Project GTl: ICE, ICE, Baby
Falling Down

Stop, navigate and listen.

Six years is a proverbial eternity in technology. When my Mk6 was built, the iPad was just about to be introduced to the world, Spotify hadn’t yet launched in the United States and 3D televisions were being touted as the next big thing. I guess some of those were more successful than others.

I’m a fan of technology, especially where it has the potential to make my life easier on a day-to-day basis. It’s a curious thing, though, how we often spend the least amount of money or work affecting change where we spend most of our time. Of course, it’s not really applicable to all cars or people. If you’re driving a vintage car, you should tune your ‘radio’ to the sound of Weber and Dellorto. But for a lot of us, who spend so much time behind the wheel of our daily drivers, a few creature comforts are more than welcome.

This time of year, in the Northern Hemisphere anyways, there’s very little joy to be taken from driving; it’s a chore. Sure, the cool, dense air is great for turbocharged engines, but with road surfaces deteriorating and regular traffic slowing to a crawl at the first sight of moisture, it becomes a tedious experience.

To avoid frustration and triggering a Falling Down moment, I’ve learned to back off, relax and love the journey.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-16

One of the few areas where I felt Project GTI was lacking, compared to my previous BMW E90, was the in-car entertainment and communications system. The Mk6 is far from awful or anything, but it just left a lot to be desired.

When I bought the GTI last year, the dealer had retrofitted an aftermarket Bluetooth system. It did work through the factory controls, but it was unreliable and only featured very basic A2DP streaming.

The car still had its factory RCD310 central unit, which is about as basic as they come. It didn’t last long; I picked up a used RNS510 – a factory option with built-in navigation – which replaced the RCD310 a few months into my ownership.

The RNS510, to its credit, has been an adequate companion on long journeys. It’s also one of the most simple retrofits you can carry out to a Volkswagen of this generation. It’s very much a case of remove old radio, plug in RNS510 and it’s ready to rock. Some coding might be required to activate all of its features, but there was no hardware or connection modifications required.

There is a caveat to this, however. It’s an old piece of equipment and has been left in the dust by advancements in both OEM and aftermarket technology. Even with the latest maps and software, it feels older than it actually is. The menus and GUI are dated; its performance leaves quite a lot to be desired too.

The problem is, any of the modern Mk7 technology can’t be retrofitted easily into the Mk6, and the majority of aftermarket systems just stick out like a sore thumb. What I needed was an aftermarket unit that looks OEM, but is a plug and play install with the latest technology.

Enter Kenwood.

Finding The Hole
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-50

In the interests of full disclosure, I used to run a Kenwood DNX7230 in my E90 and I adored it. Ever since I changed back to Volkswagen, I’ve been keeping a close eye on what Kenwood UK has been coming out with, knowing that it maintains a close relationship with VW. In fact, in the UK, you can walk into a VW dealer and have a VW-approved Kenwood unit installed into your car. Just recently, the company announced the new DNX516DABS, which is the latest in this line of VW-approved units, made specifically for Volkswagen vehicles.

Upon hearing this, I sent an e-mail to Kenwood UK to see if there were any review units available. To my surprise there was, and they were more than happy to send me one to evaluate. Kenwood UK also suggested that to get the most out of it, I should upgrade the entire factory audio system while I was at it. I was hardly going to say no, was I?

A couple of days later, a considerable delivery arrived and I pretty much immediately set about getting it installed.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-36

I didn’t document the install, because like the RNS510, it was a simple case of removing the old unit and installing the DNX516. I also wanted the unit in the car for as long as possible before I wrote this, so I had a clear idea of its strengths and weaknesses.

It fits perfectly within the factory bezel and matches the same red backlighting as the rest of the interior, although this can be customised if you wish. The unit also retains the MFSW controls, interacts with the MFD between the gauges and even boots with the VW logo on a splash screen. It has built-in Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB, FM/AM, CD/DVD, Garmin navigation, a plethora of inputs and a MiniSD card slot on the front.

I’ll come back to this in a little bit.

Skip forward a couple of weeks and I was finally getting around to installing the rest of the audio equipment Kenwood supplied. I like things subdued, so what I was sent was absolutely perfect to maintain a factory look with aftermarket performance. We started with the front door speakers, which while surprisingly easy to access, were going to be a little stubborn to remove due to them being riveted in place.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-54

Any excuse for Flip to get his drill out.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-56

It was a good thing we were upgrading, as I don’t think it’s optimal to have a hole in your factory speaker. The depressed centre is my doing, mind you.

We were replacing the factory speakers with Kenwood’s KFC-X173 2-way high performance flush mount speaker system. The units are 170mm in size, with a 19mm tweeter and a 240W peak input power and 80W RMS. Kenwood was also kind enough to include the correct housing and wiring adapters so that once the factory speakers came out, its went in without a hitch.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-64

The bit I was most excited about was the KSC-SW11 powered subwoofer. At this point, Flip had to tend to another project, so I was I on my own from this point forward. Not a big deal, but I do have a chronic fear of dealing with any sort of electrics.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-65

My first task was to find a suitable location for the subwoofer. As luck would have it – or more likely, Kenwood already knew the dimensions – it was a perfect fit under the front seats. I knew that the Air Lift Performance wiring harness was run on the passenger side of the car, so figured it would be wise to follow that all the way to the battery and find an earth along the way. Being on the passenger side, it would also make life easier running any wiring to the central unit.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-66

Once the route had been decided, I started removing everything that was going to be in my way. Unfortunately for me, removing the glovebox requires part disassembly of the centre console too. At this point, I also removed the DNX516.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-69

There was comfortably enough wire supplied to run the subwoofer from the rear of the car, but I wouldn’t be needing the full length. I simply followed the route where the Air Lift Performance loom was picking up its power from and located a factory earth right at the sill.

Bonus points if you can identify what was in Flip’s booth.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-74

To prevent me getting confused, which is a regular occurrence, I sorted the wires and tied up what was already assigned onto the factory wiring loom for cleanliness. I then ran the RCA leads and the power control lead through the back of the glovebox area, and towards the central unit, leaving enough slack to make it easy to install with the DNX516 pulled forward. All excess wire was neatly looped, taped and tucked away behind the glovebox.

It was then a simple case of plugging in two connectors – one connector for power, earth and an ignition source, the other for a remote – into the back of the subwoofer and securing everything down.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-75

With everything apart, it made it easy to make another subtle upgrade utilising the factory button locations.

I sourced a USB passthrough kit from DoubleApex in the US that adds a factory-looking USB input into the centre tray, which can then be connected to the Phone USB input on the back of the DNX516. Essentially, instead of having a USB lead in the glovebox, I can just plug my phone into this port and it connects the phone directly to the central unit. I also ordered a dedicated USB charging port but didn’t fit it at this point. That’s something for another day.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-78

This is hopefully both the last time the DNX516 will be out of the car and the last time I see the RNS510. By the time I finished, it was late and I was in full on hanger mode, so photos would have to wait until the next day.

The Finished Product
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-23

In a past life, my first thoughts when someone mentioned ‘ICE’ would have been of huge fibreglass boot installs and subwoofers on subwoofers with screens in the wheel wells. It’s fair to sa that those days are probably in the past. What I’ve ended up with is a top quality entertainment and communications system which has integrated seamlessly into the car.

The subwoofer sits out of sight beneath the passenger seat, its nose only seeing light when the seat is slid all the way rearwards. Its wiring runs through a factory cut in the carpet, before joining the path of the factory loom.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-41

The speakers hide behind the door cards, completely invisible to even passengers.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-34

And the central unit itself could pass for stock, save for the subtle Kenwood branding. It fits within the factory dashboard perfectly and is even finished in the same material as the surrounding bezel.

The USB input helps keep everything looking OEM, providing a direct connection to the DNX516 which automatically launches CarPlay once connected. If you’re using an Android device, Android Auto will launch offering similar features to CarPlay including Google Maps, phone, messages, Spotify and Google Play Music.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-11

The glovebox is home to a slim remote for the subwoofer and a second USB input for the centre unit, which can be used to connect an iPod, external hard drive or thumb drive. I haven’t mounted the former yet, but it’ll likely still reside in here, just secured in place.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-83

It’s still been a relatively short time since everything has been installed, but my in-car experience has changed dramatically. The car feels much newer from the driver seat, purely down to how everything has been integrated and works together. I’m no audiophile, but the difference in sound quality, in particular when cruising at speed on a motorway, is staggering.

Previously, the old setup would reach a point where it would just warble and distort if I attempted to drown out the road noise. Now, I can drown it out to the point that it’s so clear I’m hearing little things in songs that I never heard before. If I’m brave, I can push the volume to levels that are quite honestly uncomfortable, but still without distortion.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-43

I was never a massive fan of CarPlay before, mostly due to its locked-down nature. I’ve come to love it though, seeing as I usually only listen to Music, Spotify or Podcasts when driving. Maps has also impressed me, especially being a long-time Google Maps user. If the mood takes me though, I can still use Google Maps or Waze over Bluetooth instead of Apple’s equivalent. The bonus of using Maps is that it works with the turn-by-turn instructions on the centre MFD between the gauges.

One of those neat features that I discovered that is if I disconnect the USB lead from my iPhone at any time, it will pick up precisely where I left off if I switch over to Bluetooth. Bluetooth connection with my phone when the ignition is switched on is instant and has been 100 percent reliable so far. I can’t say the same about my previous setup.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-40

Because we made such a drastic amount of changes in such a short time, I haven’t gotten around to customising the sound through the 13-band equaliser, instead using one of the many presets that are installed on the system. I feel that this will be key to getting the most of what I have now.

It’s the seamless integration that I keep coming back to, though. At first glance, the interior might appear to be stock, but there’s a lot of depth in here; little things that all add up for a more enjoyable experience. From the new Kenwood entertainment and audio improvements, to the customisable REVO MFD menus with selectable engine maps, to the factory auto-lights and extended DSG paddles.

Things that make life easy should never be underestimated.

2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-79

There’s a long winter ahead in Ireland, although progress will continue to be made on Project GTI. I still have another few interior upgrades that I’d like to make, which are suitably subtle, of course.

There are also a couple of niggles which have developed over the previous few weeks that I want to get on top of. My rear window washer has stopped working, there’s a slight vibration coming from the front, and during my ham-fisted glovebox reinstallation I forgot to reconnect the TPMS reset button, which means that half the dash has to come out again. Still, it’ll give me the opportunity to figure out where those two leftover screws belong. Further to this, I still have to install the rear speakers and I’m going to look into adding some extra sound deadening to improve the experience even more.

Until next time..

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Cutting Room Floor
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-3
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-5
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-7
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-6
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-17
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-19
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-24
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-62
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-72
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-73
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-31
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-35
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-44
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-45
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-48
2016 Project GTI Kenwood Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-49


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

It's good to have international sponsors :)


Paddy does the unit integrate with the stock steering wheel controls?  Great write up - I too have  a red MK6 GTI in my stable on the otherside of the world...-


Did your GTi have stock bluetooth before you added the RNS510 unit?  I'm just wondering if I'll have the same issues if I do the switch in my MkV.


I have a 2011 Scirroco with the RCD 510 head unit. Been looking to upgrade to the RNS510 but this looks interesting. Does this unit still hook into the rear parking sensors and display the heater / AC settings.


We would always buy 2-way separates for the front and stick the tweets in the side vents, so that the highs were directed right towards your face. That was back when we cared about having "the best" audible experience while driving. Now it's more about the driving...


Good question!


Interesting read! Looks great but also a lot of mucking about to get it in.
Do you still need the phone holder? Should be redundant now, shouldn't it?


abezzegh87 In this case I don't believe Kenwood is a site sponsor. I think Paddy was just leveraging his platform to request a model to review. Pretty much anyone with a media presence does the same thing, regardless of industry.


Spanksy Yes, works fully with the factory MFSW controls.


rag_nb No, it had an aftermarket module added which I removed.


comradevlad Yes, there are menus for parking sensors and climatronic, although my car has neither.


Matt_Redondo I've been learning a lot about audio this last while, there's infinitely more to it than I previously knew.


rook56 The phone still needs to be plugged in and it's convenient to have it locked in place, rather than moving around. The mount does just clip on and off the dash though, so I can use it when I need and stow it when I don't.


Project GTI needs a wash




Hi Paddy, your install looks superb, I have an 11 scirocco and have been looking to upgrade to a carplay capable radio, I have been looking at the pioneer, but I think it looks a little more out of place compared to the Kenwood unit. Can I ask where in Ireland your sourced it from? Cheers!


Is there an equivalent model head unit in North America?
I can't seem to find one on the kenwood site.


The unit looks awesome! I love aftermarket parts that look OEM. I just have one question, was the stock stereo system really tmso bad that it would distort if you tried to drown out road noise? The stock system in my 240 still sounds great and its a decently lound car. Anyways, love project GTI and the whole though process behind it


Paddy McGrath excellent - and just in time for Xmas too....


Jaydawg Stereos are part of car culture, don't want to read about it, click to a different feature. Simple.


I don't have webers, a v8, v6 or any notable engine to listen to but I still removed all the radio equipment from my mk2 Golf. I have gauges where the headunit used to sit. Just me and choo choo noises from the engine swap. Not bored of it yet though I don't drive it very far to be honest. If I were to put one back in I'd be going headunitless because I like having the gauges where they are and don't have a standard centre console where most people mount the stereo with this setup (running a CAE shifter)


Looks brilliant!
So without a head unit means remote control? Or phone app?


Paddy McGrath rag_nb Hmm I wonder if it'll work with the stock one.  Now to save up the money to get a US spec and find someone with the proper programming software lol.


rook56 at the present moment I don't fully know what it will mean, I assume something like that yeah, I have nothing at the moment, no speakers, wires or anything and don't mind it at all.


you can make $9620 

in 4 weeks ............


Paddy McGrath comradevlad Man... no climatronic. THAT should be your next upgrade. I can't live without auto air con. I have manual AC on my city car and it's always too hot or too cold. Annoying as hell.
Without the auto AC there really isn't any ambiance to talk about (comfort wise at least).

BTW those lights at the legs, doesn't it get tiresome on a long journey? I like to have my car as "black" as possible at night.


project GTI articles are by far and away my favourite on speedhunters, always a
great read, the GTI looks absolutely class you’ve done a brilliant job. This
article couldn’t be more timely for me, i’m just about to install a KSC-SW11
also, tell me, can you feel it vibrating the passenger seat? Im trying to
decide if ill put it under my seat or the passengers.


Paddy McGrath Matt_Redondo I fully agree with Matt here - if you really wanted to get the best audio experience in your car, you'd never even think about koax speakers as 2-way component speaker sets are the way to go. On the same note, if you're going this route, you'll never need speakers in the rear doors, in my experience they only fuck up the sound; and without a sound processor (time correction) it is going to be near impossible setting up the sound correctly.
Before discarding the above, give it a thought please.

However, you had one great idea that I think should be performed FIRST when fiddling around with the car hifi - and that's sound deadening. There are many great products on the market, and you should not cheap out like you did with the speakers. For me, applying STP Gold in the front doors, dashboard and trunk provided the best bang-for-buck sound improvement. Those little details in the songs that you've never heard before are going to be present all the time!


Finkregh Paddy McGrath comradevlad TBH, it's very mild here in Ireland and the UK so I never really missed it from the E90. 

The lights are dim - and can be adjusted - but look much brighter because of the longer exposure.


EvolveWRC I don't even bother at this time of year, it takes one short trip for it to look like that. The inside and lights are clean, which is all that matters to me.


Steve_McGowan I sourced it from Kenwood UK directly.


rv_zenki It wasn't awful, by any means, but it's been put in the shade by the Kenwood. It probably didn't help that one of the speakers that came out of the car had a hole in it.


StephenSmyth I honestly don't know, but I'll try find out.


JakWhite rook56 Could always hide a head unit in the glovebox?


muckerbarry I haven't actually experienced it from the passenger seat, but just by resting my hand on the seat, I couldn't feel anything untoward. I did want it under my seat originally, but it was much, much easier to put it on the passenger side of my car.

Omer (beercoozie)

I'm in the middle of a lease on a Honda Accord and I've been contemplating trading it in for either one of the Ford ST twins (can't afford an RS) or a GTI. Your articles have really been helpful, especially this new one. Thanks.


Omer (beercoozie) My father bought a new Focus ST3.5 this year, a very different car to the GTI but just as good in a different way. If I had the finances for a new car, I'd be torn between a Golf R & a GTI Clubsport.


I don't know what I'm more impressed by, the ICE install or the ability to manage a hands free head level shot with a 5D while doing 80+ :-D


I always look forward to a controversial Paddy article and this was great! Having recently upgraded the ICE in my 350z which was a nightmare I'm relived to see newer cars are easier. A friend and I tore apart all the audio, replaced two factory amps with a single amp in the boot and changed the head unit as well as the sub - took us the best part of 2 days.
Odd question Paddy, I'm looking for a phone holder like yours, something that sits on the passenger side and faces the driver - don't suppose you know the brand of yours do you? 

I hope Kenwood don't expect you to rip out all that fancy new equipment and send it back ;)


ChrisDuffin I'm a man of many talents and much stupidity.


James Oversteer It's a Brodit ProClip phone holder. They're not particularly cheap - you need to buy them in two parts - but they're simply the best phone holder on the market.


I need to look into my rear window washer as well as it isn't working at the moment. 

Interior upgrades are something on my list as my '12 is pretty bare bones with the base model sound system.  I think I was looking at a Pioneer system a while back but will need to check on the availability of this Kenwood unit in the States.

However, snowboard trips and these Chicago winters have dedicated tires draining my go fast budget.  Comfort upgrades like a short shifter are paramount.


JakWhite Jaydawg Maybe he was expecting an article in which Vanilla Ice and Paddy went to the race track?


Makes me curious if Kenwood does approved units for other people. I used to run an OEM deck and a sound processor in my car for the oem look (wheel controls) and and what not until I needed bluetooth and it was just easier to go aftermarket. I used to be really into ICE then as I got older the subs got fewer and smaller haha.
"Cars drive by with the boomin system, I must be gettin' old cause the bass sounds ridiculous"


Speaking of project golfs, how's the civic coming along?


Workin4Weekend Turned out the plastic hose which feeds the washer jet had broke clean in half inside the rubber joint that goes between the hatch and the body. I've a temporary fix on it, but will sort a proper one in the new year.


JakWhite No idea, I've no involvement in that car. Last I checked, it wasn't dead but was on the back burner.


That head unit looks lovely! Exactly the kind of subtle upgrade that I love! :)


? I j­­­u­­­s­­­t g­­­o­­­t p­­­a­­­i­­­d $­­­6­­­7­­25 w­­­o­­­r­­­k­­­i­­­n­­­g o­­­f­­­f m­­­y l­­­a­­­p­­­t­­­o­­­p t­­­h­­­i­­­s m­­­o­­­n­­­t­­­h. A­­­n­­­d i­­­f y­­­o­­­u t­­­h­­­i­­­n­­­k t­­­h­­­a­­­t­­­'­­­s c­­­o­­­o­­­l,check this link. ►►►►►►


I am inspired that anyone can earn $9391

in 4 weeks ...............


Paddy McGrath ChrisDuffin It's that new 5D headband mount. Or, to save money, you just hold it in your teeth.


my Aunty Savannah just got Mercedes GL-Class SUV just by working
from a macbook. you
could try here>>>>>>>>>>>


For the bonus point: Volk Racing CV-Pro?


Anyone can hate that car but nobody can hate those plaid seats.   Winning.


bluestreaksti For factory seats, they're so good.


Alexgtorrance I actually meant the car...

(I'll be more specific next time)


I'm amazed that anyone able to get paid $9846

in one month .................


ι мaĸe мυcн мore мoney тнaт ι υѕed тo aт ѕнoprιтe, ιтѕ υp тo вeтween 35dollor and 80dollor per нoυr now.check this link. ►►►►►►


I am in shock that a student can get paid $9445 

in one month ................


Paddy McGrath Cool. I haven't seen any so it's probably only available in europe.


So Paddy, what do you make of Death Magnetic Vol. 2....I mean, Hardwired to Self Destruct?


like Dawn replied I'm shocked that someone able to profit $8730 in a few weeks on the 

internet . you can try this out>>>>>>>>>>>.




█ ­M­y­ l­­­a­­­s­­t­­ m­o­­n­t­h ­­­p­­a­­y­c­­h­e­c­k­­ ­w­­a­s ­­f­o­r­­ ­­1­1­­0­0­­­0­­ ­­d­o­­l­l­a­­r­­s­.­.­­.­ ­­A­l­l­­ i­ ­­d­­i­d­­ ­­­w­a­­­s­­ ­s­i­m­­p­­­l­e­ o­n­l­i­n­­e­­ ­w­­­o­r­­­k ­­­f­­­r­­­o­­­­m­­ ­c­o­­m­­­f­­o­­r­t­­­ ­a­t­ ­h­­o­­m­e­­ ­­f­­o­­r­ ­­3-4­­­ ­­­h­­­o­­u­­r­­s­­/­­d­­a­y­­ ­­o­­v­e­r­ ­­a­t­ ­­t­­h­­­i­­s­ ­w­­e­­­bs­­i­t­e­.check this link. ►►►►►►


jesus i love those seats. They have a classic porsche feel to it lol. ontopic though Amazing review and might pick them up after i get my new daily. +1 for music choice :D


How is the new Metallica album? Death Magnetic was decent but forgettable. Hate to be cliche, but how does it sound compared to their old stuff?


TylerHorne It's good, but it hasn't really captured me to be honest.


Hi Paddy, really looking forward to seeing how your sound deadening efforts pan out. I own a 2012 Scirocco R and on a motorway cruise this is something it could really benefit from; it would be a real boost to its all-rounder abilities.

I was at regal the other week having my KW DDC system installed and we were chatting about you, particularly your ability to naturally capture great photos with minimal prep time. Ultimately, it gives your articles a great 'mcgrath' theme which is a really pleasant flow for the eyes, to read and absorb the photos.

All the best,


This is probably a really stupid question, but what is the square looking light cluster on your front bumper for? 

After following your thread for some time now, i have taken the plunge and bought an Golf GTI Edition 35 and will be using your setup for some inspiration. 
Keep up the good work. Pictures are excellent
All the Best