January 17, 2006

Horse Sense: The cold-air intake market is big business because it's an affordable modification that can reap big gains on a box stock car--especially the '05 Mustang. With nearly 200,000 '05 Mustangs hitting the streets--a reported 70 percent of them are V-8 GT models--this is a super competitive market for cold-air-intake designers and sellers.

As difficult as it is to pull off, we love to do product evaluations of the most likely parts our readers will buy, install, and keep on their Mustang for many years. And no product fits this description better than the ubiquitous cold-air intake. This simple device has one purpose: to get more air into the engine to increase efficiency and therefore allow more horsepower to be generated with a simple parts swap. No car begs to be modified like the '05 Mustang GT with its overachieving 4.6-liter Three-Valve modular engine chugging out 300 hp in factory trim.

As was the case when we compared all available cold-air systems for the '03 Cobra (May '03, p. 170), we are constantly amazed at cold-air intake designers' creativity at getting more air into the awaiting engine. The '05 Mustang is the hottest car in America, and those creative juices were running overtime. Generally, most cold-air systems specific for the '05 Mustang offer a larger conical filter in the general underhood vicinity of the stock airbox utilizing what Ford has already engineered into the car. (We had one obvious exception to this, as you will soon see.) Some kits offer larger-diameter intake tubing as a freer-flowing conduit for the intake charge.

Once you get past the general design of these cold-airs, there is a great deal of difference in materials utilized, price range, and necessary tuning (itself a big cost factor) to make it work with the often-finicky '05 Mustang computer programming. Our goal was to get as many '05 cold-air intakes as we could find; put them all on the same car on the same day on the same dyno; use a scientific testing procedure to see how they stacked up; and report back to you with the goods.

Several of the manufacturers of '05 Mustang-specific cold-air intakes we contacted for this story chose not to participate. Our intent is not to draw attention to them, but we want our readers to appreciate the confidence of the companies that chose to be a part of this 5.0 Mustang and Super Fords magazine test and evaluation.

Methods

We contacted MD Motorsports in Cincinnati and outlined our plans. MD is one of the top SCT tuners in the country, and, as such, has access to '05 Mustang software before most shops. In addition, they already had a number of '05 Mustangs on their dyno, tuned them with positive results, and were interested in working on our comparison. The thing that sealed the deal was the pending release of SCT's new '05 Mustang data-logging software (which turned out to be critical in the successful completion of this story), and MD would be the first in the nation to have access to it.

We gathered contact information for the companies producing an '05 Mustang CAI and sent an invitation to participate in the comparison. In addition to formalities, each letter contained the following information on our testing protocol:

"To keep this test as accurate as possible, we will adhere to the following testing protocol: The same car will be used for all testing on the MD Motorsports chassis dyno. Rear-wheel horsepower will be measured in 100 percent stock form. The car will then be tuned to a set air/fuel ratio and set timing level. Each cold-air will be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. Rear horsepower will again be measured with the cold-air in place with run conditions (coolant temperature, inlet-air temperature, timing, air/fuel ratio, and so on) as close as possible to the baseline pull. All efforts will be made to adjust the air/fuel ratio to the exact same as the baseline run to avoid this variable causing a change in horsepower. This testing procedure will be continued for all of the cold-air systems submitted for the story, which should ensure we have the same weather, car, testing facility, and tuning for equal comparisons."

As one would expect, several manufacturers had questions about our testing procedure. Most told us it would be impossible to keep the air/fuel ratio the same given the funky-smart '05 Mustang computer. And we agreed to a point because of the given variability with the car, weather, tune, computer, chassis dyno, and other factors out of our control. Still, with a solid scientific testing program with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as a skilled '05 Mustang tuner at out disposal, we were confident the task was doable.

Some of our participants didn't want any tune for their cold-air intake. Not only does this flaunt their engineering skills, but it also points out what a cost savings these systems are when a full dyno session with a custom computer flash can cost $200-$500, depending on the hourly rate for your speed shop. We followed these manufacturers' wishes, and have provided rear-wheel horsepower measurements with just the cold-air bolted into position. But we also gave Ken Bjonnes the creative opportunity to see what he could do; so you'll also see a dyno number that resulted from the CAI and an MD Motorsports tune.

Lee Bender of C&L offered an interesting way to verify our system. Since his kit comes with a DiabloSport Predator tuner with a well-tested program already installed, he suggested we install his tune, use the Predator to record timing and air/fuel, then copy that program with an SCT tune-up. Getting a rear-wheel reading from each tune would give us an idea of how much variability there was in the system with respect to the computer changing the timing or air/fuel during a pull. Also, it would reveal how much variance we could expect from pull to pull. The rear-wheel variance was unquestionably the scariest part of this evaluation.

With so much reputation, respect, and money riding on our results, we didn't want a false reading to unfairly judge one of our participants. To that end, Ken made back-to-back pulls that couldn't vary by more than 2 hp. This was quite repeatable with each system, but we still set our variance at a possible 5 rwhp. That's a lot (almost 2 percent), but it's realistic when you're dealing with chassis dynos, computer-interpreted data, correction-factor changes, and weather conditions. From the start of our test to the end--some 10 hours--the temperature rose from 86 to 103 degrees, and the SAE correction factor (used to correct for such weather variations) moved from 1.02 to 1.03.

Our test car was bone stock (with the exception of a ZEX nitrous system you may see lurking in the back of some of our photos). The fuel tank was filled with 93-octane fuel, and our target air/fuel was 12.6:1. Following the above-described protocol, Ken Bjonnes of MD Motorsports set about tuning the car while his partner, Brandon Alsept, and our old friend, Tim Probst, got to the task of installing/swapping the kits.

Subjective Evaluation

At first glance, this would appear to be a straight-up horsepower war--but it isn't. The cold-air is an integral part of an entire system and is typically one of the first upgrades on a serious '05 Mustang. Therefore, the cold-air is usually the longest-lived part on the car, so you have to live with it through several stages of buildup. Beyond that, there's much more to the cold-air than how it affects horsepower gains. To add to the value of all this hard work, we wanted to expand on this concept, so we gathered a panel of five judges (made up of a materials engineer, a Mustang racer, a Mustang street enthusiast, a 10-second '04 Cobra owner, and a general hot-rodder) to help us evaluate each system.

We asked our judges to score each system on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best) on ease of installation, value, appearance, overall quality and merit of design, and expected durability. We've included the box scores for each system to better inform you about each kit and how it did in a category more important to you. We cautioned our judges not to influence each other, but we wanted them to discuss each system openly before they voted in case one of them caught something that should be pointed out before voting. As it turned out, the subjective evaluation greatly enhanced our study, as it honed in nicely on the strengths and weaknesses of each system without directly comparing them.

Each cold-air prototype from our participants in the study has been noted. They were labeled as such for our judges so that these early production units wouldn't adversely affect the evaluation.

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

Modular Mustang Racing

The folks from Modular Mustang Racing offered a study within itself. Besides giving us a look at what MMR has to offer the '05 Mustang cold-air shopper, we also got a chance to compare the gains from an inlet pipe from the throttle body to the mass air. This is possible because MMR offers two systems--a base kit that consists of a new mass air housing and washable air filter, and the High-Flow kit that's the same plus a 4-inch inlet tube from the mass air to the throttle body. That inlet tube is available in red, black, or silver.

MMR claims 8-15 rwhp with the base kit and up to 35 rwhp with intake tube. The base kit crushes those numbers, and the High-Flow kit comes surprisingly close. Some interesting observations came out with the MMR parts. First, the base kit, which lacks a shield, had inlet temperatures that spiked dramatically during the dyno pull (up to 113 degrees on some runs). This told us what we had expected: Air-filter shielding is crucial for good performance. Of course, this is on a dyno, so we can't comment on a moving car; but we're sure the other companies' shields are there for a reason. The full-length kit offered a 3.1-rwhp and 2.9-rwtq gain, and Ken recorded some large increases in airflow over the mass air. That may not justify the price difference, but remember--this is on a bone-stock car at rest. Add an exhaust, a nitrous kit, and a 110-mph top-end charge, and the full-length version may start to pay dividends.

Our judges found the MMR base kit easy to install with a great Value. The full-length MMR cold-air suffered from a slight throttle-body obstruction that got our engineer judge worked up, but the others didn't seem to mind because the piece delivered good power. The judges also commented that the MMR open-ended filter was a big plus. This is another solid '05 Mustang cold-air that makes good power.

By the Numbers

MMR Annihilator Intake

Price: $199 (Annihilator intake kit; PN 900800)
Peak Horsepower: 282.2 (21.8hp gain)
Peak Torque: 299.3 lb-ft (17.3-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 45
Value: 37
Appearance: 33
Overall Quality: 36
Expected Durability: 40
Total: 191

MMR Annihilator Intake w/ High-Flow Inlet Tube

Price: $349.99 (Annihilator intake kit with high-flow intake tube; PN 900801)
Peak Horsepower: 285.9 (24.9hp gain)
Peak Torque: 302.2 (20.2 lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 39
Value: 34
Appearance: 34
Overall Quality: 36
Expected Durability: 35
Total: 178

Mustang Racing Technologies

Anchored by Scott Hoag, former lead engineer for Team Mustang at Ford Motor Company, Mustang Racing Technologies is a talented collection of engineers and designers who are more than a little familiar with the Mustang platform. According to MRT, its cold-air does not need a reprogram of the stock computer once installed, which is a significant savings in the final purchase price.

The MRT cold-air posted significant power and torque gains, but it rang the air/fuel meter at a rather lean 13.0:1, something we'd be concerned about if an owner were to add an exhaust or throttle body--anything that may push the tune into the too-lean range. Still, when corrected for air/fuel with an SCT tune, the power stayed pretty much the same, indicating the things weren't unsafe. As Scott explained, MRT's cold-air is part of an integral system for sensible street Mustang enthusiasts, and as such this system shines. As you continue to add MRT components, a computer flash is certainly on the menu.

Of those tested, the MRT system was also one of the best looking with its carbon-fiber filter housing and bright-chrome inlet tube. It looked wonderful under the hood of our silver GT test car, and our judges raved over the muscular good looks. On our test sample, we found one bad clip that held the lid on the K&N conical filter. This clip broke during installation, which could have been from the hurried pace of our installers. Other than that, our test notes read flawlessly for this cold-air.

By the Numbers

MRT Cold-Air

Price: $348.95 (PN ssd-8000-f)
Peak Horsepower: 278 (17hp gain)/ (281 with SCT tune)
Peak Torque: 298 lb-ft (17-lb-ft gain)/(298 lb-ft with SCT tune)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 35
Value: 29
Appearance: 47
Overall Quality: 39
Expected Durability: 33
Total: 183

PowerHouse Automotive

Mike Bowen and the PowerHouse name may be new to you, but you'd better get used to hearing it used with "fast '05 Mustang." The company's PowerHouse Pipeline Air Inlet System has been carefully assembled from a shop that specializes in '05 Mustangs--not just a cold-air factory that pumps out kits for the hot car of the week. Because of this, we immediately noticed small things that added up to a big difference with the PowerHouse cold-air, even though we had been supplied a rough prototype for our evaluation. Our judges were impressed with the extra brackets to support the weight of the filter, which should result in a huge decrease in filter flop in daily driving.

Our prototype came in steel--the production piece, we were promised, will come in aluminum. Without a shield (something PowerHouse plans to offer as an option), the inlet temperatures went noticeably higher with this piece, ultimately leading to heat soak and a longer testing time. That concerned our judges, but they were lenient because "prototype" was written on top of the score sheets.

This system was designed to work with both the V-8 and V-6 versions of the '05 Mustang. Odd, you might think, but the PowerHouse crew already has a bolt-on V-6 '05 that runs in the 12s, and they are looking to up the nitrous for a shot at the 11-second zone. Is the V-6 market going to be a strong source for performance aftermarket '05 sales? You better believe it.

This piece attained the most consistent subjective scores of the cold-air kits we tested. With an aluminum intake pipe, a shield of some type, and the better fitment of the production cold-air, this is another promising system.

By the Numbers

Pipeline Air Inlet System
Price: $249
Peak Horsepower: 286.4 (25.4hp gain)
Peak Torque: 301.6 (19.6-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 38
Value: 38
Appearance: 38
Overall Quality: 40
Expected Durability: 40
Total: 194

Tunable Induction

John DeMolet's kit did exceptionally well in our '03 Cobra cold-air shootout, so we had to have this talented designer back for the '05 comparison. As such, John rushed to get a prototype together for our evaluation. It featured a CNC-machined-plastic, 95mm mass air with a tight fit to the throttle-body tube, a big Green Filter, carbon-fiber accents, and good hardware throughout. He also stressed his systems utilize ABS plastic, which, according to John, is far superior to PVC piping in terms of durability and shape maintenance. This is the type of solid piece John is known for.

The Tunable Induction cold-air had good power numbers, and our judged scored it high for Durability and Ease of Installation. Our prototype came without the production shield and with a closed-end filter--two points of concern for our judges. The filter in the production piece will feature an open end pointed at the factory inlet hole, and it comes in a number of colors. After all the kits had been tested, our test car owner had the pick of the lot, and he chose the Tunable Induction cold-air for his car!

By the Numbers

Tunable Induction Cold-Air
Price: $185 (carbon-fiber or factorycolor tubing and shield)/ $465 with DiabloSport-tuned Predator and shield (not tested)
Peak Horsepower: 285.4 (24.4hp gain)
Peak Torque: 301.9 lb-ft (19.9-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 41
Value: 43
Appearance: 35
Overall Quality: 37
Expected Durability: 39
Total: 195

Western Motorsports Inc.

Talk about thinking outside the box--the designers at Western Motorsports certainly offered us the most unique cold-air in this evaluation. One has to wonder, if the '05 Mustang engine looks so much like a GM LT1/LS1, why aren't more manufacturers emulating the strengths of that engine layout? Namely--a throttle body pointed straight ahead of the car offering a straight shot for anyone willing to design a ram-air system to take advantage of it. That's what the Western Motorsports system offers its customers.

"We needed to take advantage of the front-mounted throttle body," the WMS folks told us, and it seems only logical to those of us who have looked under the hood of a Corvette over the last two decades.

Again, we were sent the first prototype of the WMS cold-air system--but, man, what a wild piece it is. It came with a super-trick billet-aluminum mass air adapter that had our judges fighting to handle it. There is also a massive oval air filter, a large radiator shield, and the necessary wiring to lengthen the mass air wiring harness. In all, it's a comprehensive kit that provides the buyer everything necessary for the installation--trust us, our judges were all over this thing.

Installation is much more complicated than the other cold-airs in this evaluation: attach the billet mass air to the throttle body; stock electronics bolt into the meter; stock PCV air tube snaps into the billet adapter on the coupler; and relocate the coolant overflow tank to the driver side.

We asked Shannon Wall of Western Motorsports to tell us a bit more about the company's testing of this unit since we had a limited amount of time with it. Shannon said, "Without the ram-air box, I think you'll find the air gets hot quickly on the dyno, probably only good for one run without any cool-down. On the street, a considerable amount of air finds it way to the filter even without the airbox--if you watch the air temp, it gets hot when you stop, then cools down quickly once moving. The ram-air box keeps temps colder all the time and will have a ram effect at higher speeds, although we have not been able to determine a power difference yet."

We saw inlet temperatures skyrocket past 130 degrees without the shield installed. Once the shield was in place, things got back to normal.

Our judges blasted the WMS cold-air for its long installation time, but in all fairness, it was quite a bit different from the other cold-airs in this test. It required some serious wiring, but the results are unique. Our judges agreed this was a well-built kit that should have good Durability with outstanding Quality.

You have to hand it to the designers at Western Motorsports--they didn't just make a larger copy of the stock intake system, and a lot of thought clearly went into this thing. We'd like to see a custom hood with a ram-air box enclosing the big oval filter. Sure, it would add more to the cost, but it might be the ultimate cold-air for the '05 Mustang.

By the Numbers

Western Motorsports Cold Air

Price: $369 U.S./ $469 Canada
Peak Horsepower: 284.4 (23.4hp gain)
Peak Torque: 302.4 (20.4-lb-ft gain)

Subjective Evaluation

Ease of Installation: 14
Value: 30
Appearance: 38
Overall Quality: 37
Expected Durability: 38
Total: 157

Cold Air Intake Dyno Results

StockStockK&N Panel
SCT TuneSCT Tune
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
2500115.16241.87n/an/an/an/a
2600126.04254.60n/an/an/an/a
2700131.88256.53n/an/an/an/a
2800138.41259.{{{62}}}130.67245.07n/an/a
2900143.82260.47143.69260.24n/an/a
3000147.73258.63150.39263.29n/an/a
3100152.09257.68154.71262.10n/an/a
3200156.98257.64160.30263.10n/an/a
3300162.95259.34167.28266.22167.27266.22
3400169.46261.77174.56269.65174.10268.94
3500178.49267.84183.71275.66182.69274.14
3600186.56272.18191.66279.62191.06278.74
3700193.45274.60197.16279.87198.68282.02
3800198.26274.02203.32281.01203.97281.92
3900204.58275.51209.81282.54210.14282.99
{{{4000}}}211.54277.75216.63284.44218.23286.54
4100217.35278.43222.78285.38225.21288.49
4200224.38280.58230.49288.22232.03290.15
4300230.30281.29236.60288.99238.78291.65
4400235.93281.62241.62288.41245.04292.50
4500{{{240}}}.04280.15246.31287.48249.55291.26
4600242.83277.26248.40283.62253.00288.87
4700245.72274.59251.52281.06256.70286.86
4800249.99273.54257.24281.46259.73284.20
4900253.51271.73261.09279.85263.92282.89
{{{5000}}}256.34269.27264.32277.64267.79281.30
5100259.22266.95267.54275.52270.71278.79
5200260.96263.58269.02271.72272.93275.66
5300260.77258.42270.22267.78273.58271.11
5400261.31254.16270.28262.89274.24266.73
5500260.51248.77269.54257.39273.53261.20
5600259.60243.47268.30251.63273.15256.18
5700259.13238.77268.05246.99272.75251.32
5800258.76234.32268.53243.17272.12246.41
5900257.65229.36267.36237.99272.12242.24
{{{6000}}}255.98224.07265.73232.60271.44237.61
6100254.68219.28244.79210.{{{90}}}270.41232.83
AFM Power PipeAFM Power PipeC&L TrueFlo
(No Tune)(SCT Tune)
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
2500123.43259.31n/an/a129.45271.95
2600129.84262.28n/an/a134.14270.97
2700135.70263.97n/an/a140.51273.33
2800142.48267.26n/an/a146.88275.51
2900147.91267.87n/an/a151.75274.84
3000152.54267.05n/an/a155.44272.13
3100157.32266.53159.55270.33160.09271.23
3200162.27266.34{{{164}}}.66270.26165.24271.20
3300167.95267.29170.08270.69171.32272.67
3400175.66271.34177.69274.48178.73276.09
3500184.24276.46186.73280.20188.36282.65
3600193.37282.12195.24284.83196.52286.70
3700199.07282.{{{57}}}202.61287.60203.10288.30
3800205.16283.56208.19287.75208.38288.01
3900212.37286.00216.64291.74215.63290.39
{{{4000}}}220.67289.74224.42294.67223.65293.66
4100227.26291.11231.01295.92231.49296.53
4200234.04292.67237.57297.08238.39298.11
4300242.17295.79245.38299.71245.76{{{300}}}.17
4400247.78295.76252.42301.30252.35301.22
4500253.89296.33257.86300.96257.95301.06
4600257.58294.09261.94299.08261.64298.73
4700260.96291.61265.23296.39265.53296.73
4800265.00289.96268.{{{62}}}293.92269.08294.43
4900269.45288.82273.72293.39273.12292.75
{{{5000}}}273.03286.{{{80}}}277.46291.45277.09291.06
5100276.56284.81281.01289.39280.64289.01
5200278.61281.40283.08285.92282.62285.45
5300279.66277.14284.40281.83283.98281.42
5400280.27272.60284.52276.73284.64276.85
5500280.14267.52284.95272.11284.11271.31
5600279.16261.81284.32266.66284.28266.62
5700279.26257.32283.83261.53283.61261.33
5800279.31252.93284.28257.43283.92257.10
5900278.16247.61283.97252.79283.68252.53
{{{6000}}}277.22242.67284.24248.81282.86247.61
6100n/an/a284.30244.77276.30237.95
JLTK&N AirChargerK&N AirCharger
True Cold Air(No Tune)(SCT Tune)
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
2500129.16271.36n/an/an/an/a
2600133.56269.80125.53253.58n/an/a
2700139.71271.76133.60259.88n/an/a
2800146.15274.14140.05262.70145.38272.70
2900151.91275.13144.95262.53150.04271.74
3000155.42272.09150.44263.37154.36270.25
3100159.53270.28156.17264.58159.46270.17
3200164.46269.92161.86265.65164.48269.95
3300170.61271.53167.35266.34169.66270.02
3400178.47275.69174.67269.82176.83273.16
3500188.00282.10182.54273.92185.06277.70
3600197.06287.49192.15280.33194.17283.28
3700203.88289.40199.60283.33201.08285.43
3800208.81288.61204.53282.69207.35286.58
3900215.06289.62212.15285.70214.92289.43
4000223.53293.49221.10290.31223.30293.20
4100231.67296.77227.32291.20229.56294.07
4200239.70299.74234.44293.16236.38295.60
4300246.84301.49241.54295.02244.08298.13
4400253.66302.79247.24295.12250.81299.38
4500259.21302.53252.42294.62255.78298.53
4600262.70299.94256.18292.50259.24296.00
4700266.65297.97259.87290.40263.26294.19
4800270.38295.84264.01288.88267.70292.92
4900274.62294.36267.53286.75270.94290.41
5000278.78292.84271.79285.49275.12288.99
5100282.39290.82275.03283.23278.07286.37
5200284.64287.49278.06280.85280.20283.01
5300285.92283.34277.96275.45282.17279.62
5400286.46278.62278.60270.97282.05274.33
5500286.22273.32278.03265.51281.79269.09
5600286.10268.33277.47260.23281.80264.30
5700285.85263.39276.88255.13281.30259.20
5800285.45258.49276.77250.63281.26254.69
5900285.59254.23276.55246.19281.95250.99
6000285.37249.80275.19{{{240}}}.88282.19247.02
6100285.78246.03245.79211.76279.94241.04
MACMMRComplete
Cold AirAnnihilatorMMR Annihilator
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
2500n/an/an/an/an/an/a
2600129.48272.02132.11266.85129.03271.07
2700133.81270.30139.10270.58133.80270.27
2800140.25272.82145.54273.00139.85272.03
2900146.91275.57150.72272.96146.35274.52
3000152.14275.53154.93271.24151.53274.43
3100156.18273.43159.25269.81155.65272.49
3200160.52271.95163.94269.07159.72270.60
3300165.19271.13168.84268.72164.66270.26
3400170.96272.09176.48272.62170.58271.49
3500178.79276.17185.04277.67177.17273.68
3600187.80281.80194.20283.33186.73280.21
3700196.60286.82201.49286.01195.48285.19
3800203.58288.97206.88285.94203.04288.21
3900209.60289.69214.46288.81208.49288.15
4000217.95293.50222.21291.77215.06289.62
4100224.69295.02228.65292.91224.08294.22
4200231.20296.16235.65294.68231.10296.03
4300238.61298.38243.39297.28238.54298.30
4400246.19300.70250.21298.66245.69300.10
4500252.82301.78255.32298.00252.32301.18
4600257.64300.71259.16295.{{{90}}}257.81300.91
4700261.82298.94262.15292.95261.71298.82
4800265.31296.48266.29291.38264.85295.97
4900269.52294.90270.53289.97268.76294.07
5000273.58293.23273.87287.68272.93292.54
5100277.99292.00277.93286.21277.08291.06
5200281.12289.51280.26283.07280.03288.39
5300283.36286.20281.58279.04282.59285.42
5400284.48281.91281.84274.12284.12281.55
5500285.29277.48281.75269.05284.52276.73
5600285.10272.25281.56264.07285.52272.66
5700284.70267.01281.25259.16285.43267.70
5800284.30261.96281.49254.90285.05262.65
5900283.52256.74281.06250.20284.90257.99
6000283.61252.47281.16246.11284.60253.35
6100283.25247.94274.82236.64284.68249.20
MRTMRTPowerHouse
(No Tune)(SCT Tune)Pipeline
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
2500n/an/an/an/a94.37204.67
2600122.01246.44n/an/a133.26269.19
2700136.07264.68138.98270.35139.95272.23
2800142.12266.59145.16272.27146.35274.52
2900146.96266.16150.25272.12150.91273.31
3000151.85265.84154.21269.97154.99271.35
3100157.48266.80159.12269.59159.67270.52
3200161.58265.20163.25267.94164.56270.09
3300168.39268.01168.98268.93170.70271.68
3400176.53272.68176.86273.20178.02274.99
3500185.00277.60185.95279.03186.75280.23
3600194.24283.38195.19284.76195.66285.45
3700201.71286.33202.46287.39202.87287.96
3800207.42286.69207.91287.36208.26287.85
3900213.13287.02214.25288.54215.74290.54
4000220.93290.09221.35290.63224.05294.18
4100228.07292.16228.59292.82230.78295.63
4200236.51295.75236.00295.12237.85297.43
4300243.04296.85243.28297.15245.45299.79
4400248.80296.99250.50299.01252.33301.20
4500252.37294.55255.09297.72257.73300.80
4600256.71293.11259.02295.74261.41298.48
4700258.97289.39262.43293.26264.90296.02
4800263.00287.77266.41291.51268.37293.65
4900267.06286.25270.57290.01273.02292.64
5000270.87284.53274.40288.23276.20290.13
5100274.90283.10278.49286.80279.65287.99
5200277.49280.27279.75282.56281.34284.16
5300276.75274.26281.02278.49283.12280.56
5400278.44270.82281.29273.59283.70275.93
5500277.18264.69280.80268.15283.57270.79
5600277.51260.27280.39262.98283.18265.59
5700276.01254.33279.94257.95282.90260.67
5800276.82250.67279.70253.28282.79256.11
5900275.85245.56279.56248.87n/an/a
6000275.03240.75279.82244.94n/an/a
6100n/an/an/an/an/an/a
TuneableWestern
InductionMotorsports
RPMHPTQHPTQ
2500128.04268.99129.63272.34
2600133.15268.97133.89270.47
2700139.39271.15140.19272.70
2800146.24274.31146.70275.17
2900151.29273.99152.56276.29
3000154.99271.34156.43273.87
3100159.39270.04160.10271.25
3200164.85270.56164.32269.70
3300171.24272.53169.41269.63
3400178.09275.09177.54274.25
3500187.50281.36187.28281.03
3600196.42286.56196.74287.03
3700203.37288.68204.52290.31
3800208.48288.15213.06294.48
3900214.14288.37218.14293.77
4000221.51290.84223.11292.95
4100229.88294.48230.37295.11
4200236.75296.05238.91298.76
4300244.70298.88246.39300.95
4400251.79300.55252.84301.81
4500257.10300.07257.59300.64
4600261.16298.18261.22298.25
4700264.50295.57264.45295.52
4800269.10294.44268.12293.37
4900272.83292.44272.13291.69
5000276.86290.82275.96289.87
5100281.00289.38279.91288.26
5200283.42286.27282.21285.04
5300284.97282.40283.14280.59
5400284.95277.15283.90276.13
5500284.93272.09284.24271.43
5600284.49266.82284.23266.57
5700284.13261.80283.68261.39
5800283.46256.68283.06256.33
5900283.34252.22283.18252.08
6000282.32247.14282.50247.29
6100n/an/an/an/a

Discussion

Well, there you have it. The most thorough cold-air intake evaluation we've ever seen published. The good news is, if you're in the market for an '05 Mustang cold-air, you have a lot of innovative products to choose from. The bad news is, you have a lot of comparison shopping to do. As you examine each kit and hone in on your needs, keep a few things in mind. Above all, make sure you spend the money for a quality kit. Several in our test offer OEM fit and finish with good hardware and tuning that should last the lifetime of your Mustang. Before you buy, ask yourself, "How will this thing look after 10,000 miles?"

Once you're past that initial step, hone in on the finer points of the '05 CAI. We saw several different tubing materials in this comparison. Racers may lean toward the plastic housing to cut down on the heat transfer to the inlet charge. Street-only Stangers may enjoy the aluminum-tubing kits for strength and longevity. As for the size of the inlet pipe, the 4-inch tubing is clearly for the racer who will be making more power in the future. We don't see anything wrong with a larger kit on a street-only car, but we don't see any real gain.

We found that shielding is practically mandatory on these cars. Unless you drive in 30-degree weather all year, there is at least some (and likely a lot) of benefit from shielding the intake charge from fan turbulence and underhood heat. The '05 Mustang is a hot-running little beast that can use all the fresh air you can get into it. You don't want this byproduct of combustion to get back into the engine and run the risk of throwing off the tune or adding to detonation. Again, we recommend only those cold-air kits that offer shielding--it's that important.

Some kits do not come with the tamperproof Torx bit for removing the mass-air from the stock housing. A small point, but enough to separate one cold-air from the another. It's also proves how much thought the designers put into their systems. Now that all of our readers will probably ask for it, we hope all the cold-air manufacturers start including this little part to make the install easier.

We can't comment on how the cold-airs affect the driveability of the car. This would have been especially interesting on the kits that specify "no tune" because of the finicky reputation the '05 computer has garnered. That test will have to wait, or you can check the Internet message boards for feedback on your cold-air of interest. Also keep in mind, we're reporting wheel horsepower, not quarter-mile times as in the good old days of 1995 [Editor Turner probably remembers this...]. Check with regular '05 Mustang racers to see what they believe are the best kits for maximum acceleration.

And, remember--with most of these kits, additional tuning to your Mustang will be necessary before you can enjoy the added benefits of a larger volume of fresh air. At first, this may seem like an additional unnecessary cost. But, we think the '05 Mustang should have a tune to smooth out that annoying drive-by-wire throttle control. Mix that with an additional 25 rwhp from your new cold-air, and you'll really start to appreciate your new Mustang.