First Drive: APR Stage 3 Golf GTI Share Comments APR’s Director of Engineering Joel McKay leads us into a pristine garage and points to a white Golf GTI. “This one’s fun,” he says with a grin. “But we’ll have to wait for the roads to dry off a bit.” He’s got a point. With the amount of power this GTI has going to the front wheels, we’ll need all the help we can get. The seventh-generation Golf GTI hasn’t even been available in the US for a full year, and APR already has a running and driving Stage 3 kit at their headquarters just outside Auburn, Alabama. And for this edition, they’ve moved away from the traditional K04 and GTX units in favor of twin scroll Borg Warner EFR turbochargers. Originally developed specifically for racing, Borg Warner’s EFR turbochargers feature lightweight “Gamma-Ti” turbine wheels and shaft assemblies as well as special patent-pending ceramic ball bearing cartridges. In layman’s terms, this turbo will spool more quickly than similar sized units from other manufacturers. That means that once APR’s Stage 3 setup is released, owners won’t need to work their cars quite as hard to realize its full potential. But the interesting turbo choice isn’t the only news here. As APR had a European market GTI shipped to their Headquarters nearly nine full months before US-spec examples started showing up at dealerships, the firm had a good opportunity to see what else could be improved upon. The result of this “head start” is a host of late stage prototype modifications that were also fitted to the car that we spent time with. Things like an Oil Cooler, a stiffer Subframe Mount, a larger Intercooler and more are all there to make sure that the new Stage 3 can take whatever users dish out. Improvements go beyond strictly horsepower and cooling, though. The GTI’s suspension has also been upgraded with stiffer springs and sway bars, and prototype versions of APR’s six-piston big brake kit stand out from behind 19” prototype APR wheels, which are said to weigh less than 18lbs each. While not emulating the slammed look popular with many in the scene, the prototype APR springs lower the car just enough to eliminate wheel gap and firms things up nicely. Once the roads dried to what Top Gear would call “Mildly Moist”, Joel hands over the keys and tells me to stay out of trouble. A quick press of the start button reveals an enhanced exhaust note, but not one that was overly loud or intrusive. Part of this is due to the stock cat-back mated to a prototype APR Downpipe- a move APR took after discovering that gains from an aftermarket cat-back unit are minimal at best. Aside from that, the only noticeable difference when compared to a stock GTI is the connected feel that comes from the upgraded Subframe mount. Officially outside of APR’s campus, I take the opportunity to open things up a bit. Transmission slid into manual and traction control set to off, the throttle pedal slowly finds its way to the floor. On damp stretches of road, the car struggles for grip all the way to the top of third gear. Taking off from a stop sign with a bit of aggression, the front end just washes away comically due to this newfound power. On dry pavement however, the car simply hooks and goes. While we did not have any timing equipment on us, this Golf GTI recently eclipsed the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds- even though the ECU was limiting power. In the time since, APR tells us that they’ve not only fixed the glitch, they’ve also found room for improvement. Very impressive, indeed. Since time is of the essence when it comes to new product development, APR’s GTI is not a Performance Pack car. While APR’s engineering department quickly negated the package’s larger brakes and extra bump in power, they have not addressed their car’s missing differential. Based on how the GTI greatly benefits from the electronically controlled unit in stock trim, APR’s car should welcome the addition with open arms. Moving past the staggering power increase, APR’s prototype suspension component improvements are markedly better than the pieces they replace. The new springs have an OEM-quality ride while being feeling quite a bit more planted than the stock coils, and APR’s sway bars noticeably improve turn-in and mid corner composure. The final piece to this potent puzzle is APR’s prototype Big Brake Kit, complete with six-piston calipers and stainless steel lines. Developed in conjunction with Brembo, these binders are more than capable of bringing the car back from extra-legal speeds to a complete stop with extreme force while not overwhelming the chassis. Most importantly, the brakes are easily modulated, making for a very streetable setup. As for an ETA on this kit, APR is still playing coy. Large undertakings such as this take quite a lot of time and tinkering to get perfected, but APR’s staff let us know that the kit is being worked on diligently. This should come as very good news to clients and enthusiasts alike, trying to sift through the glut of speculation and misinformation in the post Hooks-era at APR. Check out more images of APR’s Stage 3 Golf GTI below, and keep an eye on our Mk7 forum for all future product announcements.