Can a High-Performance Cold Air Intake System Boost Horsepower in a Toyota 86?

March 31, 2024

When you’re looking to increase the performance of your Toyota 86, one component that might be on your radar is the air intake system. A high-performance cold air intake system, like those from HPS, K&N, or other brands, is designed to improve engine performance by delivering more air to the engine. The question many Toyota 86 owners ask is whether these systems actually deliver a noticeable increase in horsepower. Let’s delve into the details.

Understanding the Air Intake System

Before delving into the world of high-performance air intakes, it’s crucial to understand the role of the stock air intake system in your Toyota 86. This system is responsible for providing your engine with the air it needs to run. This air mixes with the fuel in your engine to create the combustion that powers your car.

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The stock intake system in a Toyota 86, or indeed any vehicle, is designed to provide a balance between performance, fuel economy, and noise levels. However, if you’re prepared to sacrifice a little on the latter two, a high-performance air intake system could be an option to consider.

The Science Behind Cold Air Intakes

The principle behind a cold air intake is fairly straightforward. Cooler air is denser than warm air, meaning it contains more oxygen. By delivering more oxygen-rich air to your engine, a cold air intake system can theoretically increase your engine’s performance.

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When you install a cold air intake system, it replaces your car’s stock intake tube and air box. High-performance intakes, like those from HPS or K&N, often feature a longer, smoother tube that allows the air to flow more freely to your engine. This alone might not result in a significant increase in horsepower, but when combined with the cooler, denser air, it could give your vehicle a small performance boost.

Real-World Performance Gains

While the theory behind cold air intakes is sound, the actual performance gains can be more difficult to quantify. Multiple factors can influence the increase in horsepower, including the specific model of intake, the overall condition of your engine, and even the climate in which you drive.

Anecdotal reports from Toyota 86 drivers who have installed high-performance air intakes suggest that there can be an increase in horsepower, but it’s often modest. A gain of 5-10 horsepower is a figure commonly quoted, but this should not be taken as gospel. Your own experience could differ, and the only way to know for sure is to install an intake and have your car professionally tested.

Choosing the Right Cold Air Intake System

If you’re considering upgrading your air intake system, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to ensure the intake is compatible with your Toyota 86. Models like the HPS Performance Short Ram Air Intake or the K&N Performance Air Intake System are popular choices for this vehicle.

Consider the construction of the intake. A good quality intake will be made from durable materials, like the high-density polyethylene used in K&N intakes or the aluminum used by HPS.

Lastly, consider how the intake will affect your car’s noise levels. High-performance intakes often result in a louder, more aggressive engine sound. Some drivers love this, while others might find it off-putting.

The Verdict: Performance vs. Cost

Ultimately, whether a high-performance cold air intake system is worth the investment will depend on your specific needs and expectations. If you’re seeking a significant increase in horsepower, you may be disappointed. However, if you’re after a modest boost in power, coupled with a more aggressive engine sound and the potential for improved throttle response, a high-performance intake could be just the ticket.

Remember, installing a new intake is not without its risks. There’s the potential for issues with your Mass Air Flow sensor, which could lead to a decrease in performance, or even damage to your engine. It’s always wise to have any modifications carried out by a professional, or at least to seek professional advice before attempting them yourself.

In conclusion, a high-performance air intake system can potentially provide a small increase in horsepower for your Toyota 86. However, it’s not a ‘magic bullet’ solution, and the actual gains will likely be modest. But if you’re looking to squeeze out every last bit of performance from your car, it could well be an option worth considering.

The Role of Specific Air Intake Components

When discussing the potential benefits of a high-performance air intake system, it’s helpful to understand the function of specific air intake components. The air filter, located within the air box, is key to preventing dust and debris from entering the engine, which protects its overall health and longevity. High-performance air intake kits often come with a more efficient air filter, which allows more air to pass through while still keeping out harmful particles.

Next, one should consider the intake tube, which carries the air from the filter to the engine. Performance air intake systems typically feature a mandrel bent aluminum tube, which is designed to reduce turbulence and increase the speed of airflow, leading to better throttle response.

The heat shield is another crucial element of the air intake system. Its purpose is to block the hot air from the engine bay, ensuring only cool air reaches the intake. Some high performance systems, like the HPS Performance Short Ram Air Intake, include a stainless steel heat shield. Not only does this component improve performance, it also adds a sleek, stylish look under the hood.

Lastly, the short ram air intake is a specific type of air intake system that is often included in high-performance kits. The design of a short ram intake positions the intake close to the engine, which allows for faster throttle response due to the shorter distance the air has to travel.

Comparison between Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ

The Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ are often compared due to their many similarities. Both are sports cars with the same platform and engine, so the question arises: will a high-performance air intake system deliver similar horsepower gains in the Subaru BRZ as it does in the Toyota 86?

It is important to note that even though these vehicles share many components, their air intake systems are not identical. Therefore, the performance gains achieved by installing a high-performance air intake system may vary between the two models.

The Subaru BRZ, like its Toyota 86 counterpart, can benefit from a cooler, denser charge of air. However, the extent of the horsepower gains might be slightly different. You should consult with a professional or a trusted mechanic to understand what you can expect from such an upgrade to your specific model.

Conclusion: Making the Decision

As we have seen, a high-performance air intake system can potentially increase horsepower in a Toyota 86. However, the actual results will depend on several variables, such as the specific model of intake, the car’s existing engine condition, and even the outside temperature and driving conditions.

For those Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ owners who value an aggressive engine sound and are looking to enhance throttle response, a high-performance air intake system, such as the HPS Performance Short Ram Air Intake, might be an exciting upgrade. It’s crucial, though, to consider the modest horsepower gains and contrast them with the cost and potential risks.

The decision to install a high-performance air intake system should be made after careful consideration and preferably after consulting with a professional. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as every driver’s needs, preferences, and budget are different. However, for the automotive enthusiast who is passionate about squeezing every bit of performance out of their car, the upgraded air intake could be a worthy investment.