Raw performance makes an enthusiast forgive a car many things, but as this motor was not particularly powerful either, I felt that while the concept had much merit, the implementation certainly did not. I was frankly surprised that a company as thorough as VW had allowed the 1.4 TSI out in this seemingly unfinished state.
Fast forward to late 2008, and the second-generation 1.4 TSI finally works with the smoothness and seamlessness missing from its predecessor. The 1,390cc twin-charged motor now sports 158bhp at 5,800rpm and 177 lb ft (240Nm) of torque between 1,500 and 4,500rpm. Good enough for 0-100km/h in 8.0 sec dead and 137mph (220km/h) all out.
The red Abt VS4 I'm driving today has taken this brilliant engine and put it on a fitness course via a remapped ECU that tweaks the fuel and ignition curves and raises the boost pressure.
In conjunction with a lower backpressure sports exhaust, these changes bring the big numbers up to 207bhp at 6,000rpm with 214 lb Ft (290Nm) of torque between 2,500 and 5,000rpm. To put things in perspective, that's late '80s 911 Carrera 3.2 US-spec horsepower from a mere 1.4 litre four!
Through the gears, the Abt VS4 now blasts through the 100km/h benchmark in 7.3 sec and on to 150mph (240km/h). This is pretty impressive for a mere 1.4 litre four, blown or not, and especially one that has exactly the same 145 g/km CO2 emissions as the stock version.
Fuel economy is not adversely affected unless you insist on using the full performance. In fact, in normal driving, economy is potentially better because the beefier torque curve allows you to attain and sustain the same speeds with less throttle and revs. Talk about having your cake and eating it!
For me however, the litmus test is how seamlessly the Abt car drives. Coupled to VW's seamless and lightening fast seven-speed DSG gearbox with its intuitive paddle shifts, the motor simply delivers the goods in as silky a fashion as you could wish for, and the shove in the back feels just as potent as the stock 2.0 TSI turbo motor.
A true measure of this car's performance in the real world where actual pace rather than stopwatch numbers count, was highlighted on the way back from the shoot with Abt's 237bhp Scirocco 2.0 TSI. When I did my autobahn top speed run in the Scirocco, that red Golf, while never able to fill my rear view mirrors, was also never far behind!
GTI levels of performance require GTI-level stopping power, so Abt offers a choice of two uprated brake kits for the Golf 6. The first offers 345 x 30mm vented front discs with four-pot callipers, fast road pads and steel braided hoses, and was fitted to the 1.4 TSI test car. The alternative is the sport brake system with 380 x 34mm front discs, eight-pot callipers, fast road pads and braided hoses. The latter system is a must for serious trackday junkies.
With just its big wheels and lowered suspension, the 1.4 TSI is attractive but also stealthy. Abt is also in the business of catering to those who want a bit of show as well, and the test car was decked out with their latest body styling kit.
This is made up of a deep front spoiler with large mesh air intake and small air splitter, the distinctive Abt front grille, side skirts, lower rear valance section with air diffuser and rear rooftop spoiler. That new rear valance section also facilitates the use of the distinctive angled Abt rear exhaust outlet pipes.
While a willing owner can go as far as a complete bespoke re-trim in the cabin, most Abt customers just have the alloy pedal set and floor mats fitted to the test car. Abt does not have an alternative for the T-handle of the DSG transmission, but if you have the six-speed manual, an Abt Sportsline gearknob is an option.