If you are anything like us, you are always looking to make your car a little better: make more power, handle better, etc. Since we got our hands on our 2016 Focus RS, we’ve been looking for ways to make it better. Case in point, we’ve been hard at work developing our new front mount intercooler kit for the 2016 Focus RS.
Intercoolers are an integral element to the whole turbocharger system. The basic laws of thermal dynamics tell us that that when you compress air from the intake with a turbocharger, the compressed air coming out of it will be hotter. The purpose of the intercooler then is to lower the charge temperature back down to a cooler denser charge. Simply put, a better intercooler will cool the temperatures more effectively, and your car will make more power.
How can you measure how “great” an intercooler is? There are two main factors that really determine how effective an intercooler is at making more power: efficiency, and pressure drop.
Efficiency basically measures how much colder the air is coming out of the intercooler vs the air coming in. It is a direct factor to your engine’s power output. There are diminishing returns, but generally, the larger the core is, the more efficiently it can remove heat from the charged air. In this case, bigger is better; the more surface area an intercooler exposes for cooling the more efficiently it can cool.
Pressure drop impacts power as well, but indirectly. All intercoolers will provide some restriction to air flow. The harder it is for the air to get through the intercooler, the greater the pressure drop will be. This in a real sense robs some of the hard work the turbocharger is doing to create boost and flow air in the first place. If the intercooler has a high pressure drop, the entire system will make less power. Why? Your turbo will have to work harder and spin faster to hit your boost targets. For example, if you goal is to hit 20 psi post throttle body, your turbo might have to generate 24 psi instead of 21 psi. Pushing your turbo harder to make more boost pressure to make up for your intercooler’s pressure drop is counter productive. As the turbo works harder. it is most likely becoming less efficient and generating more heat. This is an important factor to consider when deciding how big to make the intercooler, and what type core you want use.
How did we SteamSpeed make a great intercooler? First we packaged the largest possible core into the OEM location without having to hack up your car. Our analytically estimates put our upgraded intercooler core to be around 30-40% more efficient than the OEM unit. To tackle pressure drop, we utilized the best possible flowing bar and plate cores, and custom-designed high-flowing cast aluminum tanks. It is easier and cheaper to just bend plate aluminum and weld it up, but it worth it to us to spend the time an money to make the best possible end tank designs. Next we made new silicone hoses and mandrel bent stainless steel piping which flows better than the OEM parts, and causes less pressure drop.