The original Beetle was a stunning and innovative design that won the hearts and minds of a whole generation. The Beetle was remade and relaunched in 1994, the new design captured the essence of the original but to fans of the original there could never be another Beetle.
The major difference between the modern and classic beetle is the engine is now conventionally located in the front. The modern engines suit the car quite well but the choice included most of the VAG range from a 1.4 through the 1.8T, 2.3 VR5 and the super quick 3.2RSi and a selection of Diesel engines.
So on to our Beetle tuning tips:-
The 1.6 and lower engines are sadly a waste of time from a tuning point of view if you are looking at the cost involved and the power gain they offer.
You always have the choice of doing an engine swap and there are plenty of suitable donor engines to choose from. Car Tuning Tips.com would focus on improving the handling and braking of these smaller engined models at least you will have a fun car that is enjoyable to drive. Handling is not too good on the standard models and they really benefit from a more sporty setup.
When it comes to tuning the NASP engines in the Beetle range, you will need to fit larger valves, get the head ported and polished (known as gas flowing) and have a 3 angle valve job done. Increasing the compression of the NASP engines will further maximise your power gains and finish this all up with a remap. If you want to take your NASP tuning further than blueprinting and balancing the engine will allow you to fully exploit the top end power and this will effectively raise the rev limit.
As with other cars in the VAG range the 1.8T 20v block is the one to have. Engine codes were APH,AVC,AWC,AWU,AWV,BKF,AUQ, AGU and AWP. There were subtle differences between the heads on these engines but essentially they are all pretty strong blocks and can easily be pushed to around 225bhp with a remap.
The 20V 1.8T engine was fitted with a KO3 turbo, which many regard as the weak spot. A better swap in option in the form of the KO3s or the even larger KO4 (which requires a few other mods to fit) will keep the power throughout the upper rev range without it tailing off early.
We would also recommend you fit a recirculating diverter valve (atmospheric DV's have been known to cause engine management issues) and we would also uprate the intercooler as the standard one suffers from heat soak quite quickly. The 1.8 Turbo engine has been used in a number of powerful applications and can cope with power figures of upto 300bhp on standard internals.
The NASP mods we have already suggested will all work well on the turbocharged engines and if you have the 20V head we strongly recommend you get the exhaust ports enlarged.
The VR5 is a real performer and with some head work, fast road cams and a remap you can extract another 20-30% of power from the engine. We love the sound of the VR5 and if you want a NASP Beetle tuning project this or the rare 3.2 RSi VR6 are the engines to have.
For the power mad you always have the option of fitting a supercharger or turbo to the NASP engines but think about the problems of detonation and premature ignition. Another easier option you may consider is adding nitrous injection kits, this alone can add 50bhp more power to your engine.
What other modifications?
Brake upgrades are popular. We have seen some Beetle owners using the larger brakes from the VR6 models along with a few Porsche brake conversions. Your choice depends largely on what will fit your hubs and sit behind your alloy wheels. You will obviously need to check the offset and clearance behind your alloys before purchasing a much larger brake kit.
A decent set of pads will make a big difference to your Beetles stopping power.
Handling mods are also worth considering for your Beetle, we would recommend that you get fully adjustable suspension kits (coilovers get pretty good reports from Beetle owners). Adjustable shocks mean you can set the car up to suit your driving style. If you are lowering the car then stick with a drop of 20-35mm depending on the standard drop already on your Beetle.
We suggest that if you want a bit more information on Beetle Tuning you consult the following sources. TorqueCars have a comprehensive Beetle tuning article and also a very active, friendly and helpful Beetle tuning forum.
If you have any tips to pass on please use our comments box below and we will update this article, after all we are all here to share knowledge. Please also let us know if we've missed out an engine or performance mod that you feel should be included in here.
Please use our forums if you wish to ask a tuning question, and please note we do not sell parts or services, we are just an online magazine.
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