So here is a picture of old and new engine air filter for my GTI.
52,000 miles on the old one, service recommendation is 60k (edit: I may have read the wrong use conditions recommendation for that, I thought it was 40k), but I also have driven on some rather dusty roads. Replacement isn’t VW, but rather is FRAM, so that may account for some of the color differences, but there is definitely a good bit of particulate matter there. I do worry that the FRAM filter seems to have fewer pleats, but I think it’ll be okay.
Also, I’m grateful for having a garage to do this in, even if it is poorly lit and uninsulated. It was just below freezing outside last night. It did take me some time to find my Torx bits to remove the eight bolts holding down the cover, but otherwise this was easy to do myself, as one would expect.