(This sponsored post is the second in a series coming from our friends at OutMotoring. And don’t forget about the discount code you can find below.)
Understanding the value, and benefits of Performance Cold Air Intake systems for specific MINI models.
Air. Spark. Fuel. Power. It’s all related. The core requirements for a gas engine to function are a fuel source, air, and a spark. To gain horsepower simply increase any one of the 3. Or is it that simple?
While upgraded fuel can be utilized to gain horsepower it’s often hard to find octanes higher than 93 or so. In general using the highest quality gas available is a good way to produce the most power. Getting a more effective spark plug is also quite challenging and often has very minimal gains. That leaves the third variable which is air volume (along with air temperature). Forcing, or allowing more air to get to the combustion chamber, will by default, help increase horsepower. The good news is it’s actually fairly easy and affordable to accomplish! Getting colder (more dense) air into the engine is key to increased performance gains. Air that is cold tends to be more dense; however, getting air that is not heat soaked by engine bay heat is a challenge, but that’s where a few aftermarket companys have stepped up to offer a way to get MORE air that is colder than the “normal” air stewing in the engine bay – trapped under the hood.
Full of hot air? Yes, you are!
If you’ve ever been on a sports team and had a good coach you’ve likely heard him or her say to never crouch or hunch over after a workout. Rather, the coach will have you stand upright with your arms over your head to allow your lungs the needed surface area to pull in that fresh air. Your MINI engine is sort of like that. The more surface area of the air filter or the air box the better off your engine will be. More air, specifically more COOL air is what your car needs.
In fact, you may have observed the results of this without even replacing anything on your car. If you’ve driven your car on a cool morning, you may notice that your car was just a bit snappier than it was on the ride home the day before. Is it all in your head? Likely not. The colder, DENSE morning air typically gives your engine a little boost. Cool, dense air allows for a snappier combustion cycle which produces more power.
Naturally aspirated engines such as the base model Coopers can benefit from increased air flow and modest gains can be found; however, the Supercharged and Turbo models tend to benefit more by replacing the stock air box with a upgraded air intake system that allow (more) cool air to enter the engine.
I need one of these “cold air’ air intakes you’re talking about!
R50 + R52 Base Cooper Models
If you’ve got a base model R50 or a R52 Convertible you’ll find the options for upgraded intakes are very limited; however, this intake from DDM Works has proven to be one of the best in the market. DDM has a fantastic reputation and their gen1 base Cooper intake is well regarded as the go to intake for gen1 base Coopers. DDM is a small family owned company in South Carolina that has a narrow, yet focused product offering of high quality products that perform very well. Consider picking up one of their intake. While power gains are modest the increase in engine sound from the intake alone may be worth the investment. In a close second comes the KN Typhoon Intake. Be sure to review each product description to see which is the bettert for your budget and needs.
The following paragraphs breakdown clusters of MINI models that share common parts. In this case, with few exceptions, each cluster of models has a specific product recommendation.
R52 + R53 “S” Models
If you have a generation 1 MINI Cooper S model(R53 Hatchback or the R52 Convertible ‘S’ model) and you’d like to get a little boost in performance consider the DDM intake. The DDM Gen1 ‘S’ Intakeis one of the best intakes on the market and has features that are matched with great engineering, design, fit, and finish. DDM makes one of the only “true” cold air intakes as it has aremovable top that allows access to the filter when needed (for cleaning every 10K miles). This top blocks heat soaked air from the engine bay while allowing fresh air from the cowl duct and from under the engine bay as well as the front grill. The large conical filter offers more surface area than a standard flat filter which helps with air flow volume into the engine. While the overall volume of the air intake boxitself is likely similar to the factory air box, the increased surface area of the conical foam filter is the key to this product..
There are many intakes to consider such as theAlta Intake with Silicone Intake Inlet Hose, the factory JCW Air Intake Box(maintains stock appearance but features a conical filter like the Alta, DDM and other aftermarket intake), the AFE Magnum ForceIntake (with similar design to the DDM) or others. To improve air flow of these or even your factory air box, simply add one of these Silicone Intake Hoses. The main benefit to this type of hose is that that the smooth internal surface is free from the corrugated ridges that slow down (could be debated) air flow as it enters the engine. When shopping for a performance air intake for your gen1 “S” model you can’t go wrong with the DDM Intake.
R55, R56, R57, R58, R59, R60 + R61 Base Cooper Models
Base Cooper owners seem to be neglected by the aftermarket manufacturers as they assume that buyers wanting more performance or horsepower would have likely pulled out their wallet and purchased the “S” model; however many owners of base Coopers are also seeking horsepower gains while enjoying the lower purchase price of the base modeI. While the options for cold air intakes for the base models are limited there are a few to consider. It seems that our go-to brand again is DDM. Here’s the reason why. When a company is in tune with the market and sees it as the lifeline of their company they’re going to think, create and offer what they realize is the best. On the other hand a massive corporation may look at a specific model and if the production numbers are low or previous sales history does not justify adding “another item number” to their catalog they simply won’t. As a result DDM offers one of the ONLY intakes for base Cooper Gen2 models and it has proven to answer the demand with flying colors.
R55, R56, R57, R58, R59, R60 + R61 Cooper S Models
Generation 2 Cooper S models have a slew of great aftermarket intake systems to choose from. It can be a bit tricky to shop for the correct intake for your MINI as MINI made a few significant changes over the years such as major mid cycle refresh in 2011 (called the “LCI”) where they shifted from the N14 to the N18. On top of that there were a few other minor changes which are compounded by US production cars being different from non – US cars – which mostly affect how the NM intakes fit. So, you can see it can get complicated very fast. For the most part the NM Engineering line of intakes for the Gen2 ‘S’models are designed for nearly every variation, production cycle change and production application. We recommend carefully reviewing the product details on this page to confirm what exact part number your MINI requires. If you’re confused, just give us a call. The NM Engineering intakeis one of the best on the market for numerous reasons. Having the correct fitments for the widest range of Gen2 MINI models is one reason. They also feature top notch engineering, design, fitment, and overall presentation. From packaging to instructions they have their act together. The NM intake also features a slick looking replacement aluminum intake pipe that feeds air to the turbo. This rigid hose is visually distinctive and will not collapse or crack as the factory corrugated plastic version tends to. While not a true ‘cold air’ intake (pulling air from other than the engine bay) it does have some performance gains and looks stunning in the engine bay. Increased engine and turbo sound in the cabin adds a nice tone. Horsepower gains are modest but welcomed.
As a close 2nd we continue to see a high demand for the AEM Intake (available for both the N14 and N18 engine variants) that features an air funnel that helps get air from the otherwise useless hood mounted air scoop to the engine. The factory hood scoop is actually non functional, but adding the AEM intake and plastic hood mounted funnel helps get even more cool air into the intake and into the engine. DDM also has a similar design which is made of metal. Arguments over validity of this general design are ongoing as are the merits of plastic vs metal; however, it seems logical that air being forced in from the hood scoop is a good thing.
It’s been noted by more than a few MINI tuners around the world that there is savings in considering just upgrading the factory flat paper filter with a upgraded, free flow KN drop in filterfor the base Cooperor the “S” version here.If you’d rather free up some money for other mods that have proven to make more horsepower gains (while costing significantly more $$) consider just getting a KN Drop In Filter. Put the savings toward a Helix, Wagner,orForge Intercooler.
F54, F55, F56, F57 + F60 Cooper + Cooper S Models
We’ve finally made it to the newest models that MINI offers! Yippee!
Okay, so you’re a proud owner of a gen3 MINI and you’d like to get on the cold air intake bandwagon. We’re here to help.
The gen3 model is unique in that some engineering, engine components, and technology are shared across other vehicles under the parent company BMW. This has a few perks. For one, the intakes for certain models are the same as those used on various BMW cars. As the ECUs (or ECM – Engine Control Modules) are sometimes the same or very similar we are also seeing overlap with chip tuning/piggy-back modules and ‘tuners’ as they are called (made by Burger Tuning,Dinan, etc). So, it’s time to embrace the fact that BMWs influence has finally made it through to the heart of the MINI brand. We’ll talk about these ‘tuners’ in another write up. They’re a VERY good way to get more horsepower gains and are worth every penny – especially on gen3 MINIs.
A nice perk of shared technology and more “popular” engines used in the gen3 MINIs is that the intake systems are more or less the same between the base and ‘S’ models. So, for the most part any intake that fits the ‘S’ will fit the base model 1.5, etc. The exception at the moment is the Countryman model. While it’s now one of the best selling MINI models; in some cases outselling all of its smaller siblings combined, we’re not seeing the aftermarket parts designers grasp this and offer intake systems specific to the F60 Countryman or the F54 Clubman chassis.
There are little performance gains to be found by upgrading the air intake systems on a gen3; however, the increase in engine sound is enough to encourage some potential buyers make the investment. In this featurette we have featured boutique brands such as DDM along with MINI specific brands such as NM Engineering, the big brands such as K&N, AFE and AEM have a lot going for them too.
The leader of the market for the gen 3 models is clearly the intake from KN.They have production volume, pricing, performance and the customer support network to back up their very competitively priced and well engineered intake that seems to be THE one to buy. There are others to consider such as Cravenspeed, Mishimoto,Forge, and the NM Intake. It’s just hard to swallow spending another $80 to $150 on another product when the designs are nearly identical and gains will be similar (modest).
If you’re after a higher dollar per horsepower combination we recommend spending some of your budget on products in a completely different area of the vehicle such as a Tuner Module (linked above) or a AWE Tuning Exhaust system,catless downpipeor Helix intercooler; which often deliver double digit horsepower gains.
In Summary – This is an Easy and Inexpensive Mod That’s Worth It
So, there you have it. I think I addressed every major MINI model since the brand was revived by BMW. We’ve covered the basics of what a more efficient, larger, “cold air” intake can do for your MINI. For the most part it’s pretty easy to justify spending the money on a upgrade that allows more (and or cooler) air to get into the combustion chamber. These type of upgrades are easy to install by the average DIY type with basic knowledge, skill, tools, and desire. These systems can be installed in under 90 minutes with standard tools. Most are supplied with great instructions; however a quick search on youtube usually ends with a great (or not so great) video of a fellow MINI owner installing one on his or her own MINI. Or just give Aaron at OutMotoring.com a call for expert guidance.
So, what’cha waiting for? That cool air isn’t going to get into your engine by itself!
We often hear from customers that the average MPG goes up 1-2 after they do a upgrade such as a performance air intake. While not always the case, it’s fairly common. If you’re the type that seems to always be on the road the investment could pay for itself.
It’s fair to assume that in writing this article we left out a few fantastic products that deserve recognition. We had to be very selective in highlighting certain designs and did so based on years of experience in talking with customers before purchasing, after purchasing and even in some cases replacing certain intakes for one reason or another. It’s rare that these systems fail but it can happen. More than anything we hear of complications fitting a certain intake with a certain upper stress bar – which is common with the gen 2 MINIs as well as the R52 ‘S’ and R53. If you’d like to get some feedback on certain combinations of intakes and upper stress bars be sure to drop us a line and we’ll do our best to get a answer for you.
OutMotoring is available to work with you on a personalized plan to upgrade the performance of your MINI. To shop for these or other popular intake systems for your MINI be sure to stop by OutMotoring.com and select your MINI model from the list on this page and navigateto the “SPEED” section. From there we have sub categories with intake systems, exhaust systems, ignition upgrades and other great products to make your MINI perform better.
When you shop at OutMotoring you’re benefiting from the experience and knowledge of MINI specialists. Orders over $195 ship for free (with few exceptions). You’ll get friendly customer service before and after your purchase and you’ll be supporting a small company that thrives on making their customers happy. OutMotoring.com also has a Motoring Rewards Points program so you can earn discounts as you shop.
And guess what, just for being a Motoringfile reader you can use code MTR5to save 5% on your order!
As always, we’re here when you need your next MINI upgrade or repair.
Aaron Cornaby- Head Motorer