Guide to tuning the 2.8 V6 30 valve, 24 valve 3.0 V6 30v and 3.2/3.6 VR6 EA390 engine

"VAG EA390 Mods"

Tuning the VAG EA390 and best EA390 performance parts for the 2.8 V6 30 valve, 24 valve 3.0 V6 30v and 3.2/3.6 VR6 engine range (EA390).

We consider EA390 tuning and point out the optimum mods that work.

VAG EA390s are good project engines, and with carefully picked motorsport upgrades you can certainly enhance your driving enjoyment.

We've seen EA390 projects hitting 550-600hp which is quite impressive, but the block is strong, tried and tested and there are lots of tuning options around, including chances to swap cranks and heads around to make more power effectively changing the cylinder capacity.

History of the EA390 Engine

2.8 V6 30v

  • 184 bhp @6,000 rpm 192 lbft @3,200 rpm
    AGE
  • 188 bhp @6,000 rpm  192 lbft @3,200 rpm
    ATXBBG
  •  190 bhp @6,000 rpm 207 lbft @3,200 rpm
    ALGAMX
  • 190 bhp @6,000 rpm 221 lbft @3,200 rpm
    ACKAHAAPRAQDATQ

2.8 V6 24v FSI

Essentially a 3.2 with a shorter stroke incorporating Valvelift

  • 188 bhp @5,500 rpm 207 lbft @3,000–5,000 rpm
  • 201 bhp @5,250 rpm  207 lbft @3,000–5,000 rpm
  • 207 bhp @5,500 rpm  207 lbft @3,000–5,000 rpm
  • 217 bhp @5,750 rpm  207 lbft @3,200–5,000 rpm

3.0 V6 30v

The stroke on the 2.8 was lengthened giving a 3.0 capacity engine.

  • 215 bhp BBJ for the C6 A6
  • 217 bhp @6,300 rpm  (221 lbft) @3,200 rpm AVK

3.2 VR6

  • 235 hp @6,200 rpm, 232 lbft @2,950 rpm
    Transporter T5
  • 241 hp @6,200 rpm 236 lbft @2,500-3,200 rpm
    BFH
  • 241 hp @6,250 rpm 236 lbft @2,800-3,200 rpm
    BML
  • 250 hp @6,250 rpm 236 lbft  @2,500-3,000 rpm
    BDB, BHE, BMJ, BPF, BUB

3.6 VR6

 

Best 2.8 V6 30 valve, 24 valve & 3.0 V6 30v and 3.2 3.6 VR6 tuning mods

Just because a part is popular with EA390 owners it doesn't mean its worth having, so we'll focus parts that will give your EA390 the best value for money to power increase.

Significant gains can be made from cam upgrades. Altering the cam profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the torque and power output.

Fast road camshafts commonly increase the torque through the rev range, you may lose a little low end power but your higher rpm power will be higher.

Thanks to the close proximity of the cylinders in each bank the EA390 used a DOHC configuration, despite being a V layout engine.

Motorsport camshafts, increase the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers. Cams with a duration from 264 -272 seem to be the popular choices on this block.

On a car driven daily must carefully try to match your power band to your typical driving style.

You'll never find a Race camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic.

Different EA390 engines respond better to less aggressive cam durations than others.

The map and fuel pump and injectors also will say much on the power gains you'll achieve.

A longer valve duration can alter the power band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

Stage 1 mods: Fast road camshaft, Intake headers, Panel air filters, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Sports exhaust manifold.

Stage 2 mods: high flow fuel injectors, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam, Ported and polished head, induction kit.

Stage 3 mods: Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Engine balancing & blueprinting, Twin charging conversions, Competition cam.

The EA390 units make great tuning projects and we see that there is an increase of parts and tuning parts out there.

ECU mapping will help to establish the full potential of all the upgrades you've fitted to your EA390.

It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and 15% on NASP engines, but you mileage will vary depending on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

Getting air into each cylinder is vital to any engine tuning task.

Intake carry the air during the suck phase from the air filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders.

Design and flow characteristics of the Intake can make a large difference to to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the EA390.

It's not uncommon that intake manifold are begging for an upgrade, although some OEM provide fairly well optimized intake manifold.

Fitting big valve kits, doing a bit of 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also raise bhp, & importantly will make space for a greater bhp increase on other tuning mods.

EA390 Turbo upgrades

The more air to get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes massive power gains.

NASP engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your EA390

There are a few kits around though, making this a much easier process as most of the kinks and problems have been worked out.

Assuming fuel delivery, air metering and timing is spot on and the engine has strong enough components the following peak power figures can be achieved with these respective turbo kits on the VR6.

  • Hybrid Turbo T3/T4 T3T04E 450hp
  • GARRETT T3/T4 480hp
  • GARRETT GT3076R 525hp
  • Borg Warner EFR 7670 470hp
  • Borg Warner EFR 8374 630hp

If your car is turbocharged, upgrades are going to make more power and you'll see that turbo charged engines are built with more solid components.

There are common areas of failure for every engine, with some being over specified and some just sufficiently able to handle stock power

There are some interesting cannibalised engines around for example one could  bore the 2.8 24v block to 83mm  retain the stroke at 90mm essentially making a 3.0 block and then bolt on the R32 head or similar.

Discover these restrictions and fit forged components to cope with the power.

We see many people spending a fortune on turbocharger upgrades on the EA390 only to see the whole thing throw a rod when it's completed.

Big turbochargers tend to experience no power at low rpm, and small turbochargers spool up quickly but do not have the peak end engines power gains.

Thankfully the world of turbo chargers is always evolving and we are seeing variable vane turbo chargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end power.

Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and push these at differently designed vanes in the turbo charger. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on these engines when loads more air is being fed into the engine.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large power gains, although more difficult to configure. We have a twincharger power adding guide if you want to read more.

Fuelling

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so must pay attention to the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a bhp increase. Don't forget to over specify your injectors flow rate.

The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when buying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and allows you some spare capacity should the engine need more fuel.

EA390 Exhaust

Only look to increase your exhaust if the current exhaust is creating a restriction.

On most factory exhausts you'll find your flow rate quite well even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Sports exhausts can usually air flow through the engine but do not go too large or you may end up will reduce the flow rate. Stick to 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

Usual exhaust restrictions can be traced to the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a freer flowing performance alternative will help avoid this restriction.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the EA390

The EA390 engines are generally reliable and solid as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Coil pack failure caused stuttering and power loss on early models although most have now been replaced.

The CAM belt tensioner tends to break and so we recommend you replace this with the belt, and check regularly.

Regular oil changes are vital on the EA390, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

For more information on Tuning your VAG engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss EA390 tuning options in more detail with our EA390 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased VAG tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which upgrades work best for them on each model of car. Comments are used to improve the accuracy of these articles which are continually updated.

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