The Golf VR6 has reached a ripe old age now, but if you’re looking for some silky smooth grunt on the cheap then it’s still an attractive prospect. It was always said that the weight of the car really hampered the performance and with the likes of the Mk1 and Mk2 GTI in its bloodline, the handling was slated as not being sharp enough. But then, there was already a MK3 GTI (with various different engines) and the VR6 was a totally new proposition.
While they’re not the most powerful hot hatch, or quickest to 60mph nowadays, their comfort levels made them perfect for daily driving with plenty of torque to overtake on the motorway plus the benefits of things like ABS and traction control. Naturally, being a VW, there hasn’t been a shortage of enthusiasts willing to experiment with tuning them either, so not only does that mean there are parts galore to chose from, it also means that big power gains are possible down the numerous forced induction routes now available.
The power levels achieved recently from turbocharged VR6s are incredible, and we feel that if this was known about when the car was newer, they would be much more valuable today. If the handling criticisms worry you then many have found that a decent suspension upgrade and anti-roll bars can sharpen things up dramatically. With the weight of the engine it’s never going to match the FWD finesse of an Integra Type-R around the track for example, but on the motorway it’s going to be much more enjoyable, so that could be a compromise you’re willing to make And, considering how cheaply you can buy a Golf VR6 now it’s probably a car you should try owning once in your life, even if only for a short while. After all, where else can you buy a good-looking, tunable hatchback with a V6 engine for so little monies?
VW Golf Mk3 VR6 (1993-1998)
Engine: 2.7ltr, V6
Top speed: 140mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Rust is the first checkpoint, under the windows, where the front wings meet the sills, the bottom edges of the doors – basically check all over for the dreaded tin worm! If there’s a tinny rattle from the engine at lower revs it could indicate a worn timing chain or tensioner, replacement of which can be expensive, so factor that into the price you offer. ABS faults are also common, some sellers remove the ABS light from the dash to hide it, so make sure it comes on when the car is started, and ideally goes out around 3sec later.
Check also for clutch slip or a sticking pedal as many VR6s have been driven hard and replacement will again cost around £300. Aside from that coolant leaks at the pulley end of the engine and at the thermostat/sensor housing at the front of the engine are common problems, plus oil leaks between the head and block at the pulley end of the engine can occur meaning a headgasket replacement is needed to cure it. Lastly, if it’s being sold as a ‘Highline’ be aware genuine versions of these top spec models only came in black and mulberry colours.
TUNING A VR6
Uprated cams, an exhaust system, induction kit and remap can help the VR6 towards the 200bhp mark, which is a good level for a VR6. For more power there are numerous supercharging options, plus some turbo kits available that can turn the VR6 into an absolute animal. Ideally though, uprated suspension and anti-roll bars would be the best starting point followed by some attention to braking – either disc, pad and line upgrade or big brake conversion.
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