The latest R-rated Golf has been on North American roads for about a year now, long enough for us to fall in love with the all-wheel drive hatchback, and for many VW tuners to develop a wide range of performance parts for it. With everybody having their own ideas on what constitutes the perfect Golf R, we decided to research and categorize the various modifications available.
With that said, we have to acknowledge that you may prefer to leave it pretty much stock. After all, its 256hp 2.0T engine and six-speed manual delivers 0-60mph in 5.6sec and the 4Motion all-wheel drive system keeps you stuck to the asphalt.
With the car being so new, you might want to wait for the factory warranty to expire, or while you save more pennies after the rather steep $34k purchase price. However, there are several minor modifications to make your R even more enjoyable without upsetting the dealer too much.
The first must-do mod is to strengthen the engine/transmission dogbone mount . There are several options but Neuspeed's urethane mount insert takes less than 10min to install, after which gear shifts will never be the same.
The insert fits between the space in the squishy OEM rubber bushing, filling the voids with firm urethane to reduce drivetrain movement under load. It will give smooth shifts every time and won't increase vibration because the factory rubber is retained. It's a great addition at $39.95.
Another upgrade might be a free-flowing washable K&N air filter  panel into the stock airbox. It'll last longer than stock, saving you money in the long term, and should give you slightly better economy and smooth running. Good value at $45.
The stock 18x7.5" wheels  weigh a hefty 26 lb, so switching these out will definitely improve acceleration, braking and handling. There are obviously lots of wheels to choose from but we're leaning towards Neuspeed's 19x8" RS-14 wheels that weigh 22 lb and allow wider 235/35 tires for a larger footprint. The wheels cost $329.95 each and check out Discount Tire or Tire Rack for new rubber.
Of course, once you see improvements in your car, you'll soon be tempted to go for a little more, so here are a few suggestions for minor upgrades that won't break the bank.
Obviously, we have to start with engine software  since it gives a great bang for the buck. Several tuners have created new programs, including APR, GIAC, HPA, Neuspeed, Revo Technik and Unitronic. Power increases range from about 285-305bhp and prices start at $499.95.
A cold-air intake  will allow a greater amount of cool air to enter the intake tract, enabling the turbo engine to breath deeper and, therefore, produce more power. There are again several options from companies such as APR, CTS Turbo, EVOMS, Forge Motorsport, Neuspeed and Revo Technik, among others. Prices start at $299.95.
While the Golf R's exhaust  note is quite sporty, it can be improved with a cat-back exhaust that will give you a little more rumble and maybe a few extra ponies in the process. The usual suspects include APR, AWE, Borla, Euro sport Accessories, HPA, MagnaFlow, MillTek and Revo Technik. Prices start at around $699.
If you've done the mods listed above, we'd also advise a boost gauge  to monitor the turbo boost, check if your car is performing properly and detect vacuum leaks early. There are many available from companies like AWE Tuning or a special edition "Blue Needle" PODI boost gauge for $319.
With extra power, you should also consider minor brake ,  upgrades such as slotted rotors, performance pads and stainless steel brake lines. Check out StopTech and Neuspeed for parts, with prices starting around $145 for a set of pads.
Some drivers enjoy a shorter shift throw so HPA, Diesel Geek, APR and others offer a short shift kit . Prices start at $195.
While the Golf R has a pretty good ride and handling balance, lowering springs  will improve cornering ability and give you the Euro-look. Don't go too low or you'll require a shock upgrade as well; better to consider a full coilover kit in that case. See H&R and Neuspeed for options. Prices start at $194.95
Now you're getting serious about Golf R modifications, you'll need to consider stage 2 software to unlock more power by accommodating the addition of a high-pressure fuel pump, downpipe or a turbo-back exhaust system. Power levels will be in the 340-380hp range, with options from APR, HPA, Neuspeed, Revo and Unitonic among others. Prices vary.
A downpipe or turbo-back exhaust ,  is absolutely essential to generate higher power levels. While only the downpipe is required to create more airflow, you might as well order the full system to enjoy the accompanying exhaust. See APR, HPA and Milltek. Prices start from $1999 for a turbo-back system.
Squeezing extra power from your 2.0T means you'll need to be making more fuel available, so a high-pressure fuel pump  will provide the additional volume needed for the mid-range powerband to prevent fuel starvation. See APR, Autotech and HPA. Prices start from $399.95 for a kit to upgrade your stock pump.
Cars that will see extra track time or are driven in hot climates could use an intercooler  upgrade to help fend off heat soak. These are designed to pass a greater volume of air and chill it further than the stock part. Offerings are available from APR, HPA, Forge Motorsport and Revo. Prices start from $990.
Once you have more power, it's important to get it to the road effectively, so a Haldex Gen4 Controller  will improve acceleration and allow more aggressive handling characteristics with increased oversteer thanks to more power being sent to the rear wheels. The controller comes in two different levels: Performance and Competition, which can both be wired to be cockpit adjustable if desired. See HPA and Neuspeed. Prices start from $899.99.
Some other items you might like to consider include a high-torque clutch and lightweight flywheel  kit from APR, HPA and SPEC. Prices start at $519 for a clutch or $938 for the kit.
A big brake conversion  is always a good idea if you plan lots of track time. Kits are available from APR, Brembo, HPA, Revo and StopTech. Prices start from $2595 for a front brake upgrade.
Sway bar sets are offered by H&R and Neuspeed, with prices from $525.98. While coilover  suspension kits can be bought from APR, Bilstein, H&R, KW and Revo. Prices start from $1150.
Once you have all these parts fitted, you might like to consider an APR Stage 3 turbo upgrade  that promises 411hp for $6124.99.
While HPA's Stage 3 kit offers over 400hp ($call) and Revo is putting the final touches on its Stage 3 and 4 kits.