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VAGer Welcomes New Writers!

In the interest of providing more consistent and robust content, we are adding two writers to the VAGer team. Please join me in welcoming Amir and Brian.

Thanks guys and welcome aboard!

Clutch Masters FX 400 – 600 Mile Review Update

hit 600 miles this morning so it is time for an update.

Overall, I am even happier than I was 10 days ago. A few notes:

– It has quieted down even more. It still isn’t the right set-up for you if you want NO chatter, but as someone who frequently has individuals in the car that may complain about weird noises, it still works wonderfully. Noise is incredibly minimal.
– Its great in traffic. I have been driving manual for the better part of 15 years so once I got "the dance" down it became a dream. You have to be quick, but if you are quick and smooth its perfect. It reminds me of a slightly less aggressive version of the stock clutch on the Mazdaspeed 3. All that said, if you like the "lazy" feeling of the stock clutch, this might not be for you. You do have to be a bit more "present." not significantly, but a bit.
– As some of that 600 miles (probably about 1/3rd) was on the highway, I am waiting to really get on it for a while. That said, I did a couple rev matched downshifts today and they were amazing. Engine speed definitely doesn’t "hang" during shifts as much which makes rev matching super super easy. Additionally I think I was absolutely losing some power on the stock clutch even when I couldn’t feel it slipping.
– If you do as much traffic driving as I do I would strongly recommend the full face/8 puck. I wouldn’t want to drive the 6 puck in the traffic I face.

Clutchmasters FX400 8 Puck with Single Initial Review

Note that this is an INITIAL review. This will be updated every 500 miles until I hit 1,500 miles. I am doing it this way as the first 500 will be break in, the second 500 will be normal driving, then the third 500 will have a few enthusiastic drives in it. I drive about 400 miles a week, so stay tuned here over the next month for updates. This review is done at about 75 miles.

Why the FX400 8 Puck?

Choosing the clutch was the hardest part for me. I wanted something that would reliably hold K04 levels of power that was not a pain in the ass to drive in traffic. Additionally, noise was a bit of a concern as I needed something my wife wouldn’t complain about. In a sense, this isn’t asking a lot, but with the potential issue with SBC, my default "go to" was eliminated. After emailing manufactures, talking to other people, checking out other threads, I came to the conclusion that the FX400 8 puck was the best balance between holding power and driveability. In a sense, it balances it without making a compromise.

So how does it drive?

To put it simply; like a dream. My one complaint is that pedal feel is very similar (identical) to stock. Yes, this is an odd complaint, but I was hoping for a slightly firmer pedal. For many this is going to be perfect. Clutch engagement is significantly lower but is totally predictable. It is a bit of an on/off switch, but I am already accustomed to it. I was in heavy stop and go today and I didn’t have to think about it at all.

How does it sound?

For me there is really only one thing that matters with sound and that is the dreaded wife test. I have two methods of the wife test: 1) is to see if she complains about added noise over bluetooth and 2) is to see if she comments while in the car. The FX400 passes both with flying colors.

This is not to say it has NO added sound, as it has a bit. When coasting and RPMs are dropping you do get a bit of "BECAUSE RACECAR!" sound, but its not over powering at all. In fact, others likely won’t hear it. You have to be listening to it. The other factor to consider is chatter….


I know this is probably the biggest question hanging over your heads right now. Lets be clear. This is a SMF, so there WILL be some chatter. You already knew that. So the question is "how much?". To really answer this question we need to break it down into segments/situations.

1) In gear or clutch engaged: None. Seriously. None. Doesn’t matter if you are under load or not, if you are in gear or the clutch is engaged, it doesn’t chatter
2) Out of gear, AC off: EXTREMELY slight. If you are having a normal conversation with someone, or the radio is on juuusssstttt a bit, you will not hear it. You have to really listen for it.
3) Out of gear, AC on: Some. Obviously this is the classic shudder situation. You can hear it. You know what it is. It isn’t terrible. If you have the AC on and the fan is on two or above, the fan noise itself will drown most of it out. Radio on and its all gone. Honestly, just like engagement while driving in traffic, it became part of the noise of the world very rapidly.

If you are VERY sensitive to chatter, you might feel differently. That said, for the vast majority of us (and our significant others) this will be a non-issue.

Overall, initial impressions:

This is the perfect set up for me. Keeping the mature nature and refinement of the car has been of critical importance to me as I modified it. The FX400 meets need, perfectly. The slight noise is not nearly enough to impact your daily life. The biggest complaint I have right now is that I have to wait 500 miles to really get on it!

MK7 GTI Hits the Ring

The Golf MK7 is getting ever closer to its expected Paris debut, which means the MK7 GTI is not far behind. Proof positive of this are spy shots over at Carbuzz.com. I am always skeptical of what spy shots tell us of appearance. First, the camouflage does a surprisingly adequate job. Second, as we are likely still 8 months away from debut of the GTI, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fine points of the sheet metal are still not nailed down. Yet there is quite a bit we do know.

First, we know that the GTI will be getting a bit more power. With the current 2.0T TSI capable of putting down more power in other platforms, the bump is a no brainer for VW. Frankly it is a must with the way the market place is, right now. I would expect a final rating around 235 horsepower, with actual horsepower being slightly higher. Though it will be more than adequate for the vehicle, it makes me nervous to know that other manufactures are getting higher numbers into their marketing materials. In the end, as long as VW is high enough to get people to come and test drive it, the numbers won’t matter.

Second, we know that the GTI is losing weight. Possibly as much as a few hundred pounds.

Third, I would suspect, it will get a slightly more aggressive suspension. SLIGHTLY. Ride quality is still paramount, but there are a few things on the VW shelf that they can utilize that will improve the handling and lower the ride height while keeping comfort levels.

There is boatloads more that we DON’T know, but we will keep you up-to-date with anything we hear.

Oh, and to VW… I have no issue helping out if you need someone to test drive one once they start hitting our shores.

The Illusive VW Roadster

As you have likely heard by now, Porsche has cancelled plans for a two seat entry level sports coupe. As one that worries about dilution of the brand and mission creep, I think this is absolutely the right decision for Porsche. That said, this discussion has always included a Volkswagen version of the same vehicle. This has generally been presented as a badge engineering side between the two brands. Obviously this would have been a mistake.

Even as the Porsche product has been officially cancelled, there has been no word or rumor as to the fate of the VW sports coupe since the last discussion of the BlueSport roadster 5 or 6 months ago. Astute readers will note that a VW sports coupe already exists in the Scirocco, but that is not what was presented in this case. What has been rumored is a Mazda MX-5 style roadster. And I still think this is a possibility.

To be clear this is me in pure unadulterated and irresponsible speculation mode. Yet the IDEA of a VW Roadster really strikes me as one that makes sense. Sort of. First, one has to consider if there is a market for it. Second, one must consider if that market is large enough to offset development costs. As for the market, I firmly believe it does exist. Consider that the MX-5 has sold, consistently, for almost 25 years. Numbers, obviously, have dropped over the years but it is still the ultimate (and I make no apologies for that word) roadster. But this drop in numbers is exactly the opening that VW needs. The MX-5 sales are not dropping due to lack of interest for the type of vehicle, but simply because it is getting long in the tooth. VW can move into this segment with a global vision that Mazda simply can’t project.

Now, can it be profitable? I think this is a resounding yes. The platform essentially already exists. Take the GTI Cabriolet, change the sheet metal, trim some weight (ok, trim substantial weight), and you are there. Obviously, I am over simplifying this, greatly. But the path forward exists. Additionally, it is likely that it could come in BELOW the MX-5 in price.

There is still one barrier to being truly competitive, handling. The dynamics of the MX-5 are beyond reproach. If VW were to take the "quick and easy way" of design, detailed above, they have to teach a front wheel drive to compete with one of the best rear wheel drive vehicles on the market. The loss of Porsche being part of this equation means the loss of expertise and available engineering. Designing this project from scratch makes it significantly more expensive and really requires it being a hit in China to make the economics argument work.

So where does this leave us? Nowhere. Not only do we not know if it is still on the table, we don’t know if it even makes sense.to the accountants and engineers. Do we hope it comes? You tell me. I do.

Writers Wanted!

I have realized that one of the ways to turn this blog from "occasionally entertaining" into a truly useful resource is by providing more information. In an effort to provide that, we need more writers.

As you know, we have no advertising on this site and as such produce no income . As a result, writers would be paid in gratitude and well wishes. If you are interested, please email me via the submission link with your name, a bit about you and your car, your forum handle/where you post (if you have one and do post), and a brief demo article (250 – 300 words) about a current VAG/PAG issue.

Thanks for reading, thanks for contributing, and thanks for being a member of the community.

Mission Creep

Mission Creep is like getting involved in a land war in Asia. You will spend all your money, be bogged down for year, and will have to leave discredited with nothing to show for it. Porsche is on the verge of becoming the biggest offender of mission creep.

Say hello to the Porsche Korean Scallion Pancake… seriously.

Yes, the name for the rumored new entry into the Porsche line-up is Korean Scallion Pancake. Ok… the name is Pajun, but that is what Pajun translates to.

Unfortuantely, I do not see the name as the biggest issue with the vehicle. The issue I have is that the vehicle exists. I know its tried and true territory to say that Porsche shouldn’t be entering in the X market (use whatever you would like for X). I also know they have been profitable in these areas. That said, the purist in me still has difficulty with this new reality.

As long as Porsche doesn’t find itself broke and alone, more power to them. As a purist I might not love it, but as a realist I understand.

An Open Letter to The VAG Community Tuners

I want to open with a few things. First, let me say, I love you all. Seriously. I have spoken with many of you on the phone, met some of you in person, and emailed with all of the rest of you. On a personal level I find all of you to be great, kind, and entertaining people. You have all taught me wonderful things, and my knowledge level of these vehicles, tuning, and their potential would simply not exist without your help. I would still be a neophyte lost in the woods without all of you. The goal of this is not to call anyone out (there isn’t a need), complain about the state of the industry (can’t complain about something that I think is very strong), or ruffle feathers, but rather to reintroduce you to your customer and to speak for them, as one. Though the below are targeted at the VAG world tuners, the issues I call out are universal to all automotive tuning cultures. None of it is unique to us.

I have frequently had the opportunity to “peak behind the curtain” and see what is typically hidden from customers. Of note, the interaction between tuners, as of late, seems to be getting uglier. Obviously there are some things going on in the industry that would cause this tumult, but I see it spreading to parties not involved. Its concerning. Its a cancer. To stop it, a few initial steps must be taken. First, you have to admit you have a problem (you almost certainly do) and, second, you have to treat the problem. One way to do this is to change how you talk about your competitors and how you relate to them. For this, I propose suggestion number one:

Continue reading

Unibrace UB. Over Performing, Under Your Car.

For a little over a year I have had the pleasure of running a Unibrace XB on my GTI. The XB continues to be one of my favorite mods to date. The install took a bit of time, but every moment has now paid off (its not difficult, just take your time to do it right). Not only is it a wonderful part, but its always refreshing to work with a wonderful small business owner, like Bruce.

On Friday, my Unibrace UB arrived.

One thing you will notice about any Unibrace product you order is the design. Its beautiful enough to be a piece of modern art, but clearly designed with function in mine. Think of an Apple product, form follows function, but it is still highly important. Build quality is top notch, and its clear that both will last for the long haul. As I didn’t want to crawl around on wet pavement, I took my UB to my local mechanic for the 5 minute bolt up. He too commented on the design and build quality. Though it would look great in my basement, mounted behind my bar, that is not what the Unibrace UB is for. The Unibrace is intended to stiffen the vehicle, and that is exactly what it does.

One of my complaints about the GTI from day one has been the numbness from the corners. In stock form, loads are transferred wonderfully and predictable (something that is only improved with a slight increase in sway bar size and spring aggressiveness) but though you KNOW where they are at any given time, and they will react exactly as predicted, they are woefully under communicated. Previously, I thought that this was intentionally designed to provide for ride quality. Now I confident that is not the case. This lack of communication is a result of the underbody not being appropriately "linked."

The addition of the Unibrace UB has not only eliminated body flex, but has allowed for you to be able to FEEL how the suspension is reacting in any given situation. I want to be clear, this is not a negative for ride quality, if anything it improves it. But, as stated, the feel for specifically what corner is loaded and how weight is transferring (both laterally and fore/aft) is an amazing feeling.

In a coming post I will be discussing modifying on a budget, but the Unibrace UB and XB will be close to the top of the list.