Lancer Evo X Intake Upgrade Guide
Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.
The Mitsubishi Evo X is one of the most popular and iconic tuner cars in history. The Evolution started as a rally variant of the Mitsubishi Lancer in the early-1990s, and it made its debut in America in 2003. The 4B11 engine powered the 10th generation Evolution, or Evo X. It is one of the most modable engines created, and it responds very well to bolt-on upgrades, like intakes.
Performance intakes are often one of the first upgrades that Evo X owners will do when starting to mod their car. It makes sense why; not only are they relatively easy to install and cheap, but they also add power and increase sound. The Evo X’s 4B11 responds very well to intake upgrades.
Previously, we have looked at the Top 7 performance mods for the Evo X as well as Evo X coilover upgrades. This new guide will cover everything you need to know about an Evo X intake upgrade. We will discuss benefits, power gains, cost, and more.
What is a performance intake?
A performance intake is one of the most common upgrades on the Evo X for many reasons. Not only will add horsepower and torque, but it also improves gas mileage and turbo spool. The large cone shaped filter increases the amount of air that can be brought into the engine compared with the stock airbox, and the design of the piping allows for less turbulent and more efficient airflow.
On turbo cars, the intake connects directly to the compressor side of the turbo. Once air enters the turbo, it gets compressed and fed through the intercooler and into the engine. What is important about intakes is making sure they are able to deliver the coolest air available to the engine. Colder air has more oxygen than hot air, so it increases power and improves gas mileage.
Short Ram vs Cold Air Intakes
There are two main types of Evo X intake upgrades, either short ram or cold air. Short rams have less piping and deliver the air to the engine quicker. They are designed to be as nonrestrictive as possible to allow for max air flow. Unfortunately, the location of the filter on short ram intakes makes them susceptible to the hot air of the engine bay.
Cold air intakes reroute the filter to either the bottom of the engine bay or near the headlight or fender. Some people will refer to performance intakes on the Evo X as a cold air intake, but that’s not entirely correct. Most Evo X intakes will keep the filter in the same location as the stock airbox. That means they are not true cold air intakes, but they still offer reduced intake temps when compared with most short rams.
Heat Shield vs Airbox
As far as performance intakes go, they also fall into two general types: either they have a heat shield or a full airbox. The airbox is the superior of the two, because it fully encloses the filter from the motor. It allows for reduced temperatures and more consistent airflow, and it gives more stable MAF scaling and calibration.
The heat shield leaves the filter mostly open and only blocks heat and turbulence from the bottom. It also does not retain the factory intake scoop, which makes it harder to grab cool ambient air from outside the engine bay. However, practically, there is very minimal difference between an airbox and a heat shield. The airbox does cost significantly more, however.
Benefits of Evo X Intake Upgrades
There are many benefits to an Evo X intake upgrade, including:
- +40-56whp (with boost controller)
- Increased fuel economy
- Increased turbo responsiveness
- Increased turbo sounds
- Reduced turbo spool
The biggest factor in a Lancer Evo X intake upgrade is the power increases. Evo X drivers can expect between 5-56whp from installing an intake on their car. The huge variable in difference comes from also adding a boost controller. With just the intake and tune, gains will likely be capped at 25whp at most. Yet, with the addition of a boost controller and tune, dynos have shown gains of up to 56whp! Pretty astonishing for an otherwise stock car.
Drivers will also notice a decrease in spool time and increase in throttle response with an Evo X intake upgrade. The stock airbox is restrictive and the panel filter obstructs a smooth flow. Whereas a larger performance intake allows the engine to breathe easier and get better airflow, which aids the turbo.
Drivers will usually notice at least a few mpg increase after installing an Evo X intake upgrade. The 4B11 puts down power to an awd system, which kills gas mileage. While a new intake certainly won’t make up the difference, it will at least help a little bit. However, when people install new intakes they also tend to drive more spiritedly, so balance is important for improved mileage.
One of the most noticeable aspects of an aftermarket intake on the 4B11 is the increased turbo sounds. The induction of air becomes much more prominent, and the bypass valve can usually be heard a little louder. Intakes with just a heat shield will be louder than those with a full airbox, due to its open nature.
Tuning is a must when installing a new intake on the Lancer Evo X. Without proper tuning, the engine will run in a lean condition under wide open throttle. This can lead to engine knock, pre-ignition, and misfires – which can eventually destroy an engine. There are countless options for Evo X tuning, both online and in-person, so make sure your tuning solution is set up before you install your new intake.
As mentioned before, the power increases from an Evo X intake upgrade are dramatically affected by boost controllers. Adding a boost controller to your setup with an intake can net 25-36whp more than an intake alone. Boost controllers allow for tuners to comfortably run higher boost levels than stock with a more efficient curve. It is an extra investment to make on top of the intake, but well worth it in terms of hp/$.
Best Evo X Intakes
Now it’s time for the part everyone has been waiting for – our recommendation list. We do not have every Evo X intake upgrade on the market listed, as that list would just be too extensive. Our list breaks down the top-four options on the market for the 4B11 with respect to quality, price, and power gains. We also do not have any short ram intakes on the list, as they are generally not worth it when compared to performance intakes. Let’s get started!
1) ETS Evo X Intake
Price: $359.00 – $608.00
Design: Heat Shield
The first entry on our list is the Extreme Turbo Systems (ETS) Evo X intake. It is one of the highest flowing and most popular intakes on the market. It features a high-flow K&N filter, billet velocity stack, heat shield, and cnc bent mandrel intake pipe. The ETS is one of the most recommended and respected intakes in the community, and has been used on some lighting quick 7 second Evo Xs.
The ETS intake offers the biggest gains out of any intake. With just a tune, drivers can expect between 10-20whp. However, with a boost controller set at 22 PSI and tune, the ETS intake is capable of 56whp – dyno proven. That’s with just the factory turbo, it’s capable of even more with an upgraded turbo.
We highly recommend the ETS intake for the Evo X. It is available with a 3.5” large MAF housing for builds with larger than stock turbos, which almost doubles the price. However, anyone with the stock size turbo will be fine with the less expensive version.
2) AMS Evo X Performance Intake
Price: $349.95 – $379.95
Design: Heat Shield
Our second entry on the list is the AMS Evo X Performance intake. The AMS offers a high-flow K&N cone style filter and comes in polished silver or wrinkle black colors. Within the Evo X community, it is one of the most respected and recommended intakes, similar to the ETS.
Pairing the AMS performance intake with a tune will gain a modest 10-20whp. However, similar to the ETS, pairing it with a boost controller and tune offers much bigger gains. AMS claims as much as 45whp with a manual boost controller set at 21 PSI and a tune. The AMS intake has a heat shield rather than an airbox, but it is still a very worthy intake system capable of good flow.
3) AEM Evo X Cold Air Intake
The AEM Evo X Cold Air Intake is the first intake on our list for the 4B11 that comes with an airbox instead of a heat shield. The AEM is completely encased within the airbox, with the exception of the entry which connects to the factory intake scoop. This allows for the most precise MAF scaling from your tuner, and generates the smoothest and least turbulent flow. It also reduces intake temperatures for the intake, as it slightly separates it from the rest of the engine bay.
The AEM cold air intake is also CARB certified which is huge for anyone in a strict emissions state. It features an AEM dryflow filter that is washable and should last 100,000 miles.
The Evo x will gain 10-25whp with the AEM intake and a tune, and even more with a boost controller and a tune. The AEM was one of the first options for an Evo X intake upgrade, and has stood the test of time. It is still incredibly popular because of its great quality and solid performance.
4) Cobb Tuning Evo X SF Intake
The final entry on our list is the Cobb Tuning Evo X SF Intake. Cobb Tuning have established themselves as one of the premier brands for Evo X mods, and their intake does not disappoint. It comes with an airbox and velocity stack to allow for the best and smoothest possible flow. It does not replace the intake piping, just the filter, so it is a very quick and easy install.
The Cobb Tuning SF intake is also CARB legal, like the AEM. It will pick up 5-15whp with a tune, and like the others a boost controller will add even more. Cobb offers free off-the-shelf maps for their Accessport that are compatible with their SF intake. This means that custom tuning is not required with this intake as long as you have already purchased an Accessport, because you can utilize their maps instead of paying for custom maps.
Evo X Intake Upgrade Summary
An Evo X intake upgrade is a solid option for anyone looking to start modding their 4B11. Not only does it offer solid power gains, especially when paired with a boost controller, but it also allows for your turbo to work easier and more efficiently. Drivers will see improved gas mileage, reduced turbo lag, and solid horsepower and torque gains an an Evo X intake upgrade.
We looked at four different options for performance intakes, and the list is in no particular order. The ETS is a great option, especially for those looking at intakes for big turbo builds, in which case the 3″ MAF housing will be needed. The AMS is another reputable intake that offers similar quality and performance as the ETS. Both the Cobb Tuning and AEM intakes have airboxes, which means they will deliver the best flow and the lowest intake temperatures.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these intake choices, as all of them are fantastic options with similar prices and quality. What’s your experience with Evo X intake upgrades? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment and let us know!