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2001 Volkswagen GTI VR6 - The Great Intake Shootout - Tuner Tech

We Put CAIs To The Test

Jason Jackman
Nov 1, 2004
Photographer: Philip Royle
Eurp_0411_02_z+2001_vw_gti_vr6+black_vw Photo 1/1   |   2001 Volkswagen GTI VR6 - The Great Intake Shootout - Tuner Tech

That's right, people; we've finally done it. After literally thousands of e-mails requesting a comprehensive intake test, we got off our lazy asses and did it. And if that isn't enough, there will be an exhaust test on the same car in the December issue.

Our plan was to solicit every manufac-turer of cold-air intakes, install them on one car, test them, and give you our unbiased results. We opted to only test "true" cold-air intakes, in that the air had to be pulled from the fender and couldn't come from the engine bay.

To ensure the most scientific results, we went to Brainstorm Performance (www.turboperformance.net) in Los Angeles, California. The company isn't in the VW market and didn't stand to gain anything from the test, so it was completely impartial.

The test took place over a series of two days, and we calibrated the dyno before each session to obtain proper atmospheric pressure and drivetrain losses for consist-ency. We started each sample by rolling in third gear and went to full throttle at 1,500 rpm.

Our test subject was an '01 GTI VR6 12v, which was chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, the intercooler on a 1.8T can suffer from heat soak, so that engine was ruled out. Secondly, the AAA-block VR6 has been available since 1992 in the Corrado and was shared across the Passat, Mk3 GTI, Mk3 Jetta GLX, and of course, the Mk4.

We decided to introduce a points system to give you a point of reference for the test. It works on a 10-point scale, where the average was scored a five and everything else scored better or worse than that. So, for example, if most intakes gained 4 hp, that would earn five points. An intake that gained 5 hp would get six points, but 3 hp would only earn three points, and so on. Got that?

The four categories we will consider are: power, ease of fitting, finish, and price. The first is easy because we have the dyno sheets. The second category is fitting; we wanted to know whether it fouls anywhere, it's secure, the brackets line up properly, and so on. Next is finish, in which we considered how well it appeared to be constructed. Finally, we looked at price since this is a key factor when deciding which one you'd buy. Again, we took an average price, which scored five points, and then awarded points to either side of that.

Most of the intakes proved our theory that a stick is a stick. What we mean is that almost every intake tested within a few horsepower of one another at peak. However, the real battle for horsepower supremacy developed below the curve. That's right, the power under the curve is where a majority of intakes show their differences. This is also where most cars drive on a daily basis, so you should pay close attention to the dyno charts. To keep it simple, we only scored the intakes on peak power, but it's up to you to decide which best suits your needs.

As it turns out, none of these would be a poor purchase, since they all do what's required. But there are a few that offer slight advantages and could be the wiser choice in the long run.

Brainstorm Performance
If you're familiar with either Miata, WRX, or Evo tuning (but why would you be?), we're positive you'll know of Brainstorm Performance (www.turboperformance.net). The company is one of the leading innovators of the Miata scene, and its staff offers a wealth of expertise in that field. Fortunately, they're showing some interest in the European market, and have started working with Eurobahn Performance Products. So we hope to see some interesting parts from these guys soon.

The Brainstorm facility houses a Dynamic Test Systems 9500 4wd dynamometer. It's one of the few in the USA and is pretty advanced because it's able to simulate true road conditions at any speed, under any load. This means the crew can diagnose what's wrong with your car without ever leaving the shop.

ABD RacingStock Horsepower: 162.2Stock Torque: 161.7Horsepower: 171.9Torque: 169.5Pricing: $209.95Contact Info: ABD Racing, 951/351-9566, www.abdracing.com

ScoringPower: 8Price: 5 Fit: 7Finish: 8

This intake was by far the best looking when installed. Sure, Evolution Sports' intake was the coolest, but this had the best-constructed aluminum tube. The finish was similar to Euro Sport, with a ball polish instead of a high gloss. The unit also had a number of brackets, so the intake used all of the factory airbox mounting points instead of just one. The only downside was that one of the bolt holes was slightly out of line and required drilling. ABD's LAN pipe is a multipiece design with a removable extension tube for wet winters. The extension also makes the filter very easy to install, and thanks to the extra length of pipe, the filter was in the best location for sucking cold air from behind the air dam. We didn't encounter any issues installing the unit since the multipiece design meant it just dropped right into place.

The ABD intake tested best overall in the power category. Not only did it show a 10-12hp increase over stock at times, particularly on the bottom end, but it also outperformed the other intakes by a small margin. At peak it made the highest numbers, but again, only by fractions. Keep in mind, the separation between the very best performer and last place was a measly 4 hp. And if we were cynical, we could suggest that such a small difference could be attributed to the 3 percent correction factor you should figure into any dyno run.

AEMStock Horsepower: 162.2Stock Torque: 161.7Horsepower: 170.4Torque: 167.2Pricing: $258.31Contact Info: AEM, 310/484-2322, www.aempower.com

ScoringPower: 7Price: 4 Fit: 6Finish: 6

AEM was one of the top four competitors in the peak power segment of our comparison, only bested by about 1 hp. The bonus of the AEM unit is that it's offered in several finishes, so you can choose what looks best with your engine accessories. We chose the polished version to see how it compared with the others. The AEM tube was significantly smaller than the rest, which made it easy to install. It also had a slightly longer tube that put the filter deeper into the fender like the ABD unit. Unlike the ABD, however, it was one piece. The only issue we had was that the longer tube and its one-piece design meant the filter came pretty close to the horn bracket, and we found some dents on the filter after testing.

On the dyno, the intake performed well, only dropping near the stock curve at around 3,300 rpm. It was one of the top performers on the low end of the scale, creating an extra 10-12 lb-ft below the curve. On the top end, the separation grew larger until it hit the car's rev limiter. The availability of different colors will surely convince some to buy it, but it's also a good choice because it makes good power.

Auto TechStock Horsepower: 162.2Stock Torque: 161.7Horsepower: 168.5Torque: 165.7Pricing: $199.95Contact Info: Autotech Sport Tuning, 949/240-4000, www.autotech.com

ScoringPower: 6Price: 6Fit: 4 Finish: 5

The Autotech intake took fifth place in the all-out max power battle and performed as one of the best under the curve. In the mid-range, where the real battle took place, the Autotech pulled quite a large difference over a number of competitors and was only beaten by one. While the Autotech was just under 3 hp down from the leader at over 6,000 rpm, it's important to consider how often you really rev this high. Also, how often are you at 3,500-4,500 rpm?

The construction and fitment of the Autotech intake was high quality, considering the less-than-$200 price. The unit is made of 6061-T6 aluminum and has a high-polished finish. Autotech also went to the trouble of welding in a bung on the intake tube so the stock hose from the air pump fits like factory. However, the hardware on the unit we received didn't quite fit the way we would've liked. The hose clamps appeared to be a bit small and we had to fully extend them to get around the throttle body. The silicone hose was also a tight fit and a real pain in the ass to slide on. Despite this, everything went together and looked spectacular when installed.

Euro Sport Accessories
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 167.6
Torque: 165.1
Pricing: $209.95
Contact Info: Euro Sport Accessories, 714/630-1555, www.eurosportacc.com

Scoring
Power: 5
Price: 5
Fit: 5
Finish: 7

Euro Sport Accessories is known for its performance parts, mostly for the early cars. It does, however, have a lineup for late model cars as well. Not one to follow the crowd, Euro Sport was the only company that didn't use a K&N-style filter. Instead, the company uses a foam element from ITG Air Filters. The finish on the unit is outstanding, with a ball-polished effect to give it a haze. The intake uses a bung on the side to connect the factory air pump hose. Installation was flawless and all the brackets lined up without fuss. The installation did call for one extra step because there's a bracket that mounts below the battery tray - but it's only one more bolt.

It was no surprise to discover the Euro Sport intake tested about the same as every other intake. The curves followed along with the rest of the pack. Once again, it created most of its power under the curve, with a steady increase at the top all the way to the rev limit.

Evolution Motorsports
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 166.6
Torque: 164.9
Pricing: $189.00
Contact Info: Evolution Motorsports, 480/317-9911, www.evoms.com

Scoring
Power: 4
Price: 7
Fit: 4
Finish: 4

On the dyno, the EvoMS unit put its best power to the ground below the curve. It made between 6 to 8 hp over stock at just under 3,000 rpm, whereas at peak, the number dropped to a reasonable 4hp separation. The fit of the CAI in the engine bay looked very snug, but at the same time, the bracket to the fender wasn't the best fit. We had no real issues with the installation, although the silicone hose to the throttle body could've been tighter.

The EvoMS unit is a great value at $189, especially since the cross-link plastic construction means the black plastic intake tube appears damn near factory to the untrained eye and will surely pass most visual inspections. Another bonus of plastic is it won't conduct heat like steel, so intake charge temps should be slightly lower. Our tests just missed the latest production run of EvoMS intakes with the bung on the intake tube to accommodate the factory air-pump line. The version of the intake we tested uses an external air filter mounted on the air pump itself.

Evolution Sports
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 167.3
Torque: 163.5
Pricing: $255
Contact Info: Evolution Sports, 425/710-9200,www.evolutionsports.com

Scoring
Power: 5
Price: 5
Fit: 8
Finish: 8

The Evolution Sports intake looked the coolest by far, in our opinion. It's a true CAI, as it only sucks from the fender area, but it takes a totally off-the-wall approach and looks really intriguing. The adjustable flex tube that comes with it allows you to get air from wherever you think is best. We were going to try and face it directly at a duct, but the horn bracket got in the way, so we left it pulling air off the ground like the other intakes. It fit well, and once you locked the bracket down, the intake wasn't going anywhere.

The power proved to be around the same as every other unit tested, give or take a few ponies. If you look at the powerband, you'll notice this intake did the best job of simulating the stock curve but bumped up the numbers. The Evolution unit developed its best power at the high end of the scale and showed continuous gains until it hit the rev limiter. The cost is slightly higher than the rest of the intakes tested, but it's completely different from everything else. And if you're into the show scene, it may be just what you are looking for since the power difference between the intakes is negligible.

GHL Motorsports
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 171.4
Torque: 169.7
Pricing: $139.95
Contact Info: GHL Motorsports, 877/930-0911, www.ghlmotorsports.com

Scoring
Power: 8
Price: 8
Fit: 4
Finish: 3

The GHL intake was one of two intakes constructed from plastic, but it wasn't as well finished as the EvoMS unit. Fitting was painless, and it looks OE once installed, which is great for people who love their sleepers. The bracket is a sleeved insert and a piece of metal, which isn't the fanciest-looking of the bunch, but it gets the job done.

On the power side, this intake showed its strength. The bottom end of the curve was competitive with the best, making 10-12 lb-ft at about 3,000 rpm. On the horsepower side, there was a significant difference all the way through the chart until the rev limiter decided we'd had enough fun. If you are a no-frills, give-me-the-power person, this intake may be your bag because it tested number two at peak. If aesthetics are important to you for points at shows, we'd suggest looking at a shinier intake.

Injen Technology
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 170.0
Torque: 168.0
Pricing: $310.00
Contact Info: Injen Technology, 909/839-0706, www.injen.com

Scoring
Power: 7
Price: 2
Fit: 6
Finish: 7

The Injen system looked similar to the AEM unit, with its narrow tube design and high-polished finish, and it produced similar figures. It put down 170 hp and 168 lb-ft, which is about 8 hp over stock. The Injen unit also came in third on the low end of the scale, with just a fraction separating it from the front runner. As a matter of fact, the Injen kept its tiny lead over fourth place until just before peak, where the AEM came back and stole third by a fraction.

The finish was outstanding and possibly the best of the polished intakes. It was also well protected and didn't scratch easily during the install. The only issue we had was the tight-fitting throttle-body hose, but once on, it looked great. After the dyno run, we noticed the filter was dented, but it was nothing a 13mm wrench and a twist of the horn bracket wouldn't fix. The filter was positioned very close to the bumper opening, and we're pretty sure that's why the power was so good.

Neuspeed
Stock Horsepower: 162.2
Stock Torque: 161.7
Horsepower: 167.1
Torque: 165.4
Pricing: $269.95
Contact Info: Neuspeed, 805/388-7171 (California/Alaska/Hawaii only), 800/423-3623 (everywhere else), www.neuspeed.com

Scoring
Power: 5
Price: 3
Fit: 5
Finish: 7

The Neuspeed intake is a new addition to the company's lineup, and until recently, there was only the short-ram P-Flo intake. As with any Neuspeed product, the construction is spot on. Not unlike the Autotech system, a great deal of attention was paid to details like the small rubber grommet that fits between the bracket and the fender to reduce vibration. Neuspeed's unit also had a black wrinkle-finish powdercoat, as opposed to being polished like most others. In addition, the company used billet aluminum for the air hose fitting, which attaches as the stock one did. Neuspeed's unit is constructed out of lightweight aluminum as opposed to steel. The hardware included in the kit fit perfectly, except for the tapered hose to the throttle body. Like some other units, it was a tight fit. Once on, though, it looked great.

Power from the unit was similar to the rest of the intakes, producing 167.1 hp and 165.4 lb-ft of torque at the peak - only 4 hp off the best number. However, the intake was average in the mid-range. It was a little soft at the bottom end, outperforming the stock intake by about 4 hp. The Neuspeed unit really showed a difference in power after the VR6 Variable Geometry Intake (VGI) switched over to the shorter runners.

The Results

Companies Power Price Fit Finish Overall
ABD Racing 8 5 7 8 28
AEM 7 4 6 6 23
Autotech 6 6 4 5 21
Euro Sport Accessories 5 5 5 7 22
Evolution Motorsports 4 7 4 4 19
Evolution Sports 5 5 8 8 26
GHL Motorsports 8 8 4 3 23
Injen Technology 7 2 6 7 22
Neuspeed 5 3 5 7 20

By Jason Jackman
18 Articles

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