With the performance automotive industry growing each day, it’s hard to keep up with all the different brands and product options. Today, we are going to talk about one of the most common first modifications an enthusiast will change on their car – their intake.
First Off, How Does it Work?
Okay, we get that most of us can easily understand how intakes work. But did you know there’s a lot of engineering that goes into each factory design?
Obviously, the standard principle behind an intake is fairly obvious- to pull air into the engine. But there’s many variables in design.
Many manufacturers are striving for quieter and quieter systems. Believe it or not, your vehicle produces both exhaust noise and intake noise. Essentially they are both openings to an internal combustion engine producing micro explosions at however many RPMs, so of course you can expect there to be a noise produced!
But thanks to engineering, many manufacturers integrated additional tubing into the intake design to absorb unwanted frequencies so you can listen to your smooth jazz without interuption. We recently worked on a Maserati which has a great example of this frequency absorbing trick. See the plastic sticking out side to side on the intake? That’s to lose noise!
We get it though. You are here, so of course you are an enthusiast who wants to hear engine noise!
In the intake system, there is sometimes a sensor called a MAF (Mass airflow sensor) this tells the engine how much air is going into the engine and allows the ECU to make adjustments to the fuel trim accordingly. In an ideal aftermarket design, the location of the MAF should not be altered. Many cars nowadays are turning to MAP based, which measures manifold pressure.
Then of course there’s the filter for the intake and the intake box. The box design allows for the system to be quieter, prevent engine heat soak from being absorbed by the intake, and keeps big debris or critters out. The filter, of course, filters the air to a certain level of microns. Microns measure the amount of debris passed through a filter. We recently worked on a BMW M4, which has actually two different air filters on each intake! Only the cleanest, yet arguably most restricted air for the BMW.
What Are My Options?
Short ram, drop in filters, and cold air systems all provide a variety of choice, look, and sound. Depending on taste, budget, and anticipated performance, different options will work best for you. We’ll go through the basic pros and cons of each one!
Short Ram Pros: Greatest intake noise, most simplified intake system option, likely to open up room under the hood. There’s so much room for activities!
Cons: Most likely to heat soak and potentially decrease power, as well as being considered “too loud” by some.
Drop In Filters Pros: Cheapest option, “dealership friendly”, retains factory system.
Cons: Literally no one knows you have it, engine bay looks the same, and hp increase is likely less than a full cold air system.
Cold Air Intake Pros: Greatest power increase of the 3 typically, can look great, clean up the engine bay, and prevent heat soak.
Cons: Typically the most expensive option, intake noise can be sometimes too quiet for some.
What Do We Recommend?
We’ve seen many intakes and installed hundreds, if not thousands over the years. It’s hard to beat the quality systems offered by APR, IE, and AWE. We’ll show examples for the MK7 R. We prefer full cold air intakes for the looks, performance, and cleanliness of it.
APR’s system is tried and true, not to mention incredibly attractive. It is a fantastic option that is known to perform, and look great while doing so. Priced at $459.99, this is a great product offered at a fair price!
Another great option is IE’s. Being a full system, the IE intake provides similar gains to APR’s. However, this system is not as flashy with carbon fiber, and is a cheaper plastic option. However, this product is a great choice for the budget friendly price at $319.99
Lastly, AWE’s AirGate intake is a creative design that is unlike any of the others. With AWE’s AirGate, you can enjoy a closed, or open top cold air intake. If you want more intake noise, you can pull the lid off and let it rip. Want the most performance? Simply put it back on. Also featured in carbon fiber, it is an attractive system as well. However, priced at $649.99, it is the most expensive option on this list.