January 17, 2006

Stock Airbox

At first glance, the stock air-intake system on the '05 Mustang GT looks great. You've got this great big box in the driver-side front corner of the engine compartment that takes up a lot of room--to allow for lots of incoming air, you might presume. In fact, the intake is a little 2x2-inch tube sticking into the fender area behind the grille, and the stock intake box houses a panel filter that receives marginal inlet air. Also, the stock inlet tubing aft of the mass air meter is rather small and contains a large bend that likely slows the rush of incoming air. Besides being an integral part of the stock inlet box, that stock mass air is reportedly extremely sensitive. Our cold-air designers had to keep that in mind when they fabricated the location of the new tubing that would house the new mass air mount.

The good news is, there's a lot more area to work with than on the '04 GT, and the willing Three-Valve mill rallies around a breath of fresh air. Our baseline numbers were made with the car in stock trim, then we pulled the hydrocarbon trap from the inlet and got 261 rear-wheel horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque--a 6-rwhp gain over the base numbers; add that into the final numbers if you like. Once Ken got through adjusting the computer with a modest 91-octane tune, the car's baseline was established at 271 rwhp and 289 rwtq.

Anderson Ford Motorsport

Since the dawn of the 5.0 Mustang, Rick Anderson of Anderson Ford Motorsport has been a student of how a Mustang gets air into its engine. His Power Pipe is a staple of the Mustang aftermarket, so it was no surprise his '05 version has so much to offer. It features a massive 80mm Professional Mass Air Systems mass air meter that can be calibrated to work with 19-, 24-, or 30-lb/hr injectors with no flash needed. Beyond the impressive hardware, not having to worry about a third party "correcting" the computer is a huge bonus and justifies the initial price.

"Through design, the Power Pipe delivers a larger volume of cooler air to the engine," Rick Anderson states on his Web site. "By doing so, our '05 Mustang has produced up to 16 additional rear-wheel horsepower from simply installing the Power Pipe with mass air meter with no additional tuning needed."

In a plug-and-play society, this is the king of the bolt-on-and-forget-it '05 CAI kits. We especially like the versatility of this unit and the obvious built-in oversizing for when things like heads/cams/intake packages become available for your favorite Mustang.

Keep in mind: Our photographs show the prototype for this setup, so the paint, chrome, and welding isn't perfect like the production piece you can buy now. Even though it didn't need a tune, our judges were hesitant about the value of the AFM piece. Still, they thought it was well built with a high level of Expected Durability. This is a cold-air system that's built to grow with your combination. Should you add a blower or turbo, you can still use the 80mm Professional Mass Air Systems meter.

By the Numbers

AFM Power Pipe

Price: $569 (PN AF-0115C)
Peak Horsepower: 280 (19hp gain)/(287.6 hp with SCT tune)
Peak Torque: 296 lb-ft (14-lb-ft gain)/(302.2 lb-ft with SCT tune)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 27
Value: 23
Appearance: 34
Overall Quality: 35
Expected Durability: 39
Total: 158

C&L Performance

You've probably seen a C&L TrueFlow intake, as Lee Bender (the man behind C&L) has worked overtime to develop suitable tunes for his cold-air that are marketed with his partner's (DiabloSport) Predator tuner. It's a slick collaboration that's garnered much-deserved attention for early '05 modifiers. Lee had the most to lose going into this comparison test, as C&L is by far the leader in this product segment, with good reason. The C&L cold-air blends OEM fit and finish with the optional Predator tuner to ensure your '05 Mustang takes full advantage of the breath of fresh air. It looks right and complements the engine compartment nicely.

The C&L 83mm mass air is machined separately from the inlet pipe to ensure it's smooth and accurate--a big point when working with fussy electronics. The system offers a 4-inch inlet through a massive conical filter (surrounded by one of the nicest shields) and a 3.5-inch outlet that leads to a smooth elbow perfectly connected to the stock throttle body with form-fit couplers. The hardware was all there, the pipes lined up as pictured, and the kit flat-out worked. Lee points out his system is perfect for the '05 daily driver or racer who wants a solid aluminum pipe into which a nitrous-system nozzle mounts without worrying about exploded plastic if the spray backfires.

Our judges loved the C&L system, giving it the highest total subjective score. Install, Durability, and Quality were almost perfect. Scores were down some for Value, probably due to the higher initial cost of buying it with the Predator or getting just the CAI and adding a custom tune.

The judges wondered if the aluminum inlet piping might get heat-soaked in the super-hot '05 Mustang engine bay. Pick your poison, as we've heard some plastic versions have warped during summer driving in the Deep South.

Like K&N and PowerHouse, C&L will offer an '05 V-6 kit. By the time you read this, Lee will have introduced the first race cold-air for the serious '05 Mustang jockey. It will feature 4-inch roto-molded plastic tubing, a massive 95mm aluminum C&L mass air, and a $299 price tag. It should be the ultimate low-weight, bang-for-the-buck system on the market that still features C&L's famous fit and finish.

By the Numbers

C&L Performance TrueFlow Intake

Price: $749 (TrueFlow intake with Predator tuner)/ $389 (TrueFlow intake)/ $169 (inlet pipe with hoses, clamp, and fittings)
Peak Horsepower: 286 (25hp gain)
Peak Torque: 302 (20-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 43
Value: 35
Appearance: 41
Overall Quality: 42
Expected Durability: 44
Total: 205

JLT True Cold Air Intake

The JLT CAI makes no excuses--it's a low-cost air piranha that goes to work as soon as you crack the throttle. Expectations for this system were high, as it appeared to be made with a racer in mind and came into our comparison with many satisfied Internet customers. With a huge--and straight--4-inch inlet, a large mass air adapter, a big conical filter, and a simple shield, the JLT cold-air means business. It recorded the highest power and torque gains, but be aware--the difference is well within our defined 5-rwhp margin of error. The bottom line is, the JLT kit is the real deal and, as of June 2005, Jay Tucker (owner of JLT True Cold Air) has over 100 of these kits that prove it every day on the streets.

The JLT CAI scored just behind the C&L unit in subjective evaluation, as it did exceptionally well in Ease of Installation, Value, and Power. It fell short in Quality and Expected Durability, but we imagine that came from the simple parts from which this system is made. Early samples had a problem with the filter coming off, but Jay addressed it with satisfying results. Our judges complained that the edge on the mass-air to which the filter clamps was a marginal amount of material, and we imagine that was the culprit.

Our judges liked the idea of a large, 4-inch plastic intake that's likely to stay cooler from the intense '05 underhood heat. That, of course, depends on your velocity, airflow through the engine compartment, and ambient temperature. JLT offers this kit painted to match the body color of your car or you can choose any of the wild flame patterns that are available.

By the Numbers

JLT True Cold Air Intake

Price: $150 - $225 (with JLT/DTP tune package; not tested)
Peak Horsepower: 288.9 (27.9hp gain)
Peak Torque: 303.5lb-ft (21.5-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 44
Value: 48
Appearance: 40
Overall Quality: 34
Expected Durability: 35
Total: 201

K&N Engineering

The drop-in replacement K&N filter (PN KNN-33-2298; $58.00; $41.69 through Summit Racing) is the standard by which all air filters are measured. We saw a quick 3-rwhp and 5-rwtq gain with this simple, 10-minute swap. You also get a filter that lasts the lifetime of the car with the K&N recharging kit. We've tested this filter in '05 Mustangs, but for completion we wanted to include it in this test.

K&N is a big company with an excellent group of engineers who were obviously up to the task of building a cold-air that could work with the stock '05 Mustang's computer without a companion tune-up or flash. As such, its AirCharger comes complete with excellent hardware, great instructions, a K&N filter, and a solid pedigree. The K&N AirCharger also includes a dyno sheet so you'll know exactly what to expect when you install it on your Mustang. K&N promises 15.26 rwhp at 6,000 rpm, and our testing showed an 18-rwhp and 15-rwtq gain over our "no-tune" base numbers, which is outstanding power for a kit on a naturally aspirated Mustang. With the MD Motorsports tune in place, the car picked up an additional 3 rwhp and 3 rwtq, showing this system has just about maxed out the capability of the motor to ingest air through this size inlet tubing, which is slightly smaller than stock at points, and likely to keep the mass-air happy with a good air velocity.

As for installation, we pulled the hydrocarbon trap (against the directive of the K&N instructions). We did this for an honest comparison with the other systems and because the '06 GT is supposed to arrive without such a factory-supplied intake obstruction. Typical of a K&N kit, this one went on as the instructions graphically showed with no surprises or missing parts. Our judges pointed out the K&N kit does position the mass-air close to the radiator hose--a major source of underhood heat--but the K&N AirCharger still belted out good power.

Subjectively, the K&N AirCharger scored well with our judges in Expected Durability and lost some with Ease of Installation. It's a complete kit, no doubt, with all the hardware associated with an OEM kit. After reading the included K&N dyno sheet and seeing similar results on his own dyno, Ken Bjonnes said, "It's cool when something works as advertised." Perhaps that summation (from a shop owner who has seen the exact opposite) best sums up our experience with the K&N products.

K&N also offers an AirCharger intake system for the V-6-equipped '05 Mustang (PN 63-2566). So, you V-6 folks can join in the fun with K&N at any time.

By the Numbers

K&N AirCharger

Price: AirCharger (PN KNN-63-2565): $400.00 ($286.69 through Summit Racing)
Peak Horsepower: 279 (18hp gain)/(282 with SCT tune)
Peak Torque: 297 lb-ft (15-lb-ft gain)/(300 lb-ft with SCT tune)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 26
Value: 40
Appearance: 29
Overall Quality: 40
Expected Durability: 44
Total: 179

MAC Products Inc.

We have to admit, the MAC cold-air really surprised us. MAC products have always worked well for us, but let's just say they usually add more looks than usable power to the engine. That changed as soon as we opened the box on the MAC '05 Mustang cold-air. Oh, the good looks are there, as the MAC description boasts a "#8 mirror finish stainless steel heat and turbulence shield." But the engineers added a nice velocity stack (or "power donut," as we're fond of calling it) to attach a large, 6-inch conical air filter. This was one of the few kits that included the Torx bit necessary to remove the stock mass air--a small point, but a saved trip to the parts store.

Our judges loved the Appearance of this cold-air, and most commented that MAC should have included a full, chromed-up inlet tube (we're sure one will be on the way.) Add in a good Value and surprising performance gains, and we think MAC has a winner with this inexpensive kit.

By the Numbers

MAC '05 Mustang Cold-Air

Price: $189.50
Peak Horsepower: 285.4 (24.4hp gain)
Peak Torque: 302.4 lb-ft (20.4-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 34
Value: 43
Appearance: 41
Overall Quality: 39
Expected Durability: 36
Total: 193