Shopping for a Mustang Cold Air Intake and a Mustang Performance Tune should be easy – you want to purchase the best performing intake system that delivers maximum horsepower, offers great reliability, all with the highest level of quality available for your hard earned dollar. Unfortunately, the market today is full of various manufacturers and retailers that are promoting products that have inferior quality and design, do not maximize “safe” horsepower and torque, and may potentially cause more harm than good. With many retailers making claims that are often under fulfilled, the consumer today is often more challenged then they may realize in their decision making selection.
In the automotive business, you get what you pay for. If you want a cheap underperforming intake and tune – there are plenty available to choose from. But if you want a serious CAI that is designed, engineered, and manufactured under strict ISO 9001-2008 Certified standards and one that will stand up to the test of time on the track, dragstrip, or on the street – the solution is really simple – let us explain the simple truth about Mustang Cold Air Intakes and Performance Tunes:
For purposes of this review, we are comparing two very popular Cold Air Intakes (CAI) that are available in the market today: The Steeda ProFlow Cold Air Intake and another CAI from a manufacturer we will politely refer to as being from “J”. The “J” CAI is often blogged about as being a good intake for the money. But when you do a detailed engineering review of the intake and explore their inner elements – you will be shocked by what you will discover and how you have been mislead by marketing hype and salesmanship.
The photo above is of the Steeda ProFlow CAI. Note the stainless steel construction of the housing that separates the incoming air from the engine compartment. This extremely durable housing is topped off with a soft/pliable yet tough neoprene synthetic rubber that forms a tight seal against the vehicle hood – effectively stopping unwanted hot engine compartment air from entering the air box. The air filter is a special composite nano-particle element that is extremely effective at stopping ambient debris and dirt – yet it also allows for maximum air-flow by being less restrictive than most other filters on the market. This filter incorporates a special inner pleating design that affords maximum surface area – key for ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted flow of incoming air.
A design element we have incorporated into this CAI is our exclusive aluminum velocity stack component that we developed directly from feedback and tests from our factory sponsored Mustang racing program.
This velocity stack serves multiple purposes – primarily to ensure a smooth airflow across the Mass Air sensor so that its readings are not compromised, and also to provide a denser flow of fresh incoming air. Sure it costs much-much more to include a part of this design, yet alone a part made of aircraft grade aluminum, but when you set out to design and engineer the best CAI possible, this is an example of the key details and expense you include in your product. Securely fitted to the velocity stack is a durable silicone connector with dual stainless steel band clamps that attaches our roto-molded inlet tube with our proprietary cool-tube technology. Together these components provide an extremely smooth transition for incoming air to enter the engine’s intake manifold.
To the novice, the Cold Air Intake from “J” is superficially similar in appearance – being comprised of an airbox, filter media, and an inlet tube. However, that is where the similarities end. When you look real close at the design of the airbox housing, note that there is an inherent design flaw that does not completely seal the airbox from the engine compartment – a flaw that will certainly allow unwanted hot engine compartment heat to enter the airbox. When you cutaway the various components, note the connection between the air filter and the intake tube….this slip on connection has the inlet tube sticking out directly into the path of the incoming air – forming a pronounced step that is essentially a built-in turbulence generator. This will precipitate an increase in turbulence of the flow of the incoming air.
This turbulence occurs at one of the most critical areas of the CAI – just upstream of the Mass Air Flow sensor….not a good thing for maximizing efficiency or performance.
In addition, there is the strong likelihood for a mistake to occur during installation in that this design has no real built in “stops” provided to set the two pieces in the optimum position. The potential exists where the pieces could be slid too close together causing the inlet tube to protrude even further into the incoming airflow causing an even more turbulence into the incoming airflow.
From a design, engineering and construction perspective you can readily see that there indeed is a substantial difference in Cold Air Intakes in their engineering. These differences can and will have a dramatic affect on your vehicles performance.
Now – lets test these two Cold Air Intakes and document the actual differences under real world testing:
Most people think the intention of a Cold Air Intake is to feed your engine with a clean fresh and cool supply of air for peak performance, and they are partially right. Everyone knows that cooler – denser incoming air is a key ingredient for maximizing horsepower and overall performance of your engine. However no one thinks about maximizing airflow AND velocity for the best overall performance. This is a key factor Steeda Autosports does not overlook.
Bigger is not always better. It takes careful design and understanding of airflow to design a performance intake. Just throwing the largest mass air housing you can put on a car isn’t going to automatically produce the best power under the curve. In many cases it can actually hurt power. Precisely matching MAF size along with our velocity stack helps preserve velocity, which avoids negatively affecting throttle response and low end torque. This means better low end power production and better overall response and feel.
In an effort to test the effectiveness of both the Steeda and the ‘J’ CAI, we embarked on a series of tests including dyno testing and real world thermo tests that would effectively and accurately provide quantitative data that would reveal the performance of each intake. Our research for each CAI was performed on the same 2011 Mustang GT and under as identical conditions as possible (e.g. driven over the same routes, same traffic conditions, same car and dyno on the same day for all dyno testing, etc.) using temperature data collected from the vehicle’s ECU as well as our own temperature gathering equipment.
First up is the dyno testing. Testing was done at a full operating temperature. The Steeda Cold Air is shown in run number one. We then immediately removed the Steeda cold air, installed the competitor ‘J’ cold air and installed a new tune that only accounted for the airflow curve of the competitors cold air, all other parameters including ignition and camshaft timing remained the same.
As you can see, the oversized housing of the ‘J’ cold air suffers from a serious lack of low end torque compared to our optimally designed system. From 2200 all the way to 3500 we make more low end torque. You will feel this extra low end torque when driving the vehicle and throttle response will be noticeably better as well. You can also see the extra size did not provide any kind of top end horsepower advantage whatsoever. In fact we averaged more horsepower over the last 1400rpm even through our MAF size is smaller than brand ‘J’. Bigger is not always better, and in this case it is not better in any way.
Now we are going to move on to the thermal tests where we compared inlet air temperatures under real world conditions. Here are the results we discovered:
TEST 1 – IDLE TESTING
For the Steeda Cold Air Intake outside ambient temp was 82 degrees – average coolant temperature was 192.48 degrees. Our air charge temperature for this test with a 30 second data log, was 86 degrees. The Air temperature differential was a mere 4 degrees above ambient air temperatures.
For the “J” CAI test outside ambient temperature rose only slightly to 83 degrees (a 1 degree increase) and average coolant temperature was 193.22. Air charge temperature for this test for the 30 second log was 100.4 degrees. The end result was staggering with the air temperature differential was an alarming 17.4 degrees above ambient air temperatures.
Result summary: Test #1 won by Steeda with only 4 degree increase – “J” looses with a 17 degree increase.
TEST 2 – CITY TRAFFIC
For this test we did our best to keep coolant temps as close to each other as possible by driving the exact route in the same level of traffic. Ambient air temperatures were a constant 83 degrees for both tests.
For the Steeda ProFlow CAI test after driving the car for some simulated city traffic heat soak we initiated the test. Average coolant temp on this test 190.05. At the start of the test air charge temp had risen to a max of 114.8. Speed was brought up to 45mph. The temperature dropped to a low point of 89.6 degrees in 45 seconds and remained there. A 25.2 degree drop and a temperature of only 6.6 degrees above ambient air temperatures.
For the “J” Cold Air test, we proceeded to duplicate the identical test procedure as the Steeda CAI was put through. Average coolant temp was 192.28. At the start of the test air charge temp had risen to a max of 122.00. – a net of 7.2 degrees hotter than our Steeda ProFlow CAI. Vehicle speed was brought up to 45mph and the incoming air temperature dropped to a low point of 96.8 degrees in 54 seconds. Also, a 25.2 degree drop, but still 7.2 degrees hotter than the Steeda ProFlow intake, and 13.8 degrees above ambient temperature.
Result summary: Test #2 won by Steeda with only 6.6 degree increase – “J” looses with a 13.8 degree increase.
Overall the “J” CAI consistently exhibited higher air charge temperatures across the board in all of our tests. With an outside ambient temperature differential of only 1 degree throughout the test and relatively comparable coolant temps at speed and nearly identical coolant temps at idle, the difference in intake performance was substantial with the Steeda ProFlow Air Intake consistently outperformed the “J” CAI under ALL conditions.
Our warranty program is comprehensive and complete. We have a LIFETIME Warranty on our Cold Air Intakes. If anything fails, we stand behind it completely. PERIOD. No fine print, no red tape, no bul#$%^, just a complete full manufacturers warranty that you can go to the bank with!
Remember, the Steeda Design, Engineering and Manufacturing Teams stand behind all of the products and services that they provide. In the unlikely event that a customer has an issue with any of our products, we are fully committed to work with them to resolve their concerns to their and our mutual satisfaction. We have built our rock-solid reputation over the years on superb design, comprehensive engineering, quality manufacturing and on customer service — the result is our products just don’t cause issues – PERIOD.
We purposely go the extra lengths to ensure that our products do not compromise the OEM reliability elements and we pay particular attention not only to NVH factors, but also to how the parts/tune integrate into the Ford vehicle they are engineered for. Few – if any – of the other aftermarket companies do the same degree of engineering that we do…and none of this group are ISO 9001-2008 Certified like we are.
Much can be said about performance tuning and the amount of torque and horsepower that they develop. Inevitably, the discussion always ends up being about will the consumer need to purchase additional tunes as additional modifications are made –or– the discussion is about warranty implications and what would happen if a catastrophic failure occurs….and rightfully so. Shamefully, there are plenty of self-taught tuners, tuners that rely on trial and error, and others that profess to be skilled at tuning based on using customers cars as their test fleet, acquiring information and “perfecting” their abilities as they conduct business. Professional tuning is much more than just passion of a novice in the industry – rather it is a dedicated and extremely complicated science where there is no room for error.
At Steeda Autosports, we do not experiment with customer cars or learn as we go practicing a “trial and error” methodology. While other tuners may “shut off” engine key sensor inputs or purposely trick sensor readings that the ECU reads, we work with the existing Ford ECU logic and all of the OEM sensors in an extremely complicated and very technical manner so that the integrity of the vehicle is not compromised – but at the same time your power is maximized. There are plenty of tunes available from various sources that compromise the integrity of the mustang powertrain, and as a result, can cause catastrophic damage to your vehicle. Proper tuning is not only an art form, but it is also a highly technical science that requires much more than a simple handheld tuner and sloppy guesswork. In our shops we have corrected untold numbers of tunes from others – but when have you ever heard of a problem with a Steeda tune?
Our performance tunes have a dialed in safety factor – one that is intended to ensure that maximum power is provided and also to ensure that your engine is not endangered or put to the point where damage may occur. A Steeda performance tune is not done with guesswork or by trial and error – rather with our outstanding relationship with Ford Motor Company as well a with SCT, we have been able to develop a comprehensive array of tunes that are failsafe.
Check our performance history both on and off the racetrack, check the forums and see what people say about us, and lastly, check with Ford Motor Company – you will see that there is an exceptionally high level of trust in what we do and in our reputation for enhancing the performance of Ford vehicles.
Steeda Autosports is not just some new company that has appeared on the scene recently, or is a store front for mass merchandising products that others produce overseas. Rather, we have worked for over 24 years in the aftermarket industry dedicated solely to enhancing the performance level of Ford Motor Company vehicles. We have collaborated extensively with Ford, worked on programs for the Ford Special Vehicle Team and mainstream Ford Product Development, and supply performance parts to Ford Racing. We stand on our reputation, past and current successes, and our ongoing commitment to produce the highest quality parts and tunes possible. Being an ISO 9001-2008 Company is not just a trophy given to anyone that applies for it. For Steeda it means we have demonstrated our commitment to making performance parts at the highest quality level possible and for exceeding our customers’ expectations. ISO 9001-2008 Certification represents not only a significant financial investment we have made, but it is also an investment we have made so our customers can have the assurance and piece of mind when they purchase our products that they will perform the way they were intended to do so, and without causing harm to the vehicle.
Steeda – Speed You Can Trust