Hot Tuner 2015: Harding Volkswagen Golf R

Can Harding’s skull-motif Golf R deliver another Hot Tuner killing?

Hot Tuner 2015: Harding Volkswagen Golf R

Harding Performance brought a mildly fettled MkVII Golf R to Hot Tuner just to prove how good the new-gen platform is.

Check out all the Hot Tuner 2015 action here.

It was a brassy move considering the opposition, but Guy Harding admits the Volkswagen engineers had made it easier for his team having refined the Golf platform to a point of excellence for the seventh-generation model.

“Everything is new to us, so we have to start from scratch again,” he says. “It’s a complete fresh-sheet approach as the MkV and MkVI were very similar, we’ve had them since 2005. Everything we applied to the previous models over the last nine years no longer applies.

“We took the new cars out and tested them standard. It’s taken quite a while to get into the engine management and the new chassis; the suspension development has taken quite a lot of time as the new car is more stable and we can’t get the easy, quick gains we could on previous models, as Volkswagen has already taken care of those simple fixes.”

Harding volkswagen golf r rearWhat Guy and his team delivered was a mild but devastatingly effective 2015 Golf R. APR supplied the tune for the motor, E85 conversion and (prototype) intercooler, while HP tuned the DSG trans for better shifts and Milltek again provided an exhaust for aural delight.

The R600 intake, Sports springs and monoblock front brakes are from Racingline, while the swaybars and alloy control arms come courtesy of HP and SuperPro. With a retina-pounding vinyl wrap, the angry R is finished off with Racingline 18-inch alloys shod in Yokohama AD08R rubber.

Harding volkswagen golfr wheel“This Stage 2 Pack is almost as fast as our older Stage 3,” Harding admits. “We’re not yet sure if the MkVII Stage 3 will easily surpass the old one, as the cylinder head has a restriction. It has an internal manifold so the runners out of the cylinder are no longer visible and that’s going to be our bottle-neck.”

That restriction is balanced out by newfound opportunities with the MkVII platform in the form of dual-valve lift control. And, in bigger news, it can now run alcohol-based ethanol fuels.

“E85 is new for us because, since the introduction of direct-injection to the VW Group in 2005, we just haven’t had enough fuel capacity,” Harding explains. “The aftermarket parts for DFI just don’t exist for us; things like five-volt injectors and the management to run them.

Harding volkswagen golf r ethanol basedThis car, with eight injectors standard, including the crucial port-injectors, we can now get the flow to run E85. It’s been a big step for us because we’re getting race fuel performance for $1.10/L instead of $8/L. I think it’s going to be big in VW tuning.”

So, with such a good base car does Harding see the trend for VW tuning slowing down? Far from it.

“We have a lot of young professionals buying these types of cars, and we have to include the Audi S3 on this as it’s the same car with a different skin. The new S3 is the biggest resurgence of Audi tuning that we’ve seen in a long time, like the old WRX and Evo thing.”


Car: 2015 MkVII VW Golf R
Who: Harding Performance
Where: 1/56 Cambridge Street, Coorparoo, Queensland
How long: Since 1998
Contact: 1300 730 949


Drive: all-wheel
Engine: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC,
16v, turbo
Gearbox: 6-speed dual-clutch
Suspension: coil-overs, A-arms, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil-overs, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: 370mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 18 x 8.0-inch (f/r)
Tyres: 235/35 ZR18 (f/r); Yokohama Advan AO50

Harding volkswagen golf r exhaust

Parts and Prices

APR Stage 2   $3,990
Intercooler   $1,995
Transmission Tune   $1,495
Exhaust   $5,775
Intake   $750
Suspension   $2,599
Brakes   $3,995
Wheels/Tyres   $3,283
Fitting Costs   $1,090
Total Mods Cost   $24,972
Vehicle Cost (mSrp)   $55,240

Total Cost



Another win for Guy Harding and his steroid-fed Golfs

The whole is more than the sum of its parts” is an old saying, and boy, oh boy, did the Harding Performance crew prove that at Hot Tuner. While its spec sheet looked far too tame to take on the big guns in the garage, the reality is the MkVII is as close to an off-the-shelf sleeper as you could find. And it blew everyone who drove it away.

Okay, so the vinyl wrap is proper lairy, but in more traditional garb the APR Stage 2 R could pass as any other five-door hatch on a metropolitan street. It’s just that it’s also capable of mid-12-second quarter-miles, was fourth on the circuit by a super-slim margin and did repeated 4.31 second 0-100km/h runs as easy as pie, while other more fancied machines struggled with wheelspin.

Harding volkswagen golf r take offDriving the R was a no-mess, no-fuss experience in speed. Get in, put it in the drive mode you want and you’d either go fast or go really, really fast – adjusted via the aggressiveness you took to the throttle. While the springs felt a bit too stiff, it cornered and braked well, and was generally a big ball of fun on the tight, demanding Sydney Motorsport Park South Circuit.

It’s a credit to Harding Performance that they’ve created a comfortable, quiet street car that becomes a rapid, exhilarating turbo monster with a stab of happy pedal. Yet it retains all the factory niceties modern turbo Golfs are famous (and well-loved) for.

After topping the list for 0-100km/h times and coming second on the 0-400m times (by 0.15 seconds, to a car with more than double its horsepower at the wheels), it placed fourth in the 100-0km/h braking test with a 35.85m and fifth at the dyno after running a peak of 246.9kW. And this was enough to give it the win at Hot Tuner 2015.

Harding volkswagen golf r frontAfter reeling off a 62.80sec for the fourth fastest time around the South Circuit, Luffy was beaming. “It’s a testament to the HP guys because they’ve taken the base Golf R and really brought it to life with the modifications they’ve done,” he enthused.

While it was cracking hot on the short track, everyone agreed that the faster full circuit would have suited it even more as the suspension could get real load fed into it and the heavy-hitting motor could stretch its legs.

Punters experienced with turbo Japanese cars of the past are used to swapping weedy stock turbochargers out for bigger aftermarket offerings, but they’re in for a rude shock with the APR Golf. On the dyno it ran back-to-back passes, making between 240.4kW and 246.9kW at all four wheels on the stock turbocharger!

Harding volkswagen golf r dynoInterestingly, while it still has the addictive top-end rush typical of a traditional tuned turbo car, you’re not left with a laggy, unresponsive dunger at part-throttle or down low. The R was never left wanting for grunt or boost as there is 500Nm on tap from 2000rpm. And Guy Harding reckons they’ll have plenty more available soon.

“We achieved 350kW out of a MkVI on a legal, street-driven kit, and we’re hoping to hit at least that,” he says. “We do have a huge advantage of increased fuel potential and dual valve lift on this car, which are our big advantages straight up. It’s why this car is making so much power out of the box.”

“A lot of people are buying these because they’re a quality, all ’round good car in a great package they can make very fast very easily. It’s something new for us to have something here with so few mods, but it’s early in the MkVII’s cycle so next year we should be considerably faster.”

We can’t wait. Congratulations Harding Performance and APR, winners of MOTOR’s Hot Tuner 2015.


Overall Results: 1st

Test   Result   Ranking
0-100km/h   4.31sec   1st
0-400M   12.50sec @ 180.01km/h   3rd
100-0km/h   35.85 metres   4th
Dyno   246.9awkW   5th
Track   1:02.80 sec   4th

Harding volkswagen golf r turning

Luffy Says

“It’s a testament to these guys. They’ve taken the base of the Golf R and really brought it to life with the modifications. Probably a little bit stiff for this tight little circuit, but it would be really well suited to the full circuit here where you can really start to load the car up. It’s still nice and lively through all the tight and twisty stuff. And the engine upgrades bring that fantastic engine to life.”

Check out the other cars that competed at Hot Tuner 2015:



How are you finding our new site design? Tell us in the comments below or send us your thoughts at


Subscribe to Motor magazine

Subscribe to MOTOR and save up to 49%
The world's most thrilling performance car magazine. Delivered to your door each month.



We recommend


Porsche Cayenne Nurburgring

Video: New Cayenne Turbo breaks Nüburgring lap record

Updated and upgraded top-spec Cayenna proves itself to be the fastest SUV ever

13 hours ago
Jordan Mulach
Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.