TDI Gen. 3 Tuning Options

The EA288 engine launched in North America in 2015 was a big step forward for VW. Water to air intercooler, more durable fuel system, 10 HP power increase, and the introduction of Adblue for Jetta/Golf/Beetle resulted in significantly better fuel economy. But as everyone knows, emissions weren’t to EPA standards and, well, the rest is Dieselgate history.

But they’re back! With new emissions thresholds and an ECU reflash, both new leftover and bought back ’15 Jetta, Golf, Sportwagen, Beetle, and Passats are available for sale. VW has prepared owners for the fix by stating that the car may be noisier, power delivery may be different, but overall power and fuel economy should be unchanged.

Driver feedback has varied. Many report that indeed the cars do drive similarly pre- and post fix, but others complain about a lack of power at low speeds and less of the diesel torque that got many of us driving diesels in the first place. And since TDI drivers are notorious for not leaving well enough alone, tuners have stepped up and are offering tunes for the EA288 engine.

Tuning & Emissions

Let’s get this out of the way: the tunes we’ve experienced should pass emissions tests in all 50 states. However, most tuners warn that if you plan to take your car back to the dealer for warranty work or the emissions update in a year or two, you should have the ecu flashed back to stock first.

Our Testing

We tested the Rocketchip Stage 2 Tune in both a stick shift and DSG transmisison 2015 TDI.

  • Stage 2 Projected Power Numbers: +30 HP & +75 lb-ft.  (final output of 180 HP & 311 lb-ft)

Like most modern common-rail diesels, the chip tuning really brings the car alive.  The dead-spot at low-RPMs has been completely eliminated and replaced with typically strong diesel-pull.

On the manual transmission vehicle this is most noticeable on the highway, where there is enough power in 6th gear that it nearly eliminates the need to ever downshift.
The DSG car shows equal power increases and dramatically improved response, especially at lower speeds.

DSG Transmission Tune

We also got the DSG transmission flashed.  We found the quick 1-2 shift on the DSG stock programming to be extremely frustrating, and the tune will hold 1st gear longer and be more willing to hold gears in higher RPMs when requested.

Fuel Economy

Neither car has enough post-tune miles to evaluate changes in fuel economy, but early results on the MFD show no change, once we got past having fun with the new power.  This is in line with our previous experience with chip tuning common-rail cars – more power without any loss in efficiency.

Is Tuning For You?

Overall, outside of the cost of the tune & potential warranty questions there are no downsides to a mild tune such as this Stage 2 tune.  The power increases, while significant, at this level are not enough to add undue stress to the powertrain components.  We think everyone benefits from a Stage 1 or 2 tune.  Higher tuning levels, however, will start incurring additional risk for engine wear.  Therefore, we recommend Stage 1 or 2 level tunes for most drivers.

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