Guide to tuning the 2.8, 24 valve 3.0 V6 30v and 3.2 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 engine range (EA390).

We consider EA390 tuning and point out the optimum mods that work. See also our fresh article devoted to 3.6 VR6 Mods.

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, Engine Codes, Power & Specs of the EA390 Engine

2.8 V6 30v

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

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

3.2 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
  • 241 hp @6,250 rpm 236 lbft @2,800-3,200 rpm
  • 250 hp @6,250 rpm 236 lbft  @2,500-3,000 rpm

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

Just because a part is popular with EA390 owners it doesn't mean its worth having, so we'll our attention and tuning advice focus on the parts and upgrades 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 because low end power will be very lumpy. Competition cams are designed for maximum power at the top end of the RPM range, a place that most daily commutes will not permit!

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.

Best VR6 Engine Mods

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

VR6 Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Fast road camshaft, Intake manifolds, Panel air filters, Remaps/piggy back ECU, drilled & smoothed airbox, Sports exhaust header/manifold.

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

Typical stage 3 mods often include: 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.

(In some cases, as the factory ECU is locked flashing is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is the route to take, and many of these will outperform factory ECU's but make sure it has knock protection and that you get it setup properly.)

It will usually give you around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) 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 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.

NA (naturally aspirated) 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 Upgrades

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 VR6 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 might just stuff your flow rate and make things worse. So generally speaking, keep to a size of 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 catalyst removes the restriction. We note that performance cats perform similarly to decats and have the added benefit of keeping your car street legal, as decats or catalyst removal is illegal in most territories for road going cars.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the EA390 VR6

The EA390 engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Carbon build up in the head, particularly around the valves which will sap power or create flat spots, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on removing carbon build up.

Some of our members have had issues with flat spots or glitches after applying mods and upgrades or tuning, this is not usually related to this engines design, so instead see our article on diagnosing flat spots and problems after tuning which should help you get the bottom of this issue.

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.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice 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 you on your car. Which helps us keep our guides and tips up to date helping others with their modified car projects. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these articles which are kept updated and constantly revised.

If you've enjoyed this page we would be very grateful if you could share a link to it on your favourite forums or on your social media profiles, it helps us keep going.

Please Check out my YouTube channel, we're regularly adding new content...

PLEASE HELP: I NEED YOUR DONATIONS TO COVER THE COSTS OF RUNNING THIS SITE AND KEEP IT RUNNING. I do not charge you to access this website and it saves most TorqueCars readers $100's each year - but we are NON PROFIT and not even covering our costs. To keep us running PLEASE Donate here

If you liked this page please share it with your friends, drop a link to it in your favourite forum or use the bookmarking options to save it to your social media profile.

Feedback - What do You Think?

Please use our forums if you wish to ask a tuning question, and please note we do not sell parts or services, we are just an online magazine.

Help us improve, leave a suggestion or tip

Your Constructive comments on this article, I really want to improve this article with your help and suggestions.

Please watch this video and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Member Benefits

Join our forum today and benefit from over 300,000 posts on tuning styling and friendly car banter.

You will also have full access to the modifed car gallery, project car updates and exclusive member only areas.

(All car owners of all ages and from all countries are welcome).

BMW 335i - 2021 COTY

We gave the BMW 335i our coveted car of the year award, read more about this awesome car and see why 335i Tuning Guide

Tips for N54 Tuning

Tips for N55 Tuning
Tips for B58 Tuning

Popular articles

Diesel tuning
ECU Remapping
double de clutch
Induction Kits
Customize a car
Chip Tuning
Modded Car insurance
Insuring Track days
Remap Diesels
MPG Calculator
Cleaning your DPF
Tuning Stages

Best Tuning Mods

The best tuning mods

Directional Vs Asymmetric

Directional vs Assymetric tyres

Chrome Paint

Custom car Chrome paint effect

Body Kits

Car bodykits. Side skirts, sills, bumpers and wide body kits.


Sleepers – tuning ordinary looking cars

Save Fuel

5 top fuel saving tips

MPG Calculator

MPG calculator UK miles per Gallon – calculate MPG