Tuned: Volkswagen Polo 1.8 GT TSI
The Volkswagen Polo is one the most modded cars in the country. From the original with its 1.6-litre petrol engine, to the final Legend Edition with the 1-litre TSI, they’re all gems. Why? Because there’s a lot of power lurking in those engines, and the chassis is built to handle a lot more grunt right from the factory. But what if you want more power in your Polo than just a remap would give? Considering this is one of the fastest Polo GTs in the country, it should serve as a great guide on what to do.
“I had reached the limit of the 1.2 TSI,” says Vikram who owns this Polo GT TSI. After multiple remaps, and extensive upgrades to his beloved Polo GT, he wanted something more out of it. So, he took the brilliant little engine from the front and... threw it out. He then went about consulting VW experts on what could fit in that engine bay — sure the 1.8 TSI from the Polo GTI comes to mind but, at the time, the Polo GTI wasn’t on sale in India. So, he found a used Skoda Superb and used the EA888 1.8 TSI from that. The process to get the Superb’s engine working with the Polo’s electronics took longer than expected. This is mainly because of the mix and match of parts — the Superb’s wiring harness and ABS module created a lot of problems when linked up to the Polo’s ECU. It took almost 10 months for everything to work properly and even then the wiper stalk and ESP weren’t functional. After that came the K03S turbo, but this also meant that the DQ200 transmission and the standard driveshafts were under immense stress. Vikram ordered a kevlar clutch for the DQ200, but then around that time, TVS Engineering in Netherlands started producing DQ250 bolt-on kits for the Polo GTI. So Vikram dropped the idea of modding the DQ200 completely, imported the DQ250 and upgraded the driveshafts to handle the extra power. Complementing the engine and gearbox upgrade is an eTuners Motorsport tune for the ECU and a TVS Engineering tune for the TCU. Vikram also bumped the turbo to the K04 unit, to essentially warp time whenever you floor the throttle. This Polo also has a sweet-sounding Borla Spitfire exhaust system, a BMC cold air intake and an Airtec intercooler upgrade. To keep handling in check, Vikram has added Bilstein’s B12 Pro-Kit. The B12 kit, as opposed to the hardcore offerings from the company, lowers the car’s ride height and improves handling significantly but also retains almost all of the comfort of a standard suspension. On top of this, there’s also a Drexler limited slip diff, an anti-roll bar at the rear, 17-inch OEM rims from the Polo GTI wrapped in 225/45/17 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. Braking is dealt with by a big brake kit, with RS pads from Pagid Racing as well as a rear disc brake conversion. Yep, this is a serious bit of kit. It puts out approximately 330bhp and 528Nm of torque at the crank and if you’re looking for a laptime to back the claims, that stands at 2 minutes and 29 seconds around the Buddh International Circuit. It could go a lot faster but the engine was running on the wrong octane map, and basically blew up.
Talk about serious ‘firepower’. The engine is currently being rebuilt. This Polo also has extensive modifications done in terms of cosmetic changes too, including the WRC-style front bumper, carbonfibre bonnet with air vents, a matte grey paint job and bright red accents along with aftermarket headlights and taillights. The most obvious question is why would one go through all the trouble, instead of buying the Polo GTI. Well like I said, the GTI wasn’t on sale when Vikram started out this build, but I still asked him if in hindsight waiting for a GTI would be the smarter choice. “If you ask me today if I would prefer to buy a GTI versus building this, I would pick the build any day”. Of course the build is a very costly one, primarily because no one else had done something like this in the country before so there was a lot of trial and error involved. The engine swap requires a donor car with a good service history, the DQ250 gearbox can be lifted from the current-gen Octavia RS 230 or imported but that does cost a lot too. Depending on where you live, an old Superb could be picked up for approximately Rs 6 lakh and the cost to import a gearbox is around Rs 6-7 lakh as well. The amount of man hours spent on this particular project were extraordinary since no one had modified a Polo to this extent in the country before. A lot of lessons were learnt, and it has also paved the way for others to try the same with their Polos. The result is a four-door hatchback which no one would look at twice, but with the performance to embarrass sports cars.
Most of the parts used in this build, aside from the turbocharger, suspension and other tidbits, are OEM parts from the Volkswagen Group. So, Vikram actually gets this Polo serviced at a VW dealership. “You can’t tell the engine has been swapped, it can even be daily driven!” Of course, it can’t actually be daily driven because of our country’s laws around car modifications and engine swaps. But as a project car, this is one heck of a build!