You know them, you love them, you’ve probably already heard plenty of information about them. We’re of course talking about performance cold air intake systems. Plenty of reputable channels and sources have posted information about whether intakes are worth it, what they do, and how they might benefit you, including some of our own literature. However, what we haven’t seen is a concise list as to what you need to know about how to make the most of your intake system and look at a few popular manufacturers of intakes. This is the top five list of why you should install a cold air intake in your Audi, BMW, MINI, Porsche, or Volkswagen.
First and foremost, it has been independently proven that cold air intakes add power. It may not be a lot of power, but they do make improvements to the power output, especially at the top end of the rev range. This is the result of the added airflow and lower intake air temperature allowing the engine to breathe more efficiently at the top end. They are a great addition on their own, especially as a first modification, but the real benefits come later when you make more drastic modifications.
Subjectively, when I open my hood, I like to see lots of clean, free, uncluttered space. An intake fitted from the factory has tons of engineering behind it to make it perform its job properly without allowing excessive noise to bother a non-enthusiast driver. This also means it looks bulky, has a big ol’ airbox, and is just generally uninteresting to see. Aftermarket intakes are generally much smaller in terms of overall real estate needs and look more attractive, especially when the engine has plenty of other goodies that make it a visual treat every time the hood is popped.
True to their names, cold air intakes offer their benefits for performance by isolating the intake filter away from the engine bay with heat shields and seals while also relocating their position to a cooler part of the compartment. This allows the intake to draw in colder air, which is denser, that lets the computer throw in more fuel, the results being a bigger explosion and more power. Fundamentally, that is their purpose. That said, the larger diameter piping does reduce intake air velocity, which causes some almost unnoticeable losses of power on the very low end of the rev band. However, when paired with properly tuned exhaust headers and a free-flowing exhaust for optimal scavenging, the larger diameter intake piping is needed.
Okay, this one is really kind of a gimme. You will undoubtedly already have considered this point and probably know everything about performance tuning if it applies to you, but performance intakes are marginally lighter than factory ones. For those of you shaving off every possible ounce, your intake choice should be light. But again, this almost goes without saying since anyone concerned with that kind of weight savings obviously has a high level of knowledge.
If you plan on modifying your car extensively for power, you have almost infinite paths from which to choose when pursuing a horsepower goal. If you are just starting out and taking it part-by-part, you should ensure the order in which you install modifications provides a clear path to your desired outcome. That means each part needs to be complimentary of both your current setup and your finished product. An intake is a great first modification because it is fantastic on its own, but it is also necessary for your build. Many software tunes require upgraded intakes, exhausts, injectors, and more to be safe for programming into your ECU. The intake is a logical first place to start before you fall down the rabbit hole.
At ECS, we pride ourselves on developing the best version of a performance part available by in-house engineering everything we can. We draft, design, engineer, test and finalize our ECS intakes for ensured quality and performance. Our dyno sheets speak for themselves. However, plenty of other wonderful companies follow the same rigorous product development requirements we do. Namely, AEM, APR, Eventuri, and Forge Motorsport. Check out all their intakes and more at ECS Tuning for your Audi, BMW, MINI, Porsche, or VW!