We join the owner of a VW Golf 2.0 TDI who challenges Paramount Performance to tune his car for performance, as well to gain a few more miles per gallon. A tall order? Ian Robertson finds out.
I think it would be safe to say that Diesel Car reader Danny Watt is a bit of a car nut. Not only does he sell them for a living, but until recently, his dad owned a workshop that customised American cars. Danny’s car history has been varied to say the least – starting out with a Ford Fiesta when he was 18, through a Citroën AX, Golf GTI, an MG ZR 160, SEAT Leon Cupra, and ending up with his current car, which he shares with his wife, Jo.
It’s a 2007 Volkswagen Golf 2.0-litre TDI, with 138bhp and in GT Sport trim. Danny told Diesel Car: “Having found out that Jo was pregnant, we decided that the Leon Cupra had to go because of the high fuel costs.” After a few months with a troublesome Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI, the Watt family got their money back on that car and started searching for a replacement. They had set their hearts on a Volkswagen Golf, but it had to be sporty looking and at the right price and mileage. “You wouldn’t believe how difficult it was to locate a suitable car. In the end, I found a car up in Preston, at a Volkswagen dealer, and agreed to buy it without even viewing it,” Danny recalled. But the snow fall last December put pay to rushing up to get it straight away, and had to play a waiting game while the country thawed out. Thankfully, once the snow had gone and he could get to pick it up, it was exactly as the dealer had described it.
But after six months with the Golf in standard guise, Danny’s promise to his wife that he wouldn’t spend big money customising his car was set to be broken. “I like the way the car drives and feels, but would like it to be a bit more responsive, with a bit more power, but I don’t really want to lose any of the fuel economy,” Danny said. A brim to brim check over 420 miles and the Golf is returning a figure of 47.6mpg in mixed motoring, so the gauntlet was thrown down to see what improvements could be achieved.
Danny started by looking on the internet to find out what kind of results he could expect, and narrowed it down to a few companies that seemed reputable. After quizzing three on the telephone, Danny plumped for Paramount Tuning, based in Slough, Berkshire, at a cost of £350 plus the VAT. Location was as important as professionalism, as driving 250 miles to a tuner would defeat the object in trying to save more fuel and, being a sceptic, if something went wrong, it would be an expensive round trip to get it put right.
Paramount Tuning is based on an urban industrial estate, slap bang between the M40 and M4 motorways. Tucked down a busy road, you can’t fail to see the workshop, thanks to prominent signs. We were greeted by Greg, who runs the operations side of things, and Dan and Ryan – the technicians who work their magic on the cars. It’s clear after just a few moments that a passion for cars runs through each of their veins, with each recounting stories of other significant cars that have been worked on at Paramount’s workshop. The company started out modifying fast Jaguars and has expanded significantly to cover all types of cars that respond well to electronic tuning. But not only that, Paramount offers a full one-stop service to customers that want to get the very best out of their cars, and even offer suspension and brake upgrades and replacement exhausts.
It was time to bring the Golf into the workshop, and that meant putting it on the rolling road, strapping down the car to stop it going anywhere, and placing large circular fans ahead of the car to make sure that the cooling was sufficient. With everything ready to go, Dan and Ryan needed to ascertain how the car was performing now, before they made any modifications, and after a few high revving runs, the figures were in. At that point, a drum roll couldn’t even have added to the suspense, and after double checking the figures, Danny was asked if the car had ever been tuned previously. It hadn’t as far as he was aware, and after a few checks, it was established that it was still running Volkswagen’s own mapping, so hadn’t been breathed upon before. Therefore, the figures had to be good, and they were – the Golf 2.0 TDI was running 161.4bhp as standard and 272lb ft of torque. That’s a tremendous improvement on the standard figures of 138bhp and 236lb ft (up 23.4bhp and 36lb ft), though on the down side it would make life more difficult for Dan and Ryan who were trying to gain a significant improvement.
Now that the benchmark had been set, the original mapping was downloaded to a laptop computer for safe keeping and the expert tuners could set about creating a map that would give Danny a useful increase in power to improve driveability, as well as satisfying his desire to gain a few extra miles per gallon. A few more high revving runs and it was time to test the results on the rolling road. More tension as the technician’s frowns turned to smiles, as they were able to announce that the maximum power figures were now 182bhp, together with 293lb ft of torque. Certainly a useful 21bhp and 21lb ft increase on the car’s original results, and a massive 44bhp and 57lb ft increase compared to Volkswagen’s officially published figures.
But the proof in the pudding is most definitely in the eating, and the grin on Danny’s face was all that was needed to prove that he was a satisfied customer. “It pulls much more cleanly in sixth gear from 2,000rpm than it did before,” and “there’s no flat spots at all” were just a couple of Danny’s initial impressions. Responsiveness had improved enormously and where you would often need to change down a gear to make progress, it was no longer necessary to do so. So the improved performance box could certainly be ticked, but what about fuel economy? Initial tests reported a fuel economy figure of 54.6mpg when driven normally, which is a significant improvement on the 47.6mpg achieved before. But despite Danny saying that he wouldn’t be making use of that extra power and would still drive in the same way, that promise was shortlived, and he’s making the most of the extra oomph that the Golf now has.
Thanks to Paramount Performance, STS House, Stoke Gardens, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 3QB. Telephone: 01753 533633