Massive power, all the style, a dash of stance and more bespoke touches than you can shake a stick at… Matt Thornton’s tuned Mk6 Golf R really does morph show and go smoothly.
Feature from Performance VW. Words: James Wallace. Photos: Tony Matthews
What’s a pirate’s favourite VW? Why, a Golf arggghhh, of course! Despite that substandard intro the Mk6 Golf R seems to have taken on the ginger step child role of the VW R division. Many bemoaned the loss of the sonorous six pot motor and thanks to its relative scarcity, given its fleeting two year production run, numbers remain quite low compared to its younger and considerably more celebrated Mk7 bro. According to How Many Left.co.uk there are fewer than 390 manual MK6 Rs registered on UK roads.
Nevertheless the EA113 engine toting hatch brought with it the classic TFSi tuning techniques that make it ripe for massive upgrades, and nobody is more aware of that than Sussex based, 33 year-old, Matt Thornton. For some time now we’ve been hassling him to grab a feature on this almighty build, but as is often the way it was, “never quite ready.” Oh, how we beg to differ Matthew, have you seen your spec list? Having been put off a number times as he continued to improve and escalate the extent of his perfection, finally the time has come to reveal all. Are you sitting comfortably? This one is a biggie.
“I bought it back in 2015 as a replacement for an Augusta MV4 bike,” Matt reveals, continuing, “I really wanted the thrill of a bike without all the danger. The Mk6 R had been a dream car of mine for years, as soon as I saw one on the road I knew I had to have one.” Having paid his dues and graduated through a S3, Mk5 R32, big turbo Ibiza and a Mk2 2.9 VR6 when he was just 18 – a car that he built to blag his way into the bodyshop trade, as well as a handful of other tuned and seriously spritely VAG machinery, the Mk6 was a simple evolutionary step. Hell, even as standard, we all know they don’t hang about, but Matt obviously had bigger things on his synapses.
Almost instantly remapped by R Tech and taken to stage 2+ thanks to a Wagner tuning Intercooler, Proram intake and a Hardknocks 3.5-inch turbo downpipe and twin 3” exhaust system the altitude was also reduced on a set of BC Racing coilovers, as Matt began researching what was possible and how much further the car could progress, “I knew the engine had huge potential, but I genuinely never intended to push on as far as I have. I always think it’s going to be enough, but it never is. It might sound cliched but you really do get used to whatever power you have, especially when the 4Mo chassis makes 400+ horsepower feel really blase.” Also, he revealed that R-Tech can be quite, erm… particular about the products they rate and the things they’re prepared to work with – hence the plastic engine cover still remaining in place for a neater, more OEM look.
Matt found the car to be pretty capable like that to be fair, but as time ticked by the niggling for a stage 3 setup, including a TTE420 hybrid turbo just kept bothering him. “That was where it got really serious. I was on my way to Ultimate Dubs in 2019 when the infamous high-pressure fuel pump cam follower issue arose and totalled the cylinder head.” Not far from R Tech at the time the car was trailered there, the head swapped over for a spare they had on the shelf and Matt got going again in time for the show, “That prompted the full on rebuild though, it was time to go fully forged and push on for properly big numbers. I hadn’t seen many MK6 R’s taken to that extent at the time.” More on that in a moment, though.
As a bit of a B-road terrorist Matt found that when wound down on coilies he kept totalling splitters on bumpy roads with adverse cambers, the answer was a bespoke installation 3H setup from Airlift with a preset, “nutter / hooning” ride height dialled in, naturally it combines a perfectly presented flocked tank install with a dry carbon tank base and matching manifold. Even the AEM methanol tank that’s sunk into the boot install has been flocked so that it doesn’t stand out too much. That level of attention to detail and OE fanaticism really makes this build shine, Matt even buying a set of Recaro CS seats and having them custom trimmed despite having wingbacks in the car when he got It, all to save 25kg or so in weight. In fact, he reckons the car is now 120kg shy of factory, tipping the scales at 1326kg for an eventual power-to-weight ratio of a whooping 414bhp per tonne. The cage is just for show – made from ally, powdercoated and custom fabricated by Gary French at GDF Steelworks, yet there’s no compromise when it comes to OEM+ levels of spec or comfort inside. The fully retrimmed wheel in alcantara and perforated leather is a work of art that perfectly complements the lashings of man-made suede, leather and carbon that saturate this fast road focused setup. A tasty smattering of stealth audiophile excellence has also been slotted into this swanky interior – a Kenwood DNX-518DAB headunit, KFC-X174 6.5inch speakers and Focal tweeters powered by a X301-4 amp with a surprisingly potent KSC-PSW8 under seat sub serving up the low end keeps Matt happy.
Keeping everything roof side up is now left to an achingly packed spec that guarantees those 8.5 x 19 Rotiforms DTMs remain nailed to the black stuff via a set of 215/35 Michelin Pilot Sport 4s. And it’s a trait that Matt happily explores when his better half isn’t in the car, “She’s doesn’t mind go quickly in a straight line, but the twisty bits definitely aren’t her thing,” laughed Matt. With uprated H&R anti roll bars, Superpro bushes throughout, Vibratechnics mounts for engine, gearbox and subframe, camber adjustable top mounts, Air Lift ARB drop links, Camber Racing adjustable rear arms and strut braces both fore and aft the whole lot is dialled in thanks to a Hunter 4 wheel geo setup. Some of you will probably have noticed the willy waving brakes as well – bigger than most people’s dinner plates, and these are Matt’s ‘small’ stoppers that barely squeeze in under his 19-inch rims! Thanks to Audi R8 / Lambo eight piston Brembos up front mounted on custom brackets that match up to monstrous 390 x 32mm J hooked two piece bells and rotors the stopping power on tap is awe-inspiring, “Oh, it STOPS,” laughs Matt. They look pretty lurid finished in Acid green. Not to be outgunned, the rear end also sports four piston Brembos painstakingly custom fitted using 370mm two piece discs and Ferrari F430 handbrake calipers with custom made cables.
With all that stopping power comes ample performance, but not before Matt saw to a complete glass out respray in Glasurit Rising Blue. Not content with bolting factory panels back on though he opted for SRS tech 2.5cm wider front wings, OSIR carbon fibre bonnet, a smoothed front bumper and a custom fabricated rear bumper that Matt spent an age grafting Corsa VXR bumper vents into. It is, and there’s no other word for it, staggering. With most of the Maxton Design catalogue bolted on and gloss black detailing throughout the extent of the bodywork is truly next level. There’s even a Nengun rear diffuser and some smoked dynamic sweeping LED rear lights – basically, if it can be painted or improved, Matt has done it.
That same mentality also applies under the bonnet. As part of the final push for incredible turbo urge, Matt sent the long block off to TSR Tuning for lower compression Wossner forged pistons, race bearings, ARP head bolts and studs, R8 valve springs, ZRP con rods, cam follower roller bearing conversion kit, VIS balance shaft delete kit, Fluidampr crank pulley and RS3 injectors with a modified cylinder head and loom. Currently with the small frame, quick spooling Garrett G25-660 turbo bolted onto a Nortech tubular manifold and mapped to max out around 2bar, the car makes 550hp and 495ft/lb of torque, although Matt is keen to point out it’s yet to receive the finalised map. Amazingly it still spools up around 3000rpm though and hits hard all the way to the redline, “You can really drive it though, It’s so addictive and genuinely frightening now that the engine is fully sorted,” Matt confessed, continuing, “I’ve had a pop at a McLaren 720s up to around 175mph and although I’ve never officially timed it, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t dip into the low 11s on the quarter mile now.”
As Matt charges hard and the four-inch Titanium exhaust tips emit a cacophony of combustion there’s also a 45mm Turbosmart external wastegate ripping unwanted boost to atmosphere. Fuel is delivered via an RS3 low pressure pump and a VIS Racing HPLP and gears are now dispatched via a reinforced six speed AKS Tuning built ‘box with a longer final drive, steel selector forks and 4th gear support.
Given the allotted space here it’s hard to summarise quite how epic this tuned Mk6 Golf R is. We’ve only touched briefly upon the expertise, the dedication, the time and passion involved in getting this far, “My favourite thing about owning it is parking it up at a show and listening to people talking about it?” Matt muses, “How did they do that? Why did they do that? Why isn’t mine like that?, they all make me smile.”
The fact that this show piece is now savage fast with fierce spool characteristics that just keep gaining in intensity all the way to the redline, is testament to Matt’s endless devotion. He might be a VAG body shop chap by day, but this built 6R is definitely not to be messed with.
Tech Spec: Tuned Mk6 Golf R
2.0-litre TFSI EA113, R Tech custom remap, grille air feed 3” Proram air induction cone filter, AKS Revo induction pipe, AKS runner flap delete kit, AKS throttle body spacer with AEM meth port injection, RS3 injectors with modified cylinder head & loom, Wossner forged pistons, performance engine bearing kit, Audi R8 valve springs, ARP head bolts/studs, ZRP forged con rods, VIS balance shaft delete kit, Fluidampr crank pulley, Garrett G25-660 turbo, Nortech tubular manifold, Nortech turbo heat shield, Funk Motorsport turbo blanket and downpipe/manifold wrap, Vibrant oil catch can, -12an braided lines, Turbosmart 45mm wastegate, Wagner Tuning intercooler, 3.5″ Hardknocks downpipe, twin 3″ custom exhaust with 4″ titanium tips, Polar FIS info system, ECS aluminium oil filter housing, Turbosmart recirc valve, HEL performance engine oil cooler kit, NGK plugs, Audi RS3 low pressure fuel pump, VIS Racing high pressure fuel pump, TFSI cam follower roller bearing conversion kit, 175 bar fuel return valve, R Tech PCV delete kit, EVAP system delete, R8 coilpacks, lightweight racing battery, Forge Motorsport silicone hose kit, Creation Motorsport blue turbo boost hoses, Acid green oil dipstick, turbo boost hardpipes, Helix 6 paddle clutch and lightweight single mass flywheel, braided clutch line kit, AKS aluminium clutch bleed block, Forge short shifter set, AKS solid shifter bracket bush kit, 42 Draft Designs shifter bush kit, Peloquin limited slip diff, Performance Haldex controller 60:40, re-enforced manual gearbox longer final drive, steel selector forks, 4th gear support
8.5×19” Rotiform DTM wheels, hub-centric spacers, Camber Racing adjustable rear arms, Air Lift Performance 3H air ride setup, H&R anti roll bars front and rear, Superpro front and rear bush kits incl front Antilift kit, Vibratechnics subframe, engine and gearbox mounts, Air Lift ARB drop links, Air Lift adjustable camber top mounts, racing geo setup, 8-pot Lambo/R8 Brembo front calipers (custom acid green), 390mm floating J hook discs and rotors, Ferodo DS2500 pads, EBC307+ racing brake fluid, four pot R8 rear calipers, custom 370mm J hook black anodized 2 piece discs, custom made handbrake cables, twin rear caliper brackets, Ferrari F430 handbrake calipers
Full windows out respray, SRS Tech wideboy front wings, smoothed front bumper, static gel plates, tinted DRLs, deep front carbon spoiler lip painted gloss black, gloss black VW emblems, OSIR carbon fibre bonnet colour coded, custom gloss black bonnet air scoop trims, carbon fibre bonnet gas strut twin lift system, Porsche coolant cap gloss black, Porsche engine oil cap gloss black, acid green cap decals, custom/painted engine covers, aluminium engine bay finisher bolts, black custom mini washer bottle, black coolant bottle with level line, painted gearbox, engine, alternator etc, gloss black front panel and h.lamp panels, VW R line alloy washer bottle/cap, smoothed gloss black scuttle panel, electric folding mirrors, LED puddle lights, smoked swiping led mirror indicators, side skirt extensions painted gloss black, rolled wider rear arches, custom rear bumper with VXR grilles fabricated in, smoothed rear toe eye cap, Mk7 rear LED number plate lights, rear wiper delete, smoked rear led lights dynamic sweeping indicators, rear diffuser gloss black, smoked rear bumper reflectors, spoiler extension gloss black, rear glass side spoilers, tinted high level brake light, lightened bumper crossmembers, Merc E-class arch spats painted gloss black, gloss black front arch spats, R sill chrome trims
Recaro CS Sportster custom retrim, GDF roll cage custom lightweight aluminium powder coated gloss black, rear strut brace, flocked air ride tank and manifold, Bespoked Customs dry carbon tank base, alcantara/ perforated leather steering wheel retrim with blue centre line, airbag cover alcantara grey stitch, gloss black interior trims/lights, dry carbon dash/door inserts, retrimmed black boot carpet trims, Flocked meth tank sunk in boot floor, custom Torque Partz rear seat delete carpet and R carpets, LED puddle lights, magnetic magnetic Airlift controller dock. Kenwood DNX518VDABS headunit, KFC-X174 6.5-inch speakers, Kenwood KSC-PSW8 subwoofer, X301-4 amplifier, Focal tweeters