With a screaming 640bhp and 850nm from its Audi RS3 five-pot motor, this Golf 7R is a bit of an animal…
There’s a famous scene in the ﬁlm Rocky Balboa, where the veteran ﬁghter imparts his son with some sage advice. It goes something like this: “It’s not about how hard you can hit, but about how hard you can get hit and keep on moving forward.” For all its Hollywood BS, there’s an element of truth in Stallone’s speech. It’s something that anyone who’s set out on a major car project will relate to, and it’s the reason there are so many half-ﬁnished builds that never get completed.
The fact is it takes a certain kind of person to turn their automotive dream into reality. Anyone can pay a company to do some custom work, but very few are willing to attempt something that’s not been done before. This select band of tuning mavericks are the ones who do what others can’t or won’t, and they deserve huge respect for pushing the boundaries. Without them, things simply wouldn’t progress.
The funny thing is, these guys are often quite unassuming types. They don’t set out to become a ‘face’ in the scene or a social media star; they simply want to build something unique for themselves. In the case of David Lee, owner of this ballistic Golf 7R, he didn’t even set out to buy this particular model.
“I was actually after a Mk6 R, but the one I went to view wasn’t as good as I’d hoped,” he explains. “I really needed to buy a car before I went on holiday and spotted another one for sale at a VW main dealer. I went to see it and then realised it was (at the time) the brand new Golf 7R.” Over a bizarre hour-long chat with the salesman, who did his best to put David off buying the car, a deal was ﬁnally done, and two weeks later, he took delivery of the hottest Golf to date. With a rich and varied tuned car history, including a monstrous 1100hp Skyline GT-R, the Golf was never going to remain stock. Although at the time, if David had realised the pain that he was going to endure over the next three years, he probably wouldn’t have bothered.
Things did get off to a very promising start though: “I ﬁtted a TTE470 turbo and after getting the car mapped at MRC Tuning, I broke the quarter-mile record for a Golf 7R with an 11.2 at 122mph,” recalls David. This made it the fastest Golf 7R in the world at that time. The record stood until APR achieved a 10.8sec run a few months later.
It was at this point David decided to do something different. “No-one had done a big turbo on a Golf 7R, so I spoke to The Turbo Engineers and they sent me a TTE600, which I custom ﬁtted.” With a stock 2.0TSI EA888 Gen3 engine, David smashed a 10.5sec at 130mph. Impressive stuff, especially as this was on low boost, but he felt there was more in it. “My Skyline did a 10sec, so I really wanted to get into the 9s, but after raising the boost, on the next run, the engine blew.” Unfortunately, this is where the problems began.
A replacement TSI unit was ﬁtted, but even though there was nothing wrong with it, he couldn’t get the power he wanted. “It was ridiculous, over the next few months I pulled the engine 14 times to try and get to the bottom of it with no success. I changed all of the sensors, the fuel pump, everything I could think of.” He even tried two different stock engines, but having found and fixed at least ten faults, power was still down – which is where he decided to throw in the towel. “It was crippling me, I’d spent lots of cash building the car and even more trying to fix it. The problem wasn’t the engine, I reckon it had to be wiring based.”
It’s at times like these when you find out what you’re made of and David discovered he’s no quitter. “I decided I had to go on with it, but that if I did, it couldn’t be with another 2.0 TSI engine – that’s when I thought about going for an Audi 2.5-litre 5-cylinder unit.”
The RS3 8V 2.5 TFSI lump made a lot of sense. Unlike the older 2.5 from the RS3 8P, it’s capable of big numbers on stock internals and it would allow him to fit the entire RS3 8V running gear. And coming from another MQB chassis, it’d slot nicely into the Mk7’s engine bay. However, it would still require plenty of custom work to install and even more to make it work.
“I didn’t find it especially hard,” says David, “But then I enjoy working through things; for someone else it could be a nightmare.” Although the five-pot slotted in okay, there were many little differences that needed solutions working out. “The radiators are different, so on the Golf they stuck out of the bottom of the bumper, which meant I had to custom fabricate them; it took a week just to do the brackets.” There’s a bespoke intercooler built by David, plus many other tweaks to the chassis that he’s keeping to himself. “The biggest challenge is being able to crack the ECU – I’d say if you can’t do that then don’t even think about attempting this conversion.”
“I’d say it took around a month to get the engine fully plumbed in and working, before it was over to MRC Tuning for the custom map.” With the 2.5 TFSI engine fitted (complete with TTE500 turbo) it was doing 10.7s at GTI Festival all day long. Next came a larger TTE625 turbo, which the Golf is currently running. The engine spec, certainly compared with the old TSI unit, is relatively light, which goes to show how capable these 2.5s are out of the box. Along with the TTE turbo, there’s a high-pressure fuel pump insert, a Leyo intake set-up, as well as a custom intercooler, pipework and turbo-back exhaust system, all fabricated by David. With an MRC Tuning custom ECU and TCU map, this Golf 7R is now making 640hp and 850Nm.
But it’s the way the power and torque is delivered that really impresses. “It gives the full 850Nm at 3,500rpm, which to be honest, is too much for the road,” says David. “But when you come from an 1100hp Skyline, you need something to get you excited,” he laughs. “It spins the wheels in second-gear, in the dry; I could turn down the boost, but who wants to do that?” he smiles.
The savage power delivery (aided and abetted by the full RS3 8V running gear) has made getting the perfect drag launch tricky. “I launch it at 10psi, then when I hit second gear, I push the boost button to get the full 27psi – otherwise it just spins the wheels.”
Whereas some people trailer their drag weapons to the strip, David always drives the Golf there and back (unless it breaks, of course). “The only changes I make are to ﬁ t the drag wheels and tyres and remove the exhaust backbox so I can really hear that ﬁve-cylinder noise,” he smiles. If you’ve witnessed it at one of the many it’s had at Santa Pod, you’ll know that it sounds absolutely brutal.
The wheels themselves are interesting as David designed them himself. Yep, seriously!
“I got my head around CAD (As you do – Ed), then sent the measurements to an engineering company and they made them for me out of billet aluminium. The 8x15in three-piece wheels look stunning in the metal and run MH drag slicks on the strip. “I’ve got a set of lightweight, 19″ Advans with Michelin SuperSports for the road though,” continues David, “Although I can’t fit my big brakes on the car at the moment as they won’t fit behind the drag wheels.”
The brakes themselves are an odd mix of OEM Passat parts and performance discs and pads, but according to David they do a good enough job of stopping him on a drag run. “They’d be all done after two laps on track, mind,” he laughs. This Golf 7R isn’t likely to hit a racetrack though. Its sole purpose it to go as fast as possible in a straight line and with a 10.2 under his belt already, David is certainly hungry for more. Having almost given up with the project, work is under way for next season, although he’s staying tight-lipped about his plans.
“People think it’s a fully stripped-out car, but it’s only the rear seats and a bit of trim that’s been removed. In fact I didn’t even do that – MRC Tuning took it out when they drove the car to GTI International for me and I never bothered putting them back in,” he laughs. (Incidentally, the car won its class in the eighth-mile drag competition at Rockingham.) “I fitted the fixed-back Corbeaus because I have a bad back and they offer more support, although to be fair, they are lighter than the stock seats. All told, David estimates with the heavier RS3 running gear, the Golf tips the scales at around 1500kg – so it’s certainly no lightweight.
Although he no longer uses it as a daily (he has a Golf 7.5R Estate for that), it does still get driven on the road, so he wanted to retain all of the creature comforts. That said, he doesn’t compromise on the ride: “It’s on its firmest setting and it stays like that ready for the drag strip.” The only concessions to road use are re-fitting the backbox and swapping the drag wheels for the super-light Advan RSIIs, so once at the strip, it’s quick and easy to prepare.
Having heard the ferocious sound this thing makes, it really is something you need to witness for yourself. The fact that the project has even got to this stage is a minor miracle, so hats off to David for sticking with it; to our knowledge this remains the world’s only Golf R running full Audi RS3 8V engine and running gear.
He still has his heart set firmly on getting into the 9s and I for one have a feeling he’s going to do it – just as soon as the car’s been rebuilt and Santa Pod have finished resurfacing their hallowed track. Watch this space…
Following on from this feature back in 2018, with further enhancements, David managed to hit a colossal 8.9 second ¼ mile run at 159mph in October 2019. Congratulations!
2.5 TFSI 5-cylinder Audi RS3 8V engine with stock internals, TTE625 turbo, Leyo Motorsport air intake system, custom fabricated 3in downpipe, custom exhaust system with quick release backbox for drag racing, custom intercooler, custom pipework, modified radiators, Autotech high-pressure fuel pump, custom MRC Tuning ECU and TCU map.
640hp and 850Nm.
Custom designed 3-piece billet aluminium 8x15in drag wheels with MH drag slicks (19″ Advan RSIIs with Michelin Pilot SuperSports for road). Full Audi RS3 8V running gear including drive shafts, prop, transfer box, rear diff and Haldex system. Ohlins track-spec coilovers, SuperPro poly bushes and control arms, H&R ARBs EXTERIOR: Custom wider front arches to accommodate drag tyres, MRC Tuning badges, black roof and custom G7R and TTE graphics.
Corbeau fixed-back seats with white shells and 7R logos, boost and water-meth, gauges mounted in air vent, GFB boost controller, wired-in PerformanceBox, rear seats and some trim removed, water meth tank mounted on custom plate in boot.
Words: Davy Lewis for Performance VW Magazine