Project Heartland Eos: Part 4

They say time goes by quickly, especially when you are enjoying yourself. It has been nearly a year since we acquired our 2007 Volkswagen Eos, and already my wife and I have accumulated almost 20,000 miles. From winter cruising to top-down fun in the sun, the versatility of the coupe and its folding roof has made it our favorite family event car. Even with the birth of our first child in less than 12 weeks, we still plan to make the Eos a car that sees plenty of daily action.

It was with these family responsibilities in mind that brought on a major change in the vehicle plans shortly after our last installment. Midwest roads are known for taking the toll of the harsh winters, and Cleveland, Ohio is no exception. While the H&R suspension has proven amazing and rarely harsh, even when coupled with the 19” RH wheels, there was still a chance of damage to the wheels from sizeable pot holes common in our area. After some deliberation we decided that an 18” wheel/tire combo would still offer satisfactory style while providing a more practical selection in tires with more sidewall to offer a little extra road comfort. We used this rather important cosmetic change to switch gears and make the car a bit more “OEM plus” in theme.

Project Heartland Eos now sits on OEM VW Phaeton wheels (18×8.5 ET45) wrapped in Kumho ECSTA SPT tires (225/40). Planning ahead for winter, I was able to score a set of Audi A8L (MY2004) 5-spoke wheels which are the same size and offset as the Phaeton wheels. They were immediately shod with a set of Hankook snow tires, ready for the white stuff. Both sets of wheels/tires also carry OEM tire-pressure monitoring, a feature that the RH wheels were unable to support. A little added safety for what tomorrow may bring.

Beyond worrying about the future, I also paused recently to look at the past. Over 6 years have passed since I joined the VWvortex community and started down the path of VW and Audi ownership. My early memories include having an APR chip installed in my 2001 VW GTI 1.8T, a car that would eventually have an APR Stage3 kit on it amongst other items. Back then, of course, chips were soldered on and the market was a bit smaller too. Places like ECS Tuning, the local shop where I had my chip installed, were just getting into the tuner market. My how things have changed…

Luckily, these changes are all for the better, starting with the APR ECU upgrade. DirectPort programming allows APR to plug into a car’s on-board diagnostic port, providing a direct, non-invasive method for increasing performance. While at a regional car show this summer, APR took a few moments to flash our Eos with their 93-octane program. By changing how the engine manages the levels of boost, fuel delivery, ignition timing and much more, APR has taken the stock 2.0T motor up to a mind-boggling 252hp and 303lb-ft of torque. Driving a front-wheel-drive car with this much wheel torque can take a little finesse, but it is a skill well worth learning. It has been nearly three months since installation, and we haven’t once driven the car in stock mode – it is just that much fun! APR offers other options such as a 91-octane program and a Valet mode, as well as some security, anti-theft and vehicle maintenance features (fault code erase/throttle body alignment) you can add for a small fee. There was no better bang-for-your buck six years ago for my 1.8T motor and the same holds true for the 2.0T – go APR!

Given the fact that the car was suddenly capable of more quickly achieving super-legal speeds, we began looking for upgrades that might help more safely bring the car down to a stop. From my perspective there were three obvious choices for a car sitting on the A5 chassis. Lowest cost would be to upgrade your essentials: better brake pads, rotors, and fluid lines. While most people go this route for financial reasons, the benefits are only moderate and the factory caliper doesn’t inspire much confidence. And with the small size of the rotors, my worry was that the heat dissipation wouldn’t keep up with my heavy “STOP hard & GO fast” driving style. On the flip side, the most expensive option for a brake upgrade usually includes a massive front brake system, often painted bright red in color and carrying a hefty price tag that can be $2,500 or more. We opted for something in between. (Plus red just wasn’t my thing – been there, done that!)

ECS Tuning, based outside of Cleveland, Ohio, is a global retailer of VW and Audi performance products, and they are perhaps best known for their extensive selection of brake kits. Lucky for us, their shop is only an hour drive from home and we’ve known them for over six years now. When they approached us to talk about brake upgrades the timing couldn’t have been better, and the results are exactly what we wanted. Here is what we put together.

First, ECS Tuning mentioned their intent to piece together a front brake upgrade kit that would consist of all the essentials that come on the Golf V-based R32. This includes a 345mm (13.6”) rotor, a single-piston floating caliper, stainless steel braided brake lines, your choice of standard, drilled or drilled/slotted rotors, and all the other items you will need to make the kit a bolt-on application. Pricing will be very aggressive when the kit arrives for sale on their site in just a few weeks. And since the caliper already has so many other applications, brake pad upgrade options will be limitless. As such, we also opted to upgrade to a set of Hawk HPS front brake pads, a brand ECS Tuning has sold for years and highly recommends. Keep in mind the Eos shares all the brake components with any A5 platform, making all of these upgrades perfect for any MkV Jetta, GTI or Rabbit.

Since the front end was getting drilled/slotted rotors and new pads (above and beyond the R32 upgrades), we wanted to make sure the rear was balanced, not only in performance but also cosmetically. ECS Tuning was able to help us out here as well, upgrading the rear rotors to match the fronts, adding a set of the same compound Hawk HPS pads, and upgrading the fluid lines to their stainless steel brake lines to round off the arrangement.

Given the similarities in weight of the Eos 2.0T and the new R32, one could safely assume the already well-published data about the capabilities of the R32 brake system would accurately depict our now-upgraded Eos brakes. But how does it drive, you may ask? There is no question that the pedal feel is greatly improved, firmer in feel with better feedback for more control. It is easier to modulate the brakes, permitting you to find the limits of the brakes (and the tires) while just staying out of ABS ever so delicately. Although perhaps limited by its single-piston floating design, the caliper still seems to provide extra clamping power over the stock system, which is something you can definitely feel. While this isn’t quite the eye-popping Stage 5 kit that ECS Tuning also offers (featuring a 6-piston Porsche Cayenne caliper), the pricing is more attractive to most buyers. And for the weekend racer, slap on a set of Hawk HP Plus compound pads before you hit the track for some real friction fun!

While the Eos was at ECS Tuning, they asked me why I had not yet installed a lower motor mount insert. Remembering my 2001 GTI, the dog bone inserts of yester-year often added noise, vibration and harshness that wasn’t typically welcomed. Although hesitant to replace the insert in my Eos, I gave them the go-ahead to install it anyway, and I’m glad I did. Unlike the previous chassis cars, the new Mk5 platform is a much more refined car overall, allowing the upgraded motor mount insert to do its job without transferring too much NVH to the cabin or its occupants. You can feel the firmness of the mount, especially during heavy acceleration or braking, but other than a slight hum at stand-still with the A/C on, you wouldn’t even know it was there. For the small price it carries, this is definitely a modification that goes handy with your ECU upgrade to keep things solid and tie the chassis, motor and driving experience together.

We’ve come a long way from the stock Eos you saw many months ago. I’d like to think that Volkswagen might eventually offer a special package/edition Eos some day that would mimic what we have here. Every aspect included in this project, from handling and performance to cosmetics and trim upgrades, include items from the VW OEM parts bin to some of the best aftermarket suppliers in the world. Project Heartland Eos showcases a seamless integration of products that show just a small sample of the options available, and in our eyes represents the path that many consumers may take with their cars.

With the H2O International car show in Ocean City, Maryland just around the corner, we had hopes of installing a body kit before the end of the month. Time and money won’t permit the ground effects to happen, but we do plan to make the journey to Ocean City and look forward to seeing other VWvortex members at the show. In the future you can look for a write-up over winter, exhibiting the winter wheel/tire setup, and perhaps a few “practical” upgrades for having a baby in the back seat. And you never know what next spring might hold. Have a wonderful rest of your summer everyone!

Special thanks to:

ECS Tuning –

APR Tuning –

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