Cold Air Intake On Turbo Cars: Does It Work? & Power Gain

Cold air intake does work on turbo cars – it can help you gain minor horsepower (1-5 horsepower) by delivering cool air into the turbo inlet.

This means the starting air temperature that gets compressed by the turbo is lower – resulting in an overall lower air temperature when used in the combustion chamber. 

Turbo radiates a lot of heat to the engine bay – which makes cold air intake a great addition alongside the turbo. 

As someone who has used various types of intakes on a turbo car, I can tell you that cold air intake does work with turbo cars. 

It will still provide you with sound improvement and plenty of cool air (especially if you route the intake below the engine bay).

However, don’t expect any massive power gain. Personally, I did gain some minor 5 horsepower on the dyno. It’s not significant and I couldn’t really tell the difference while driving.

But I can tell you for sure that the sound improvement is there – the sound of air rushing into the intake as you accelerate. I absolutely loved it and it’s worth every penny. 

In this article I am going to discuss more about cold air intake – specifically using cold air intake on turbo cars. Some people say cold air intake is useless on turbo cars because the compressed air gets hot anyway. 

I am going to explain why that’s incorrect and I am also going to touch a little on ram air intake – which one is more suitable for turbo cars?

Why Cold Air Intake Work With Turbo Cars

A turbo radiates a lot of heat in the engine bay. A re-routed cold air intake ensures the air delivered to the turbo inlet is cooler. Thus, giving you a lower temperature compressed air overall for more power.

If you don’t already know, a turbo works by sucking air from the turbo inlet, where it is compressed and delivered into the combustion chamber. 

In the process, the compressed air from turbo goes through an intercooler – which cools down the compressed air significantly. 

This indicates that turbo cars don’t work with hot air. The compressed air that’s hot must first be cooled down, before it’s delivered into the combustion chamber for use. 

This means the argument that says “cold air intake is unnecessary for turbo because turbo cars work with hot compressed air” is absolutely wrong.

Also, with cold air intake, the incoming air to the turbo inlet is cooler to begin with. This means the final compressed air won’t be as hot as it normally would be. 

This decrease in temperature overall will give you bigger combustion and more horsepower in the end. 

Remember, cooler air is always good for a combustion car – regardless of turbo or non-turbo cars. 

Turbo inlet

Cold air intake is mounted directly on the turbo inlet

Do You Need A Special Cold Air Intake For Turbo Cars?

You do not need any specially designed cold air intake for turbo cars – a regular cold air intake will work. The cold air intake gets mounted to the turbo inlet instead of throttle body.

You might not believe me but this question comes up a lot in forums. To be honest, I was also asking the same questions when I was new to turbo and cold air intakes. 

To make it more clear, on naturally aspirated (non-turbo) cars, cold air intake is mounted directly on the throttle body. The incoming air goes directly into the throttle body and into the intake manifold for combustion. 

On turbo cars, cold air intake is mounted on the turbo inlet (instead of throttle body). The incoming air goes to the turbo and gets compressed – where it’s cooled by intercooler and routed to the intake manifold for combustion. 

You see, very similar. But on turbo cars there are extra steps to compress the air and cool it down before using it. 

Turbo Cold Air Intake Setup

You can see here on my Civic, the cold air intake is mounted directly to turbo inlet. No special cold air intake required.

Will Cold Air Intake Improve the Sound Of Turbo Cars?

Cold air intake will still improve the sound of your car – regardless of turbo or non-turbo.

This means you will hear the sound of air rushing into your cold air intake every time you accelerate. 

I personally install cold air intake for this sound. I don’t recommend installing cold air intake for the power gain – because you will be disappointed. 

1-5 horsepower gain is not even a 5% on most turbo cars. In theory, cold air intake works great. Cooler air = more power etc, etc. 

But in the real world, you won’t get any noticeable power gain (at least for me, I did not).

Instead, install cold air intake for that aggressive sound. Some drivers may claim that they notice power gain. But I am pretty sure the impression of power gain comes from the new sound.

If you don’t know what sound I am talking about, listen to this YouTube video at 3:59. Do you hear that sound of air? Absolutely amazing. 

Note: I have another article specifically about this. Check it out – Does Cold Air Intake Make Your Car Louder?

Which muffler is your car right now?

Should You Install Cold Air Intake On Turbo Cars?

Personally, I would recommend you install cold air intake on your turbo cars. You gain minor performance by delivering cold air into the turbo inlet and the sound improvement is definitely worth it.

The only point I have to stress is don’t expect massive power gain from a cold air intake installation. You will be disappointed.

If your main goal is more horsepower, you can look into other aftermarket parts like a downpipe or catback exhaust. They definitely cost more.

But downpipe or exhaust alone with tuning can gain you significant horsepower (30-50 horsepower is reasonable). 

Related articles:

downpipe connected to turbo

Aftermarket downpipe

Short Ram Air Intake Vs Cold Air Intake For Turbo Cars

Cold air intake is generally better than short ram intake for turbo cars.

Short ram intake takes in hot air from the engine bay – this is bad for performance. Especially on the higher RPM where the turbo is hottest.

Short ram intake aims to deliver more power by reducing intake restrictions. It’s shorter. Thus, allowing more air to reach the intake at a given time. More air = more power.

Short ram intake is not suitable for turbo because it can increase the air temperature even more at higher RPM. 

Feed hot air into a turbo that’s already hot – what do you think is gonna happen? Hint: Reduced performance! 

Though, the difference in performance won’t be so great. You probably won’t even notice it. Both cold air intakes and short ram intakes won’t give you much power – they are both great for more induction noise.

But to choose out of the two for turbo cars? I would go for cold air intake any day.

Conclusion

To conclude, cold air intake does work with turbo cars. They still provide minor horsepower (as expected) and improve induction sound significantly. 

If you have the budget for cold air intake, I recommend you go for it. The improved induction noise is just great. I really love it in my car. 

One tip: Make sure you only get car parts for reputable brands – they usually give you the best results and last much longer with better warranties.

For cold air intakes, I recommend going for the open pod intakes from K&N or Spectre. They have been in the intake game for a long while and I personally love my K&N intake.

I have an article here which talks about what you should consider when getting a cold air intake. It should be useful for you, check it out.

Best Cold Air Intake: Which To Get & What To Look For?

Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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