Review: Unitronic Stage 2 DSG Tune

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Yep. Unitronic tuning on my APR K04 vehicle. While some might consider it an abomination to the vendor world and/or blasphemy, I consider it a blessing in disguise. My ultimate goal was to get a DSG tune that would fit my modding “philosophy” as well as justify its existance among the tuning world. We all know that DSG tuning is considered “optional” for K04, but with the hiccups of the stock tuning and the headaches that it can cause, when does “optional” become a need for functionality? Research time…..had begun.

I’ve made this debate for many many months now about which tuning I should choose, APR(still in development), HPA, and Unitronic. I read about every single FLASH imaginable. I read threads after threads of tuner bashing, vs. threads, and the occasional tuner debate every now and then. I came across 3 reviews that were worthwhile, GunMetalGTI, Davesxx01, and Plac’s (from Golfmk6.com). Overall, I probably soaked in about 1000 treads worth of information and came up with a wish list for my Stock software:

1) Eliminate all Low Speed quirks (False neutrals, slow reponse time, DSG lag from a stop, low gear choices, etc. etc.)
2) Jerky Manual downshifts
3) D-Mode shifting pattern with the new power band shift
4) Better gas mileage
5) Slipping from a D-Mode start
6) Braking downshift jerkiness in Manual mode

Those were some of many, but overall I wanted smoother transitions and a transmission that could actually think for itself rather than some logical predisposed notion already programmed by an engineer that could care less about an aftermarket K04 tune. This is where I had trouble determining whether it fit with my philosophy or not, but I knew one thing….The DSG HAD to be fixed

After narrowing it down to the companies that were actually available currently (HPA and UNI) I swayed heavily towards Unitronic since it was almost $300-$400 cheaper. I was then approached by Sales and John to answer my questions. I made up my mind and took the jump.

Process (Actually GETTING the tune)
It took a phone call to John and a local Shop here (Performance Engineering – Tommy) and I was all set to meet. I took my time, reading more Uni specific reviews until the day finally came.

I pulled in, plugged up, and quickly found my ECU type was not found during the initial scan. PROBLEM. I figured this was going to happen since I have a special ECU type and found out about it when I got flashed APR K04. No biggie though. Tommy just direct ported into my Mechatronic unit, copied the info UNI needed and sent it to John to create me a file with the latest revisions. By the next day, John was on top of things and sent my file to Tommy and I was ready to be flash. Customer service FTW.

When I got there, I was in and out in the matter of about 30mins. Mostly due to the fact Tommy had to click around UNI’s dealer site to get the right file. I was giddy pulling out of the shop and was soon on my 20mile trek back to my residence.

Both John and Tommy are stand up guys. I really appreciate everything they did for me and the time they took to help me out. Tommy went out of his way to make sure he got everything handled and even offered me some WMI down the road for a damn good price. I might take him up on the offer. John was there every step of the way whether it was a phone call or a text! UNI has great customer service in their hands.

How does it Perform?

I cant remember a time where I thought that the DSG actually knew what it was doing on the stock tuning. I’ve always had to live with this “compromise” that the DSG would always be clunky to some degree and make strange noises and bad shifts every so often. Needless, to say almost 90-97% of all issues I personally had with my DSG have been resolved with this tuning.

Shifts are amazingly smooth. On stock tuning, the shift would slightly move the vehicle(like any manual would) and you would continue on your WOT runs, now, you cant really even feel the shift. Its so smooth. So smooth in fact that they are actually quicker than stock shifts. How? Well, the actual movement of the gear probably hasnt changed, but the entire “process” is definitely shortened. From the exact time I push the paddle or move the shifter forward, almost instantly the exhaust CRACKS rather than PoP POP POP POP BAP BAP. Its a different feeling and a much more enjoyable experience. It sounds refined and a lot sportier.

The torque increase can ACTUALLY be felt. I dont know if its the all of the drivers training I’ve taken or my anal ability to pick up minor details, but there FEELS like there is additional mid-range torque. It pulls just a little harder, giving it that added “edge” +1 for UNI tuning.

The rev limiter is interesting. Actually HITTING the 7100RPM and seeing it on VAGCOM logs is really neat. It means, I’ve finally exhausted my entire rev band before shifting. However, in manual mode with the automated up-shift removed, you must be wary of this in order not to bounce off the limiter. Managed to do it when I was running logs

Kickdown button is totally removed in manual. Nothing really that I’ve had an issue with, but its definitely peace of mind knowing I can MASH the pedal and not have the car downshift 5 gears [/Exaggerate]

Rolling stops are finally bliss. No more worrying about DSG lag or what gear I’m in, or what gear the DSG might put me in. The TCU always knows where it wants to be and it seems to predict me and understand me a lot better. You can almost laugh at the low speed power you’ll have no. Making a quick stop then having to get back on the throttle again is laughable. BOOM Torque and power are there instantly. None of this “lag” or “too low of a gear” scenario. If it DOES think its in too low of a gear, it immediately down shifts and applies the power smoothly. Had this only happen once and barely noticed it.

When pulling away from a stop, the DSG no longer slips itself to provide a smooth transition. Normally, whenever this would happen, the turbo would still spool, thus, when the torque finally applied 100% the car would surge forward and leave me mashing the brake before hitting another vehicle. With the UNI tune, its more direct and lag has been eliminated, but the transition is smooth and it doesnt bog down and over rev. Its really really nice.

D-Mode is fun to drive in now. There are still some quirks about the boost control that get weird at times, but now the DSG wont shift up as fast as it can to reach 6th by 45mph. Now I can put around town while it HOLDS 4th or 5th gear!!!! NEVER has D-Mode HELD a gear for me. Its purely awesome.

S-Mode is insane. Same as stock, but with the low speed optimization and the 7100RPM rev limiter. K04 + Tuned S-Mode = HOLD ON TIGHT! Its scary fast. I lit the tires up constantly when I floored it. Gears still hold a little too long, but its S-Mode……put it in D if you’re not going to have fun with it. I think of it more like a track gear or a backroad blasting gear now. Truely awesome

Conclusion

Overall, I feel this is a GREAT compliment for the K04 if you’re DSG. Manual owners upgrade their clutches, why cant we upgrade our software? Point being, there’s only so far you can take the power outside of the original OEM spec before you realize that the stock DSG software just gets too confused with the new power and shifted rev band. The harmonious balance of car dynamics certainly play their part in this situation.

I 100% back this tune and will keep updating based on experiences. John@Unitronic is a great guy and will go far and wide to help people out

http://www.golfmk6.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43742

Unitronic’s TSI Tuning Page (Click on Stage 2 DSG): http://www.unitronic-chipped.com/ecu-tuning/Volkswagen-Golf-GTI-MK5-20L-TSI-2009-200hp

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