Long term review of stability control defeated Mk6 GTI
My setup: turbo back exhaust, intake, rear sway bar, 225/40/18 Hankook ventus V12s
I started out intending to compare the GTI with stability control enabled, to the GTI with stability control defeated. I wanted to do a very good job writing it up, and over the time that I was working on this write up I came to the realization that, for me at least, there is no comparison.
My last car, an automatic rx8, was alleged to make around 200hp, and the torque converter made the barely positive torque figure disappear. While the chassis was brilliant and a standard transmission mated to the dorito powered engine transformed the car into a beautiful package, the automatic variant I was stuck with seemed to have negative torque and short of 5000 rpm the power seemed inexistent. Because my car definitively lacked the power to get me into trouble, I removed the ABS fuse, and ran the car without ABS, traction control, or stability control. Combined with a set of tires that, after a month or two's worth of weekly 30 minute parking lot first gear drift sessions, were well beyond the legal tread depth, the rx8 could only be considered predictable if you predicted the back end to walk out every time you oversped a turn, which was every time I could. It was this nature of the car that made me love it. I loved that the car kept me on my toes, and when I sold the rx8 and got the GTI, the inability to disable the stability control was the thing that drove me most insane. After throwing my car into a cautionary 35 cloverleaf at 70 in the wet with traction off, and almost understeering into the guard rail because the car wouldn't let me rotate it enough to make the turn, I decided I had to do something about the stability control.
I researched as much as I could and learned, that by disabling the steering wheel angle sensor, under the steering assist module using VCDS, it was possible to defeat stability control though at the cost of disabling VW's XDS system which is supposed to mimic an LSD by using the brakes to keep the inside front wheel that would otherwise spin from spinning. For me the choice was easy, and I gladly gave up the fake LSD for the ability to oversteer.
I suppose an explanation of my driving style would help clarify quite a bit. I tend to approach corners with a kamikaze state of mind. I love to scrub speed as late as I possibly can, and when I'm deciding a safe corner entry speed, I usually double the cautionary and then add 15-20mph to it. Half of the time I don't sufficiently scrub speed, and wind up coming into the turn too hot. When I do, I lift off throttle to induce enough rotation to pull the front end in towards the apex, and if that doesn't work, I breathe on the brakes a little bit.
With the traction control turned off, but stability control on, the GTIs computers did a brilliant job of allowing the car to rotate just enough to keep you from understeering off the road. They also did a great job of making you think that they're letting you rotate the car. The car felt lively for the most part, and handled turns well. I honestly liked how the car drove with stability control on, I just wanted it to rotate a little more. Most people who's views I've read on the forum insist that the GTI's stability control is one of the best systems out there, and that it really doesn't interfere even on track. I can attest that if you leave it on, drop enough speed, turn in, and roll onto the throttle on apex, the stability control doesn't really hurt that much, and it feels as if its not interfering at all. But the system interferes a lot more than you perceive it to.
I honestly expected the handling to remain mostly the same when I disabled stability control. I didn't realize how much of an impact the stability control had on the way the car handled a turn even if taken only moderately fast. With the stability control defeated the car is more confidence inspiring to me. Not only do I know that the car isn't going decide that its safer to make me understeer off course, but I can also tell just how much the stability control was interfering where I didn't realize it was. The handling of the car feels incredibly analog. I can feel how every minute input, steering, braking, and throttle affects the car mid turn, much more so than when stability was on. It does't just oversteer more, it understeers more too, but I like that. With the stability control defeated, the car has made me a better driver. If I make an input that causes the car to understeer, the stability control doesn't interfere, and the XDS doesn't solve my problems, I have to correct my mistakes on my own. If I enter a turn too hot and trail brake as I turn into the apex, the back of the car will step out, and I have to roll into the throttle slowly to correct this.
While it might not be the safest or smartest thing to always have stability control defeated, I ran without it for 6 months, of which 4 months were spent on nearly corded and then corded rear tires. I will admit that you have to be completely focused on driving and fully expect the car to be a handful if you overdrive it, but I wouldn't have it any other way. For the first six months of owning my car, before I disabled stability control, I was fairly hard on my tires, but I was very hard on the rear brakes. With the stability control defeated, the brakes last longer, but the tires are abused more. In the 6 month time that I ran with stability off, I never spun my car, though I came close once, when I entered a turn I know I can take at 60 at 80 and with cold tires, 40 degree evening with summer tires, corded in the back. I decided about a week ago that I would reenable stability control to preserve my new tires, but after one week of driving with stability control on, I had to turn it back off. To me, the car is a completely different animal with stability control disabled, and I personally much prefer it off. It's probably not for everyone, but I think every GTI owner should at least experience their car with the stability control defeated once.