When an automotive enthusiast picks up his newest prized piece from the dealer’s lot, there’s a pretty standard short list of early modifications that the car is likely to go through: H-pipes, mufflers, short throw shifters, tuners, and of course, cold air intakes.
Cold air intakes, as anyone with any knowledge of vehicle enhancement knows, are designed to improve airflow into the engine compared to the generally poor-performing factory airboxes the vehicle comes equipped with, thereby increasing horsepower and torque that’s just being wasted. They’re cheap, easy to install, and effective, so why not, right?
And while a cold air intake may seem like a rather simple item on the surface, more effort goes into their design than meets the eye, and they certainly aren’t all created equal. The folks over at AEM, who have been associated with the import market in the past, recently added a new cold air intake to their product lineup designed specifically for the already legendary 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0L that incorporates some AEM’s unique concepts. “AEM has always been rooted in the import market, but we’ve been making a real effort to jump into several different markets, and with muscle cars being one of the biggest segments, we definitely felt like we needed to get onboard with kits for the Mustang and cars from GM and Chrysler,” says AEM’s Lucio Tapia.
The AEM Cold Air Intake for the 2011 GT can be found in the AEM product catalog and is offered in a powder coated gunmetal gray (Part #21-8122DC) or polished, vacuum metalized (Part #21-8122DP) finishes.
• Engineered and designed to produce maximum power and torque
• Constructed of lightweight 6063 aluminum, mandrel bent tubing
• Reinforced tig welded brackets for maximum durability
• Include complete hardware kit and full instructions
• Easy installation using only basic hand tools
• Manufactured and assembled in the USA
To check out AEM’s installation video, click here.
The Inner Workings
While sporting an impressive design throughout, perhaps the most compelling element of this intake system from AEM is the DryFlow air filter, which uses an innovative high performance oil-free filtration material that not only provides superior filtering operation, but is durable and easy to clean as well. This filter design was a collaboration between AEM and it’s sister brand, K&N Filters. “This intake actually has a filter designed specifically for it that no other kit has. It’s not just your standard 3 or 4-inch conical filter; we set out to design something specific for the 5.0 liter application.”
Unlike other filters found in many cold air intake kits on the market, the DryFlow requires no oiling, meaning the only maintenance necessary is the typical cleaning. And with washable filter media designed to shed dirt under engine vibration and bounce back to its original shape upon cleaning while durable enough to withstand virtually unlimited cleanings, it’s safe to say this kit could last as long as your vehicle does granted you take care of it.
The filter, which is engineered to exceed the normal flow capacities of an engine, actually flows as much as 123% more air than a stock engine requires on varied applications, which is where the horsepower and torque gains previously locked away come into play.
The AEM intake inlet connects to the OEM air scoop for admittance of cooler outside air, and the removable top on the airbox prevents heated engine air from entering while also allowing access to the filter for maintenance. A Filter Minder gauge is also supplied in the kit, which mounts in the airbox and warns you when the filter requires servicing.
The Design Phase
AEM’s intake systems go through a rigorous design, engineering, and testing phase before releasing to the market. “When designing an air box or filter, we perform a lot of design work before we ever touch any parts,” explains Tapia. “Our engineers do extensive computer models and testing to perfect the designs, and once we’re happy with the result, we move on to creating a physical product to further test and evaluate.”
AEM engineers use Solid Works, Catia, and Unigraphics to develop CAD models of their intake systems such as that for the Mustang, using data from their Coordinate Measuring Machine or 3D scanner. From this they can produce an impressive CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) model to ensure a design with even flow distribution over the filter media and through restriction points in the system, and that there’s low pressure drop across the system.
From there, AEM performs air flow testing, dyno testing, and finally, the road, durability, and temperature testing that creates a long-lasting product.
The installation process of AEM’s intake system for the 5.0L is pretty standard for a cold air intake. Everything you’ll need to complete the process, down to the nuts and washers are included in the kit.
Although this is more of a Reader’s Digest version of the installation process, AEM supplies a thorough and visual guide to the process both on the product page on their website and with the kit itself.
Onward To The Dyno
Generally right above or below the cost of a product such as a cold air intake on the gearhead purchasing flowchart is the type of power numbers it’s worth. And per AEM’s own dyno testing evaluations, this particular CAI unit will gain you around 8 horsepower and 10 ft-lbs of torque from a simple and affordable bolt-on modification.
AEM produced these numbers on an otherwise stock 2011 Mustang GT 5.0L with 7,600 miles on the odometer, with the maximum horsepower gain coming at 5,000 RPM and the torque numbers hitting their peak at 3,400. With those numbers in mind, we put AEM’s Mustang 5.0L cold air intake system to the test on a car owned by Ryne Cunningham of Cunningham Motorsports. Our tests were pretty close to AEM’s numbers, as we did manage a 2 HP gain total peak gain, though a gain of 6 HP starting at 5300 rpm and 8 ft-lbs at 3700 rpm was made. Additionally, this dyno session was done without the aid of any fans for airflow and the after dyno session was about 10 degrees hotter than when we started, since the install took place during the late morning and finished in the early afternoon.
AEM may be most known for their import involvement, but with a new focus on the domestic muscle car market aimed at the enthusiast and decades of expertise from the folks at K&N Filters at their disposal, they’re certainly making a name for themselves in the expansive Ford Mustang aftermarket arena. And this new aim is none more evident than with the kit that we’ve tested on the 2011 GT that features an innovative filter and airbox design with a sleek and the performance to go with it. Suffice it to say, there’s a new player in town.