"Man, these tiny 1.8-liter turbo engines kick ass," is a phrase commonly used among the automotive literati. Rarely has an engine come along which has matched the 1.8T for defying expectations and setting a new benchmark for form and function. Because of this, it certainly makes sense that Volkswagen AG has taken advantage of any opportunity to put these little engines into every small to mid-sized car it manufactures.
We first saw this darling engine nestled under the bonnet of the revolutionary '97 Audi A4. A year later, we savored it again in the Passat. And again in 1999 with the New Beetle (remember "Turbonium"?). And now, finally, we see this wonder engine trickle its way down to the latest, fourth-generation Golf/Jetta platform.
From the perspective of the car manufacturer, this strategic decision is a no-brainer. If you have, in your dark warehouse of automotive goodies, a small displacement engine that boasts the output of a 2.8-liter V6, the low-end torque of a Cummins Diesel, the velvety texture of a rotary engine, and the flexibility of a double-jointed Olympic gymnast, why not spread the love? After all, with the 1.8T, there's plenty of love to go around.
One of the first aftermarket tuners to experience this passion was none other than ABD Racing of Riverside, Calif. ABD has specialized in watercooled Volkswagens for the last 10 years, and it wasted no time in bringing the new Jetta 1.8T aftermarket up to speed. In fact, just months after the sedan's U.S. release, ABD Racing turned one into a rolling parts catalog showcasing its offerings. With everything from frilly interior dress-up items to serious bolt-on engine upgrades available, no Golf/Jetta owner is going to have a hard time finding ways to utilize the ABD catalog. From the perspective of an enthusiast, such a gratuitous supply of readily available hop-up goodies makes an already exceptional automobile even more attractive.
A cursory glance under the hood of ABD Racing's Project Jetta divulges an abundance of tasteful touches and aesthetic accoutrements. With carbon-fiber accents decorating the engine cover, oil cap and brake reservoir cap, no one is going to mistake this car for a mundane stocker. A quick glimpse inside the cabin reveals a vast array of MOMO pedals and knobs, aluminum door sills and enough decorations to make Martha Stewart proud.
As ABD Racing knows, appearance without performance is like Anna Kournikova playing tennis. Though a vision of loveliness, she can't seem to raise her game to the level of her looks. With that in mind, it didn't take long for a free-flow intake, a high-performance cat-back exhaust, a fuel pressure riser and a Wetteraurer chip upgrade to find their ways under the hood.
When it's time to get serious, the ABD Racing Jetta delivers. With a claimed 210 to 215 bhp on tap, this Volkswagen refuses to play second fiddle to the vast majority of Japanese imports. Trading VTEC for turbo boost, the 1.8T musters its peak horsepower at an engine speed which would have a Civic Si longing for its hot cam. And with a torque curve as flat as 3-day-old soda pop, running through its five well-spaced cogs is less of a necessity and more a method of stress relief.
As one would expect from a high-powered sport compact car, speed comes easily. A little too easily, perhaps, as one ventures into the more heavily patrolled areas of Southern California. ("I'm sorry officer, the chip made me do it. I swear!") With the stock turbocharger, the juiced-up Jetta sets a new standard for turbo response and top-gear passing performance. With recent advancements in engine management and improvements in turbine and compressor technology comes the reality of a truly viceless turbocharged powerplant, one that proves long gone are the days of lagging boost response and unpredictable power delivery. Instead, we are now greeted with the type of immediate power response even the staunchest turbo-detractor would appreciate.
Of course, as with most performance aficionados, the folks at ABD Racing can't leave well enough alone. In fact, by the time you read this story, the car will have received additional engine-related massaging, including a 45mm-diameter billet aluminum intake tube and mandrel-bent stainless lower inlet tube. With potential for nearly 300 bhp, ABD Racing's Project Jetta is sure to get some people into trouble with the local authorities. Hopefully, it won't be us--we've already exhausted more than our fair share of excuses.
ABD blended a variety of add-ons to create a singularly handsome and sporty sedan. A Projektzwo kit was complemented by ABD's own grille and taillight treatments, a Kamei headlight kit, and Freedom Designs rear wing. The aggressive running gear is made up of TSW Air light alloys and Toyo Proxes T1-S high-performance radials, and the lower stance is due to Eibach's Pro-kit performance shocks and springs.
Function melds perfectly with appearance throughout the ABD Jetta. A Brospeed stainless cat-back exhaust and ABD Quick-Flow intake conspire for more efficient flow and increased aural gratification. A Wetterauer performance chip helps exploit those mods, and enhanced brakes from the ABD catalog increase binder power to match the engine's output. The modified nose of the Jetta lets everyone know that's something different in their rearview mirrors.
ABD Jetta Components
External mods: ADB Racing fuel pressure riser, ADB Racing Quick-Flow intake, Brospeed 2.25-in. stainless-steel cat-back exhaust system, Wetterauer Sport computer chip Suspension, front: Eibach Pro-kit performance shocks and springs, ADB Racing 25mm anti-sway bar. Suspension, rear: Eibach Pro-kit performance shocks and springs, ADB Racing 28mm anti-sway bar Brake system, front: ADB Racing cross-drilled rotors, Mintex Metal Master brake pads Brake system, rear: ADB Racing cross-drilled rotors, Mintex Metal Master brake pads Wheels: 8 x 18-in. TSW Air light alloy Tires: 225/40ZR-18 Toyo Proxes T1-S high-performance radials Other: ADB Racing Jetta IV grille and taillights; Projektzwo body kit; Kamei headlight kit; Freedom Designs rear wing; ADB Racing upper strut tower bar