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Alright, so let's talk a bit about the naturally aspirated 74kW 8-valve AEH/AKL 1.6 liter petrol engine from Audi A3 8L. I know, I know, it's not the most exciting engine, but hear me out.

I've tried searching for some info on how to improve its performance, but whenever I did so, I was met with an avalanche of "jUsT sWaP iT WitH a 1.8T" comments. Some poor dude even tried asking people not to say it, but they still did. We get it, everyone wants the 1.8T because it's clearly the superior engine with lots of people having modded and tuned it. We really do get it, ok?

But hey, an engine is an engine and engines can in principle always be modified to gain some power. So, what I'm specifically trying to ask is — how would one improve the performance of an AEH/AKL engine?
A few points to make things crystal clear:
  • what would I consider an improvement in performance? — either raising peak power at the crank or increasing the area below the RPM-power curve, anything above 1%, not asking for much
  • although reasonably practical and affordable solutions would obviously be preferred, consider it a theoretical challenge with an unlimited budget, time and skill
  • although I am speaking strictly about the AEH/AKL engine itself, of course I'm interested in any modifications that would be necessary as a prerequisite to increasing its performance, such as a stronger clutch or a different flywheel, anything of that nature... or any prep-work necessary to solve potential clearance issues for some modifications
  • yes, forced induction is allowed if the engine could handle it
  • yes, ECU modifications are allowed
  • please try to refrain from asking BUT WHY?, just humour me — as I said, consider it a challenge, stop yourself from telling me to swap it, I really do get it, the 1.8T is the king :p
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