to the same dyno for all your tests for consistent results. The Dastek dyno we used in the early tests was the dyno we were going to use for all tests, however the laptop with the tuning software on was stolen, and the new software loaded onto a replacement PC was calibrated differently and gave readings which were totally different to the above tests carried out earlier in the articles – so we lost consistency.

Alas – we used the TurboDirect Dyno, and see for yourself what the results are below:-

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Remember – TurboDirect intercooler, downpipe, and full exhaust was used along with TurboDirect custom VAG Performance software. The power increase was after the installation of the hardware upgrades to the upgraded software (there was a power increase from stock hardware to the cooler and exhaust upgrades prior to this improvement) The increase was a whopping 45.9KW and 136NM -- the best part of this tuning is that it is setup for 95 Octane PUMP FUEL with the stock standard IHI turbocharger. There are no engine lights, or fault codes generated at any point during the driving of this car for the last 3000km's The only light that continually blinks at you is the traction control one !!!

Keep in mind that this tuning was done on the TurboDirect dyno for our South African fuels, air temperatures, barometric pressures, and humidity ranges. None of the tuning was purchased from the internet or emailed overseas for changes/tuning - it is custom programmed software for the specific car on the dyno.

Lastly please note - the power figures seen here are NOT measured at the flywheel/engine, they are measured at the tire! Now show me where you will find this kind of tuning for the 2.0 GTI for R3500.00 custom tuned for our conditions – I doubt you will find this offering or HP improvement for less money – and IF you do, tell me, and ill SLASH that price by 25% -- how's that for an unbeatable offer!? I guess you need to remember – you enjoy horsepower, WE OWN IT!!! Come get some!