AWE Inspiring Jetta

When the 201 hp 24-valve VR6 engine came onto the scene in early 2002, many of the hardcore VR6 enthusiasts waited with baited breath to see how Volkswagen pulled this amazing feat of cramming 12 more valves on top of the 15-degree narrow angle V6. Left without any modifications, the stock 24-Valve engine is a willing performer that picks up where the much loved 12-valve VR6 engine left off. Buyers favoring the VR6 look for its trademark “purr” and incredibly distinct exhaust note. While the VR6 crowd has poured money and resources into trying to maintain their position at the top of the Volkswagen horsepower “food chain”, the introduction of the 20-valve 1.8 turbocharged engine in the Volkswagen line has chipped away at this distinction. In the last few years the VR6 enthusiast crowd have been getting their rear ends kicked on the race track by performance “chipped” cars. The 1.8T crowd, however, should not rest on their laurels as the VR6-ers have an answer to their “chipped” rides in the form of Ben Hill’s 2003 V/F Engineering 24-Valve VR6 Volkswagen Jetta.

Ben quickly got the itch to modify his car as he rode off the North Penn Imports VW dealership lot. As an employee of AWE Tuning outside of Philadelphia, Ben’s employee benefits include access to the latest and greatest performance parts to come on the market for these cars. Although for most people stock suspension does the job, Ben needed something more to satisfy his need for speed. The suspension was quickly removed and replaced with a set of H&R coilover suspension to tighten down the ride and control body movements during aggressive driving. During the suspension transformation, the brake rotors were also upgraded to Zimmerman units mated with Mintex Red Box pads. This brake pad is preferred by many in the enthusiast community for its low dust characteristics, a big plus for people who hate spending time cleaning rims every day due to excessive dust.

Externally there was not much that Ben wanted to change. The dealer-installed optional rear trunk lid spoiler is the most notable item that would indicate anything particularly overt going on under the sheetmetal. One of the other subtle “mods” can be found in the lighting department. The front headlights were converted over to European specification lamps which are a drastic improvement over the standard OEM U.S. spec units. Rounding off the lighting changes are a pair of smoked bumper running lights and a pair of smoked taillights which nicely compliment the dark gray color of the car.

One of the most eye-catching details include the 18-inch SSR GT1 wheels. The open spoke design of these rims are almost spider like in their appearance. It is hard to believe that these rims actually support the weight of the car. The lowered stance of the car, thanks to the H&R coilovers and its sleek appearance, give it an air of mystique that belies the fact there is something else just as impressive lurking underneath it all.

Popping the hood open one is greeted to the traditional covered engine that we are all accustomed to, but off to the side of the power plant is the large “snail” of a compressor sitting directly behind the passenger side headlamp. The Stage 1 supercharger fitted to Ben’s car was designed by V/F Engineering ( Originally based out of the U.K. and now headquartered in Anaheim, California, the company has been tuning supercharger kits for the 12-valve VR6 engine since 1996. The kit was adapted for use with the 24-Valve engine when it debuted in the States in 2001. The supercharger itself was manufactured by Vortech and the chip tuning was performed specifically for this application by GIAC.

One of the difficulties facing the development of this kit was fitting the supercharger into an already tight engine bay made worse by the relatively large head of the 24-Valve VR6. VF Engineering’s solution was to create a patented bracket that allowed the mounting of the charger without having to resort to any additional pullies. This action required some shuffling of engine bay components including the windshield washer bottle.

The charger brackets mount directly to the factory locations where the factory airbox was originally situated. Ben opted for the polished charger which added a bit of “bling” under the hood. We can imagine that without the polished look one could easily overlook the fact that the charger was ever fitted to the engine. Essentially VF-Engineering took the time to design and implement a supercharger solution for this engine that resembles something that would possibly come out of the VW factory itself. The end results clearly show this transformation.

So enough of the technical babble, how does the car drive? In short, it is amazingly subtle. Upon starting the car up from cold idle, there is very little of the traditional supercharger whine thanks in part to the Vortech V9 F-trim charger. This supercharger is known for its quiet and seamless operation. After installation, Ben had the opportunity to run his car on AWE dyno. The results are impressive to say the least: 256 horsepower and 217.5 ft/lbs at the wheels.

Is the 1.8T crowd paying attention yet? If not, they better. Once the car had ample time to get up to operating temperature, we had a chance to put it through its paces to test the complete package that Ben had put together. What you immediately notice upon getting on the throttle was that this car pulls like a proverbial freight train without much fuss from the engine bay. Ben also was running an AWE Tuning prototype exhaust system with a Borla muffler and AWD Tuning engraved chrome tips. The effect of this exhaust and supercharger are just astounding.

Whereas a stock car may have had problems reaching gaps in traffic, this car easily zipped through them with little fuss. In fact, driving on the highway at times seemed like a race car video game where the object of the game is, “How many cars can we pick off today?” Mid-range pull-though was where this car excelled. Get on the throttle in too high of a gear and the charger was there to pull you out of trouble. We can see how this car can be construed by many folks on the road as just another Volkswagen. But that is clearly not the case, especially at wide open throttle.

I had a hard time thinking there was much more that could perfect the creamy smooth sewing machine-like engine of the VR6, but I was wrong. This car simply was a treat to drive, from the bellowing exhaust to the ratcheted down ride and it will no doubt, reopen the 1.8T versus VR6 debate. Judging by what Ben has put together with some help from AWE Tuning and VF-Engineering the 1.8T crowd should definitely pay a little more attention to what the VR6 crowd has been up to of late.

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