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Twice the Power, 51mpg: VW Jetta Diesel Mods

Known for their efficiency, simplicity and durability, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI’s produced from ’99-’03 (part of the MK4, fourth-generation cars built from ’99-‘06) are arguably the most fuel-efficient, diesel-powered sedans the German automaker ever produced. Known for its mechanical simplicity, the ALH 1.9L four-cylinder oil burner features a 2-valve cylinder head, a Bosch rotary injection pump that feeds conventional, pop-off style injectors and a vacuum-actuated variable geometry turbocharger. Adding to the ALH Jetta TDI’s tremendous fuel-sipping capability is the fact that it weighs less than 3,000 pounds. However, with just 90 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque available at the crank, these cars feel anything but light on their feet.

What to do? Luckily, a vibrant aftermarket exists for TDI’s. In fact, over the past 15-20 years of playing with these cars, so many parts combinations have been tested that—for all intents and purposes—ALH Jetta performance has been nailed down to a science. From high-flow injector nozzles to drop-in turbo upgrades and performance camshafts to custom tuning, everything is available for them. As icing on the cake, if you can manage to limit the travel of your right foot, these power adders won’t even cause a drop in fuel economy. Below, we’ll explore some of the most proven aftermarket parts available for these loveable little TDI’s.

Plug-and-Play, 30HP Gains

The quickest, easiest way to wake up the ALH 1.9L TDI diesel in ’99-’03 Jettas is to reprogram the ECU. Big names in the tuning game for these cars are Kerma TDI, Malone Tuning, Rocket Chip Performance and TD Tuning. The general consensus on gains with the stock injectors and turbo still in the mix is 25 to 30 hp, but in our own chassis dyno experience we’ve seen a 33hp gain using Kerma TDI’s tuning, made possible via the company’s Q-Loader programmer.

5-Star Tuning

Malone Tuning is highly respected in the tuning realm, with solid power gains accompanied by great drivability (low smoke, linear throttle, etc.) and what is said to be the best customer support in the business. In addition to waking up Jetta TDI’s, Malone offers optional calibrations that can bump up the factory engine idle to reduce vibrations associated with stiff aftermarket motor mounts (a common upgrade), a file that increases glow plug duration for easier winter start ups and a launch control tune for when automatic transmission cars visit the track.

Milder Injector Upgrades

By far, the combination of adding larger nozzles with a corresponding ECU tweak is hands down the biggest bang-for-your-buck pair of mods in the ALH Jetta world. A good entry-level nozzle upgrade offered by Kerma TDI is the Bosio DLC 520, which offers a cleaner burn, a 15-20 hp gain, and can even increase fuel efficiency. A more moderate nozzle upgrade (also from Kerma TDI) is the DLC 1019 nozzle, which can yield as much as 60 additional horsepower (at the wheels) and 110 lb-ft over stock with the factory turbo still feeding the engine.

Going Even Bigger

For folks looking to push their TDI into 200whp territory, Kerma TDI offers a complete power package that includes its DLC Race 520 nozzles, VNT-17 Plus turbocharger, 3 bar MAP sensor (more on that below), ARP head studs and a Colt Cams Stage 2 camshaft with lifters. To keep EGT cool and the clutch from slipping, Kerma TDI also throws in a side-mounted intercooler and a Stage 3 Endurance clutch kit from South Bend. A second injector nozzle option, the popular PP764 nozzle, also offers a path to 180whp or more.

Euro-spec Turbo

Found on the 150hp European version of the 1.9L engine, the Garrett VNT-17 has long been a popular turbo upgrade for state-side Jetta TDI’s. Not only does it provide a path to more power, but it’s been vetted time and again and shown to be one of the most reliable turbochargers in the Jetta segment—even more reliable than the factory VNT-15 while making more boost. It can support more than 160whp with the right injector nozzle upgrade in the mix. Another common option is a hybrid of the VNT-17 known as the 17/22, which is a VNT-17 fitted with the larger compressor from a VNT-20 and that can handle 190whp with a good combination of nozzles and tuning.

The BorgWarner BV39

This little gem has been around for more than six years now. It’s the BV39B from BorgWarner (coined the S7 by Kerma TDI), can support up to 180whp and in excess of 330 lb-ft. The BV39B sports a billet compressor wheel with a 34.5mm inducer (vs. 33mm on the stock VNT-15) and spools approximately 300 rpm sooner than the aforementioned VNT-17. In conjunction with DLC 1019 nozzles and custom tuning, we’ve seen the BV39B support twice the factory torque rating and a 75-percent increase in horsepower without sacrificing any drivability, fuel economy or engine longevity (the car is still running the exact same, six years after the build).

Raising the [MAP Sensor] Bar

Any time you upgrade the turbo on a ’99-’03 Jetta TDI, a higher pressure MAP sensor is a good idea to get maximum performance out of it. When retaining the factory overboost protection functionality, the OEM 2.5-bar MAP sensor will only allow you to make 16-18 psi of boost. With the 3-bar MAP sensor in the mix, roughly 23 psi of boost can be seen. Beyond that, Malone Tuning offers a Bosch 4-bar MAP sensor for even higher boost potential. It’s recommended that a specific ECU tune be written when upgrading MAP sensors, not only to optimize power but also to keep your turbo safe.

11mm Injection Pump

While it can be cost-prohibitive for those on tighter performance budgets, the 11mm injection pumps used on automatic transmission cars makes for a great little factory upgrade for manual transmission Jetta owners. For reference, the factory Bosch pump on manual transmission Jettas is a 10mm version. In addition to the increased volume its 11mm head provides over the 10mm head, the 11mm pump produces a peak injection pressure of 19,000 psi vs. 16,500 psi on the 10mm unit. This means better atomization, which in theory equates to more power, in addition to a cleaner, more complete in-cylinder burn.

Holding Power: South Bend Clutch

With the 02J five-speed manual being a much more reliable option than the four-speed 01M automatic offered in the ’99-’03 Jetta TDI’s, most enthusiasts row their own gears. However, as soon as the first nozzle upgrade is performed the OEM clutch can begin to slip. To harness any amount of power the 1.9L engine can turn out, South Bend offers seven different clutch upgrades. The company builds a Stage 2 Daily that can handle up to 325 lb-ft of torque, a Stage 2 Endurance that’s good for 350 lb-ft and a Stage 2 Drag unit rated for 390 lb-ft. South Bend’s Stage 3 line features a Daily that can hold 400 lb-ft, an Endurance rated for 425 lb-ft and a Drag version capable of harnessing 510 lb-ft. For all-out racing, its Stage 4 Extreme clutch is rated for more than 525 lb-ft. All South Bend clutches come with its 22.5-pound single mass flywheel and new crank bolts.

Colt Cams

Both drop-in replacement camshafts and custom, race-ready versions are available from Colt Cams. The company’s Stage 2 cam, as tested by Malone Tuning, provided a 100-degree F reduction in EGT (exhaust gas temperature) at highway cruising speed, which is fairly impressive. Malone also reported that it took longer to reach their 1,500-degree peak EGT threshold during instances of prolonged acceleration. For cars with larger turbochargers and big injectors, Colt Cam’s Stage 3 cam helps maximize high rpm power and is also a drop-in unit, although it does require some massaging of the lifter bowl in the cam’s nose area.

Is the ALH’s Mileage Really Unaffected by Mods?

Our high mark so far with our own ’03 Jetta TDI has been 51.6 mpg. It’s graced with a set of balanced Stage 1 injectors from Kerma TDI fitted with Bosio DLC 520 nozzles, Kerma TDI’s custom ECU calibration to match the injectors and South Bend Clutch’s Stage 2 Daily clutch. The VW might only make 120 hp at the front wheels (up from 72hp stock!), but the 250 lb-ft of torque that’s on tap at low rpm makes passing cars in fifth gear positively effortless. Despite these mods, the car gets the same 49-mpg average it did when we picked it up in bone-stock form four years ago.

Still Alive in a Post-Dieselgate World

Although Dieselgate did a number on TDI enthusiasm, the ALH-powered Jettas (which weren’t implemented in the colossal emissions scandal) still enjoy a loyal following. In fact, up until a couple years ago the annual TDI Fest would draw dozens of customized versions out of the woodwork. Regardless of whether or not there is a resurgence in diesel-centric VW car shows, the reliable, simplistic and fuel-efficient ’99-’03 Jettas will continue to be sought after by commuters, enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Need a real life example of turning up the wick on an ALH TDI? Check out the 120whp recipe we treated our own ’03 Jetta to right here.


Thread: Malone Tuning

QuoteOriginally Posted by canadianA4B7View Post

gotcha thanx im including some of this in the email going out to him tonite!! i was a bit concerned of the whold "no real world gains" there are a few vids of some dyno runs but really whats a dyno run on an uncalibrated dyno anyway right. for all i know the machine could be 100years old and beat up to a point where a Pony would have 4000 HP LOL. cool thanx for the info then. If he offers it up for free he would have to butter up the deal with "free engine/turbo replacement" over the next 20 years or so. im seeing what yer getting at maybe new but little to back up his claims. and well as for others clearly theres prolly 80% or more of the ppl on here have tuned with high end tunes like APR and GIAC and others. Ill have to look more into the APR and competitors, id like to be able to just pay them directly myself and load my own tunes. as well Pfaff tells me that once they flash and reload, it does not matter any other mods i do to the car it will work the same regardless. hows that so? if i go and throw in new injectors, or meth kit wont i need to get it reflashed?

Some tunes adapt to new mods. For example, if you suddenly increase your flow, the tune sees this and adapts to it. Could be the same with fuel delivery, etc.

Basically, I'd point out to him:

1) You're relatively unknown in the market yet you charge market prices
2) You have no 1/4 mile proof on your website or from any other buyers. There's more to just peak hp numbers on an unknown dyno.
3) You aren't providing any value-added features like some of your competitors (such as valet mode, stock mode, 91 octane mode, 93 octane mode, launch assist and so forth).
4) I haven't read any in-depth review of your tune other than tiny little testimonials that don't say much. I don't know if you've made any changes to drivability, shifting, throttle response, etc. which means I don't know if I'll like it.

With those 4 points in mind, I would be willing to "test" your tune for a certain period of time we both agree on (long enough to properly get a feel for it but not so long that it seems abusive) for free. If I end up liking it, I'll buy it at a heavily discounted price and in return, I'll continue to spread your tune throughout the online forums and at meets, etc. (in other words, something you'd probably normally do anyway if you happen to like a product that you bought). If I don't like it, I'll return the tune and we go our separate ways and no one's lost anything.

If you do end up with the tune, try and compare it with other tunes for the same car (ask if you can test-drive someone else's car with them in it and offer to have them test drive yours so you guys can compare. It's a win-win). Too often, I see people raving about a shitty tune because it's better than stock, all the while, not knowing how shitty it is because they've never tested a better one.
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I recently picked up a 35d and immediately began researching ECU tunes. I decided to go with the Malone Tuning Stage 1 tune (, mostly because they can provide an Alientech tablet to flash the tune yourself from the OBDII port, and can easily be flashed back to stock at anytime.

The tune is also available from a network of dealers who can OBDII or bench flash your DDE as well. I reached out to a few local dealers, and was told they charge the same as is quoted on the Malone website.

Malone Tuning is based in Canada and has a long history of DDE tuning, especially with VW TDIs. They have a very good reputation on the VW tuning forums, and I liked how the specialized in diesel tuning.

Other alternatives include DUDMDand BPC. My understanding is that most are quite similar in terms of performance (at least at Stage 1), so it's entirely up to you.

The Malone Stage 1 tune is estimated to increase output from 255 hp/413 ft/lbs stock to 340 hp/510 ft/lbs with the tune (an increase of 85 hp and 97 ft/lbs of torque!). Unfortunately, they don't have any dyno results for the N57 up on their site currently, but based on their reputation I have no reason to doubt their claims.

The ordering process from Malone Tuning was pretty straight forward. I emailed them a few questions and provide my vehicle info, and they responded back quickly. After I decided on the tune, they sent me a PayPal invoice to cover the cost of the FlashZilla v3tuning module and the Stage 1 tune, and shipped it quickly via Priority Mail.

FlashZilla v3: $180+$15 shipping
Stage 1 Tune: $749
Total: $944

The FlashZilla v3 was very similar to other ECU tuning tablets I've used before (as I'm sure most are made by Alientech). The box includes the FlashZilla, a USB cable to upload and download updates from your computer, and an OBDII cable for connecting to you car.

I downloaded the FlashZilla softwarefrom Malone and made sure the tablet was up to date, then took it out to the X5 to read the ECU. I had to contact support to confirm I was selecting the correct ECU as there is no entry for the US model xDrive35d, but they responded via email almost immediately and told me to select xDrive30d (eg the EU model where the model number actually reflects the displacement). For reference, you want to select this engine/ECU:
xDrive30d 8AT, N57D30O1, EDC17C56

Before starting, I had the car hooked up to a battery charger and had the car on (press start button without foot on gas) without the engine running, and shut off the lights, radio, and climate control. In hindsight this wasn't really necessary for the reading step since it was so quick. Reading the stock ECU took about 30 seconds, at which point a file is stored on the device. You then connect it to your computer again, download the file, and email it to Malone.

I received the Stage 1 tune file back a few hours later and uploaded it to the FlashZilla.

In preparation for flashing, I again connected the battery charger and turned off all accessories. The FlashZilla also instructs you to buckle the drivers seat belt and turn on the hazards during the flashing procedure, presumably to prevent the car from going to sleep.

The flashing process took about 20 mins total, with the FlashZilla displaying a status bar along with alternating messages of "erasing flash memory" and "writing flash memory" along the way. A number of warning messages popped up on the iDrive during the procedure, but these are normal. After the flash was completed, the FlashZilla instructs you to turn off the car and disconnect the device. I then let the car sit for a few minutes while I disconnected the charger, then took it for a test drive.

There were no error messages or CELs when I started the car, and no stored codes.

Around town the low end torque/acceleration seems smoother, but the tune really shines on the highway when you get higher in the rev range. The engine just keeps pulling when you accelerate onto the highway, and is a nice improvement over stock where the initial torque was good but seemed to run out of steam as the revs increased.

It may be my imagination, but it seems to be getting quicker the more I drive it. Maybe the engine is re-learning some adaptations?

At this point, Malone only offers a Stage 1 tune for the N57, but I feel it is plenty for my current needs. It's a nice bump in HP and torque over stock, and should have a minimal impact on reliability. I'm also wondering if I'll see any increase in fuel economy due to the increase in torque (eg whether the engine being able to stay in higher gear will offset the slightly increased fuel usage needed to generate the increased power).

Overall, I'm quite happy with the tune. The guys at Malone were very responsive to my questions and provided great support, and the convenience of flashing the DDE yourself in your driveway on your own schedule is great. You can also easily flash back to stock at anytime if necessary. I'll try to provide some updates as I have more time with it.

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them!

Edit to add: I received no compensation for this review and have no relationship with Malone Tuning or any other tuner/manufacturer. Just a satisfied customer

Last edited by InsipidMonkey; 06-12-2019 at 10:06 AM..


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About Kerma TDI

Welcome to Kermatdi! KermaTDI is the combined effort of a group of really bright and enthusiastic people who are passionate about the turbo diesel market.

Headquartered in Colorado, we first made our name by introducing nozzle upgrades to the diesel world in 2002 more than a decade ago and focused our resources on Turbo Diesel Innovation. By so doing, we started an entirely new automotive performance niche. The existence of more powerful fuel injectors drives the need for supporting components, such as turbos, camshafts, and clutch upgrades, and of course ECU tuning to tie it all together. After over a decade of supporting the turbo diesel community we remain the premier vw/audi diesel performance part provider, and a primary innovation center, driving many aspects of diesel performance trends worldwide.

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Late last year I had to say goodbye to a possession which I thought ...was just something that had caused me untold amounts of frustration, grief, guilt and embarrassment, not to mention something that cost me tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds and hundreds of hours of my time.. Ten years passed by before I finally saw my 1996 Audi A4 Quattro 1.8T project completed to a level I deemed somewhat acceptable. I only had the pleasure of driving it maybe twice since it had finally had all the issues ironed out. Having enough funds to continue on with the work was often an issue which contributed to the protracted process and lengthy timeline and although I was tempted to set fire to it or push it off the side of Mt Tambourine so many times, I never gave up the fight to finish what was part of my dream as a young man. The selling of this labour of love was something that was forced on me and was very much bitter sweet but it wasn’t the money I spent or lost that hurt, it was my time and energy. When the young buyer drove it away, it felt like a piece of me went and I realised how nothing is ever lost and that even material physical objects can embody part of our energy and intentions. I would like to thank the following people for their help along the way, Adam from VA Garage, Scott from Imparts Gold Coast, Matt from Race Paints, Charlie Eid from Charlie’s Paint and Panel, Danny Sinsua, KJM Euro Parts, Craig from Extreme Custom Engineering, Ironstar Engineering, Unicorn Motor Developments, Malone Tuning Ltd. Mathew from PITS, Paul Demetre from Gold Coast Car Sound, the spares guys @ Audi and VW Gold Coast, Nathan Cooper (we got that sump plug out in the end! RIP), the guy who did the fuel system (I’m sorry it has been so long since then!) Kelvin Tierney for all the tows and Matt 'Budge' Burgess for his amazing detailing skills. If this car was to be in honour of someone it would be my son, Ethan. I will never give up on you no matter what it costs or how long it takes to have you in my life again. I don’t have the before photo on me right now but will add it and a few others when I can but thought I would post this while I can make the time, been meaning to for 6 months now..See More


Before implementing this feature into Malone software, Mark had done a lot of market research. He saw  European industrial TDI engines with a fixed 1250 RPM idle and peaked their interest about if elevated idle would possibly shorten the warm-up period however without consuming more fuel with high idle on all the time, especially if the engine is already warmed up. Enter the dynamic idle tune:

The idle also will return to stock if ~12 minutes has been reached, regardless of coolant temperature. If the car starts up with the coolant temperature already at 60C+ (140F+), the idle RPM will immediately be stock. Two Birds, one stone we say!

I was able to thoroughly test the Dynamic idle functions this past weekend since we saw some very cold temperatures and some snow in Connecticut. If anyone reading this has owned in the past, or currently owns an older PD or VE TDI you might notice that the low idle speed of the factory can be tricky on really cold starts without a block heater. The ramped up 1250rpm idle aids in smoother cold starts since the engine doesn’t drop to the natural low idle until the car is warm enough to idle smoothly.

Once I get a few tanks of fuel through this car we will report back to see if the Dynamic EGR function confirms or busts the myth for fuel economy increases. Keep in mind this car has a very healthy 195k miles old and on original injectors (soon to be replaces with DLC800 nozzles and bench tested and balanced) and this car sees a very consistent 48-50mpg on the highway at 65mph, hand calculated. If there is traffic and stop and go with some mixed city driving expect 46-48mpg on a consistent basis. If hand calculations stay consistent at least Ill say at least I am very pleased to hear we won’t have to pull the intake manifold and EGR to clean every now and then, maybe the next time I put a cam it it from injector wear in another 150k miles. 🙂


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She motivated this by the fact that she should massage my tummy while emptying so that poop came out of it. Better: When I was sitting on the toilet and pushing, my mother stood next to me and crumpled my stomach with her hand, saying: Cocoa, cocoa, my little girl, you need to pump well. And I farted loudly, and I was very ashamed.

Then mommy personally rubbed my ass, and took me back to the room.

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