I have now had my 2016 GTI for over 5 years and have made many modifications to it over time. Here is a list of the ones I feel made the biggest performance difference in a positive way. The below list I put in order I think they should be done, not necessarily the order I did them. The first 5 are to keep you planted so you can handle the power mods you will eventually add.
- Learn to drive – This is not meant to be an insult. Learning how to properly handle a car at speed will help immensely. Take a course at a track, do autocross/kart racing, pick up a book. Learning proper technique early can save you from fixing bad habits later.
- Tires – The OEM tires were horrible. I have had Michelin AS3+, Firestone Indy 500’s and my current is Michelin AS4’s. All tires were great and would recommend them for daily and spirited driving.
- Dogbone mount – It helped with wheel hop and smoothed out shifting. Very minor NVM was added. Installed the 034 lower dogbone mount 68k miles ago.
- Suspension – This helped a lot with handling. I opted for EQT Balance line coilover with 034 Rear sway bar.
- Fully disable traction control – Even when you long press the ECS button it doesn’t really disable all the nannies which can cause wheel hop.
- Tune/Piggyback – This by far the most cost effective power mod you can do. I have lots of topics on this subject, what is a tune, EQT, and Neuspeed power module. Our 2018 Tiguan has the power module while my GTI flips between EQT 91/E30 tune profiles. If you have DSG trans, a TCU tune is also highly recommended.
- Intercooler – Even with just a basic “stage 1” tune an intercooler upgrade can make a pretty big difference. I picked up the AMS direct replacement intercooler.
I didn’t add intakes to the list as it’s not really needed on this platform, the stock system is pretty good, and just adding a high flow filter and removing the snowguard does help with flow. Turbo inlet pipe doesn’t hurt but won’t make a huge difference. You can spend a lot of money on intakes for marginal gains. The stock diverter valve is also another thing that’s pretty solid on our cars. I have played around with other DVs but always go back to the OEM one.
The sometimes optional bigger brakes are pretty good for non-track driving. I still opted for Stoptech direct replacements as a budget-friendly upgrade when my stock pads/rotors wore out. Engine and Transmission mounts are also is a great mod you should highly consider. I have not done them yet on this platform and didn’t add them to the list. Otherwise, they would be on there, probably go just before the tune as it’s a supporting mod for more power.