Got to the stage of life when you need a sensible car to ferry the kids about in? With a little lateral thinking, you can really stretch the meaning of ‘sensible’ as this modified Mk6 Golf R will now demonstrate.
Feature from Performance VW. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Jason Dodd.
Life is all about compromises. We have to balance our natural impulses to live in the moment with a slightly longer view, because otherwise we’d all die very young. Remember that episode of Futurama when Bender the robot turns into a human and immediately eats, drinks and smokes himself to death? Moderation, that’s the key. So when your partner, spouse or significant other suggests that you need to get a sensible family car, something that’ll be practical for taking the kids to school and lugging garden waste to the tip, you’d better not turn up with a stripped and ’caged TT and a Cheshire cat smile. You’ll suddenly find yourself living in the garden shed.
But don’t worry – getting a family car doesn’t mean you have to buy a Nissan Juke and admit that your life is essentially over. Compromising on communal transport doesn’t actually have to involve that much compromise. How so? Well, there’s plenty of practical metal out there that you can present to the other half as a logical solution, then go mental on the country lanes after you’ve dropped the squad off elsewhere. Proper Jekyll-and-Hyde cars, we’re talking about – sensible family motors that aren’t really as sensible as their sober looks would have you believe. So there’s nothing to worry about, not really. Please don’t buy a Juke. Perhaps we could interest you in a modified Mk6 Golf R with 540bhp instead? That’s the surprising route Brandon Venter has taken, and it appears to be working out pretty well for him.
“Yep, this is a proper daily driver for the family,” he confirms. “It does the school run, it brings the groceries home from the supermarket. And it’s pretty handy on the quarter-mile too.”
It’s fair to say that Brandon truly is living his best life here. It’s long been a cliché among motoring journalist circles that the default answer whenever anyone asks what kind of car they should get, regardless of who they are, how interested they are in cars or what they’re planning to do with it, is always ‘get a Golf’. For generations, Volkswagen’s sober hatchback has been the gold standard of sensible everyday transport, and of course there have always been slightly less sober versions lurking at the more mischievous end of the showroom… and here Brandon is proving that, with some lateral thinking and an accommodating attitude from the other half, you really can have your cake and eat it. A practical family hatchback with more horsepower than a Lamborghini Gallardo. Wait, does this cake have a little bit of race fuel stirred into it…?
There was a natural progression to all of this; after all, it’s quite rare to go from zero to everything in one hit, and the stepping stones toward this monstrously powerful Mk6 R actually started with another Mk6 – the GTI. “I really caught the bug for modifying and performance tuning when I owned the GTI, which I had mapped and fitted with a nice set of rims,” Brandon explains. “I then started looking more into what could be the ultimate Golf, and found that the Mk6 R seemed to tick all the boxes, so I set about trying to make it my own! It was, for me, the ultimate performance Golf – but more importantly, it was a rarity compared to the Mk7 which I was seeing all over the place. Can’t dispute the looks either!”
A key driver in the move from GTI to R was the way his daughter was growing, as small people tend to do; they just keep on getting bigger and they come with a lot of bric-a-brac to haul about, so it made sense to switch to a more usable five-door. And hey, the extra power was useful given all the extra gubbins being carried about in the boot. “I knew I had to get a more family-friendly car,” Brandon recalls, “so I found a great APR Stage 2+ five-door R with under 10k miles on the clock – it was two years old and immaculate, so the opportunity was really too good to pass up.”
The nature of being immaculate might be something for those of lesser vision to try to cherish and uphold, but Brandon had no qualms about tearing it to bits in the name of improvement and enhancement; indeed, APR had already started the good work, so he felt almost duty-bound to continue. And continue he did, rolling up his sleeves and setting about optimising every conceivable element of the Golf to fulfil that initial brief that was still chalked large on the figurative action plan: ‘what could be the ultimate Golf’.
Having dangled the carrot of 540bhp before you, we probably ought to delve into what’s going on under that artfully sculpted carbon fibre bonnet. Because this motor, practical and reliable as it still is by necessity, is some way removed from what Volkswagen intended the 2.0-litre FSI to be.
“The engine was built and tuned by EST Performance down in East Sussex,” says Brandon. “The guys at EST carry out all maintenance on the car. We made sure that fuelling and flow were spot on, and then tuned for drivability and durability. As with any high-performance build, there were initial niggles but these were all cleared after a few weeks of driving the car and adjusting the calibrations, as well as upgrading various smaller parts.”
The specs are really quite impressive. Fully forged, the engine now sports ZRP rods and Supertech pistons and valvetrain; the turbo is a mighty Garrett G25-660 unit with Turbosmart external wastegate, sitting on a Nortech manifold and working hand-in-hand with a Wagner Competition intercooler. The fuelling has been carefully scrutinised, and now comprises APR high-pressure and low-pressure fuel pumps and the high-flow injectors from a Porsche 997.2. With the aid of Revo cold air induction, and an AEM water/meth injection setup with 4x250cc nozzles into an RPC intake manifold, we arrive at the magic figure of 540bhp, and naturally the transmission has been upgraded to suit – we’re talking uprated Mk7 R clutch packs and a TVS Stage 3 DSG tune, plus SuperPro gearbox mounts. An incredible formula, all keenly engineered for reliability, and of course it’s important to note that form is just as important as function. After all, Brandon is a man who takes pride in his ride, and the finish here speaks for itself.
You might have spotted that he’s gone a bit mad with the carbon fibre too. Intriguingly it’s the carbon grille badge that first catches the eye, and the more you look, the more of the racy weave you find sprinkled across the shell. It seems like nearly everything’s made of the stuff, from the front wings to the custom vented bonnet, the foglight covers and front grille, canards, sideskirts, and of course the imposing rear spoiler from Rex Supersport. Sitting pretty over its 19” OZ Ultraleggera HLTs, the Golf really makes a statement with its yellow pinstripes and details picked out against the light-absorbing satin black wrap.
“Before the car was wrapped, it only got a fraction of the attention it does now,” Brandon grins. “I think the look of the car really turns heads, as it’s not like your usual-looking 6R… and the fact that it’s now more of a rare car means it gets tons of attention.” Yeah, and it could be something to do with the fact that it goes from over here to way over there with eye-watering efficiency; seriously, you have to see the acceleration of this thing to believe it, the physics of it are totally surreal. The all-consuming whistle of the turbo is nigh-on as loud as the rasp from the exhausts, and it’s eerie to see how it corners totally flat thanks to its combination of KW V2 coilovers and H&R anti-roll bars.
“This may not have been exactly what the family were expecting me to bring home when I promised them a family car,” Brandon smirks. “But sure, it’s an everyday driver and does everything we need it to do. It just does it all a bit faster.” And given the whisperings we’ve heard about him wanting to upgrade to an even bigger turbo, that rapidity is only going to increase. You see, there’s absolutely no need to compromise when it comes to finding practical and reliable transport for carting the kids around. You don’t need to give up on life and buy something dull. Brandon’s proving with some finality here that a modified Mk6 Golf R with 540bhp is the ultimate everyday family car.
Tech Spec: Tuned Mk6 Golf R
Forged 2.0-litre FSI, ZRP rods, Supertech pistons and valvetrain, Revo cold air induction, Porsche 997.2 high-flow injectors, Wagner Competition intercooler, APR high-pressure and low-pressure fuel pumps, TSI roller conversion, runner flap delete, Garrett G25-660 turbo, Turbosmart external wastegate, Nortech manifold and downpipe, custom Forge Motorsport yellow hoses, balance shaft delete, SuperPro engine mounts, AEM water/meth injection with 4x250cc nozzles into RPC intake manifold (direct port injection), catch can, custom 3” cat-back exhaust system with quad 4” tips, uprated Mk7 R clutch packs, TVS Stage 3 DSG tune, SuperPro gearbox mounts
19” OZ Ultraleggera HLT wheels, 235/35 Avon ZV7 tyres, KW V2 coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars, VWR drop-links, K-brace, alloy control arms with SuperPro bushes, Brembo 4-pot calipers, 362mm Vagbremtechnic floating front discs, 310mm ECS floating rear discs
Carbon fibre wings, carbon foglight covers, carbon front grille, carbon canards, carbon bonnet, carbon sideskirts, carbon rear spoiler by Rex Supersport, Maxton Design front splitter, Maxton Design rear diffuser, satin black wrap with reflective yellow pinstriping by Monsterwraps
Recaro wingback seats, vented boost gauge, uprated Alpine infotainment system