The majority of our technical installations encompass bolting on a few parts, custom tuning, and a few dyno pulls to verify performance gains. Many times, the reason we don't have track results is because of the variables that come into play when trying to accomplish such results. Differing weather and track conditions are the main reasons it's hard to achieve repeatable numbers, but also if more power is made, that doesn't always translate to quicker elapsed times at the track, especially when using street tires.
Therefore, the best way to do a track test is to do it all at the same time and place. That's the most optimal way of achieving reliable, repeatable results. Even so, the best laid plans don't always come to fruition.
Case in point, our plan when putting together this track test was to take a 10R80 equipped 2018 Mustang GT Performance Pack 1 car to Bradenton Motorsports Park (BMP), establish a couple baseline runs, install a JLT Performance cold air intake, and have Sai Li from Li Tuning & Racing perform a custom tune using an SCT BDX handheld tuner. That was the plan, anyway.
Everything seemed to be going our way when we arrived Bradenton Motorsports Park for a private track rental. Our test car arrived with plenty of cool down time to spare before the track was prepped and ready for action. Sai had a few cars there at the track that night he was also tuning, and he was also turning wrenches for the JLT cold air intake install, as well. Therefore, he was there to tune other cars, install the JLT cold air, and tune the our test car - all in one night.
Even though we were ready to go when the track was hot, Sai was busy battling rush-hour traffic just to get to BMP. While we waited for Sai, we made the car's baseline runs, which resulted in an 11.95 at 118 mph. With the 11.95 as our best pass, we let the car cool down in preparation of the JLT install. After a little bit, Sai and his crew arrived at BMP, and we were able to get to business.
As for the JLT install, that part of the install was easy and we buttoned it up pretty quickly. The difficult part came when it was time to tune the car; the new for 2018 10R80 transmission isn't the easiest to tune. Running the car with the new cold air and tune didn't get the results we expected. Unfortunately, we ran out of time that night for Sai to look at datalogs to see what was keeping the car from improving its times. Subsequent investigation revealed the engine was pulling timing. Therefore, on the return trip to BMP, the simple addition of octane booster kept the engine from pulling timing, resulting in an 11.67 at 120 mph.
For a largely stock 2018 Mustang GT 10R80, we'd say that's pretty stout.
We started out the evening with a bone stock 2018 Mustang GT Performance Pack 1 with a 10R80 automatic transmission. This author had driven a couple 10R80 cars prior to this test, but never at the track. Sometimes it's hard to gauge a car's quickness by driving it on the street, but when a naturally aspirated car fresh off the showroom floor runs in the 11s, that's pretty impressive, even today. Bone stock our test car ran an 11.95 at 118 mph. We were hoping to improve on that number with the JLT Performance cold air intake and SCT BDX handheld with a Li Tuning & Racing custom tune.
Replacing a factory air intake with a JLT Performance cold air intake on a 2018 Mustang GT isn't difficult at all. The JLT intake comes with instructions, but seasoned Mustang enthusiasts may not even need them. JLT recommends removing the Millennium Falcon like engine cover, but Sai, a seasoned Mustang technician is able to do the install with the engine cover in place. Whether or not you remove the engine cover, the first thing to do is loosen the air inlet throttle-body clamp using either a 7mm socket or a flat head screwdriver.
Up next disconnect the vacuum and PCV lines, the MAF connector, and the sound tube.
There's a 10mm bolt in the air box to hold it in place. Remove that bolt and the factory air box can be removed.
With the factory air box out of the way, Sai can fit the JLT Performance air box into the engine compartment. Sai removed the rubber locating spacer from the factory air box, and also the mounting grommet and the metal insert from the factory air box. He transferred those parts to the JLT air box prior to fitting it to the car.
Sai reuses the stock air box bolt to firmly attach the JLT air box.
With the air box installed, Sai turns his attention to the mass air sensor. Sai removed the sensor from the factory air inlet using a T-20 torx driver, and transfers it to the JLT intake tube using supplied screws and gasket.
Sai installs the reducer so the intake tube can be attached to the factory throttle-body, leaving the clamps somewhat loose until final installation. As you can also see, the vacuum and PCV connections are on the JLT intake tube.
Sometimes it can be a bit of work to get the reducer onto the intake tube, so a helping hand is useful to help get things done. Once you do have the reducer on the intake tube, loosely attach the hose clamps until final assembly.
With the reducer loosely attached to the intake tube, Sai fits it to the throttle-body.
Obviously, the other end of the intake tube is routed to the JLT air box. Also, Sai plugged in the mass air sensor at this point, as well.
The only thing left to do is attach the JLT supplied air filter.
With that, the JLT cold air intake is installed. In total, you can install the JLT Performance cold air intake in about 20-30 minutes.
With the JLT Performance cold air intake installed, the hard work begins. Sai hits the laptop to go over a tune for the car using an SCT BDX handheld. The BDX is capable of holding up to 20 custom tunes, features customizable gauge layouts, its WiFi compatible, and able to read and clear diagnostic trouble codes. SCT's BDX is the successor to the company's X4 handheld, and it's now available with JLT Performance cold air intake packages.
With a custom tune loaded into the SCT BDX handheld, Sai downloads the tune into the car. Sai was able to do a couple tune updates the night of our first trip, but since he was also tuning other cars that night, we ran out of time to improve on our test car's 11.955 at 118 mph.
However, another trip to the track a couple weeks later, and a little octane booster in the tank to fight spark knock, we were rewarded with an 11.67 at 120 mph. Spark knock was removing timing, and as you know, that affects horsepower. A little octane booster was all that was needed to keep engine timing at peak efficiency, and lower elapsed times were the result.
Photography by Michael Johnson