The IHI Turbo IS38 is blowing away the competition, here’s why!

ihi turbo is38


If you own a MK7 GTI or Audi A3 you are most likely very familiar with the IS12 and IS20 turbos from IHI Turbo. Today we are going to breakdown why the IS38 is the best turbo option for your MQB powered vehicle.

IHI is a bit of a new name in the VAG community, some enthusiasts are surprised to discover that a Japanese turbo company is an OEM manufacturer for Volkswagen and Audi. Truth is IHI has been supplying quality turbos to automotive manufactures like Nissan, Volkswagen, Audi, Ferrari and Subaru for decades. IHI Corporation transitioned into aftermarket turbo manufacturing in 2012 and since then has developed a performance line of turbos which are well suited for applications like the MK7 Golf GTI, Audi A3 and S3.

The 2 most common turbo’s which are swapped for the IS38 are the IS12 and IS20 turbos.  The IS12 turbo is mounted from the factory on VW and Audi 1.8t MQB engines, and the IS20 is mounted on 2.0t lower output MQB engines.  When upgrading any of the following turbos you will need to install new software on your engines computer to properly run the vehicle with an IS38 turbo on it. Despite this the IS38 continues to be the VW/Audi enthusiast’s best option for turbos for the following reasons.

IHI Turbo IS38 Features

  • Improved torque output at mid/high RPM range.
  • Quick spooling turbo.
  • Improved efficiency under boost due to compressor housing abrea-dable seal.
  • Capacity for power, the turbo can produce 370hp+ (with supporting mods and software).
  • 100% Bolt-on installation.


OEM Realiability

The IS38 turbo from IHI has a reputation of being a highly reliable turbo. This is likely due to the fact that the IS38 is the turbo outfitted for the VW Golf R (MK7), Audi S3 and Audi TTS from the factory. It is a proven turbo with a history of making power reliably therefore it’s not surprising the OEM IHI IS38 turbo is a great fit for 1.8t and 2.0t MQB engines.


Another reason to love the IS38 as a turbo option for your GTI or Audi A3 is the sheer abundance of aftermarket support for this particular turbo swap. The VW tuning giant APR has numerous software stage tune options for GTI’s equipped with IS38 turbos, the best part is that they use the factory ECU. This is made possible through APR’s optimization of the factory engine management system to take full advantage of the engine’s capabilities, without needing any end user adjustment. The ECU Upgrades are available with various features and supported octane levels and each stage is compatible with most typical bolt-on modifications. The software is installed to the vehicle’s factory ECU through the OBD-II port, resulting in a clean and headache-free install. Another popular option for software is the Unitronic Performance software offered to support the IS38. Similarly to APR these tunes use the factory ECU and flash tune the MQB engine to generate some large power gains.


Hybrid Options

The IS38 family of turbos is not limited to its OEM trim from IHI Turbo, the IS38 has numerous hybrid options with upgraded cores, improved impeller designs and housing options to generate higher levels of boost. Hybrids are offered by numerous aftermarket companies, one of our favorite options is the upgraded IS38 turbo offered by Pure Turbos.



In conclusion the IS38 turbo has numerous features that make it appealing to GTI and A3 owners. The increase in size over the IS12 and IS20 is not significantly large but it can still pump out huge horsepower numbers while maintain a linear power and torque curve. This makes the IS38 a great power add-on for a street car looking for more boost in a small package. The aftermarket support for the IS38 is what makes it unique since many different tuners have adopted its use. The options in hybrid IS38 models means larger horsepower builds are now easily attainable from the MQB platform thanks to manufacturers like Unitronic and APR. The turbo is also 100% bolt-on and re-uses all the factory oil lines  and exhaust components so no need to weld a new downpipe just yet. Add a few supporting mods to the MQB and the IS38 will take full advantage of some impressive power gains; modifications like fuel pumps, intercoolers, downpipes and software tunes will fetch power numbers north of 350hp+.