Volkswagen has had a great history of third party performance modifications for their cars and the easiest and most cost effective way to add more performance is through a tune. Tuning also know as chipping, software or flashing are all names for this process.
This is typically done by a shop that sells the software that changes variables in your computer so that you gain performance. The high level overview of what they are changing are air/fuel ratios, timing and boost pressure. There is much more going on here these are the basics of what they do to increase performance. Naturally Aspirated engines don’t have the boost pressure to play with so typically software doesn’t give as much performance gains. With Forced Induction turbo or supercharger cars having the ability to crank up the boost really makes a night and day difference.
You can see the example here on one such software vendor APR: http://www.goapr.com/products/ecu_upgrade_20tsi_gen3_mqb.html Looking down at the graph you can see the stock stats as dynoed by them for the GTI is 235HP/270TQ on 93oct fuel. With only the addition of their software the HP is now 316HP/381TQ still on 93oct fuel. Pretty impressive stuff for just software and no other physical modifications! Its probably a good idea to read through that whole page as they give some great information on it even if you dont end up choosing APR as your tuner.
There are lots of options to choose from for these cars and it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. Read forums and do your research, forums such as vwvortex.com and golfmk7.com are great MK7 resources.
There are pretty much three types of performance tunes for our cars.
- Software flash by tuning shop
- Software flash by self
- Piggyback (technically not software flash but end result is similar)
Software flash by tuning shop: This is the most common for VW’s which involves going to a tuning shop that sells the software, they overwrite the software on your ECU with a OTS tune.
Examples: APR, GIAC, Revo, Unitronics, United Motorsports, Eurodyne and lots more
Software flash by self: This is a newer option becoming more popular over the last few years. You purchase a hand held device or a cable that hooks up to your computer and to your car by ODB2 port. You then overwrite the software on your ECU with the provided OTS tune. Sometimes tunes cost extra, are pay per flash, or are included, so do your research.
Examples: Unitronics, Eurodyne, COBB Tuning and more
Piggyback: This technically isn’t a software replacement which is why some like it a lot. Instead its a device you put in between your ECU and other devices in your engine bay. The device changes requests from the ECU to the devices making them more performance oriented. The benefit of this is you just physically take out the device when you don’t want it anymore and can resell it. Typically these options don’t give as much performance as a software tune but are still pretty nice.
Examples: Neuspeed, JB1/JB4, Dinan
As you can see there are a bunch of options and im only hitting the tip of the iceberg with how many vendors there are offering these performance improvements. Some of these vendors also offer custom tunes in one form or another.
One of the biggest things you need to worry about is your upgrade path. Where do you see yourself going and does that tuner support it? For me I have been using APR for a while now on my past vehicles and loved their selectable profiles but as of the time this was written they still didn’t have them available for the MK7. Instead I will be going with COBB Tuning which has a hand held device you purchase with a bunch of free OTS tunes and has the option for custom tuning later on if I need it.