Kia Stinger Intercooler Upgrade Guide

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

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.

Kia first released their Stinger GT/GT1/GT2 sedan for the 2018 model year and it has been a huge hit since. The top of the line Stinger features the Lambda II V6 3.3 L twin-turbo engine, making 365-368 hp and 376 lb-ft. It is the same engine that is found in the Hyundai Genesis G70, G80, and G90s. It is very reliable and has a ton of power potential for mods. Previously we looked at the top 5 Kia Stinger performance mods, so make sure to check that out.

One of the top Kia Stinger performance mods we suggested was an upgraded intercooler to replace the undersized stock unit. Upgraded Kia Stinger GT intercoolers provide a solid power bump while also making your engine operate safer. They greatly reduce charge air temperatures, or air that has already been compressed by the turbo, resulting in less knock and more horsepower.

This guide will analyze the top Kia Stinger intercoolers on the market today with respect to price, quality, performance, and design. We will also discuss the basics around Lambda II intercoolers and how they work on the Stinger platform.

*This article is only meant to apply to Kia Stingers with the V6TT Lambda II engine. 

Kia Stinger Intercooler Upgrade Guide - Best Stinger 3.3T FMIC's

Kia 3.3T Intercooler Basics

Intercoolers are the best upgrade for reducing intake manifold temperatures on the Kia Stinger. The twin-turbos are powered by exhaust gasses from the engine, which means they take on a lot of heat. In addition, when air becomes compressed it also starts to heat up. Hot air is less dense and has less oxygen than cooler air, so higher intake temperatures rob engines of their performance. Warmer intake temperatures can also lead to heat soak, knock, and pre-ignition, which can destroy engines in the long run.

The purpose of an intercooler is to reduce the temperature of the air before it reaches the combustion chamber. The stock intercooler for the Stinger is adequate for factory power levels, but it quickly becomes overmatched at anything above. Upgrading your intercooler on the Lambda II Stinger gives you improved cooling efficiency and recovery time compared with the stock unit. The reduced temperature also means the air is more dense and has more oxygen, which creates more power. Tuners can run more boost and timing with the cooler charge air temps, allowing them to increase the power output.

Another reason to upgrade your intercooler is if you live in a very hot climate, like Arizona or Nevada in the U.S.. When the temperatures start to approach 90*+ outside it becomes very difficult to maintain adequate charge air cooling. A bigger intercooler helps solve this problem, as it will be more resistant to heat soak and able to cool larger amounts of air for longer.

Lambda II 3.3T Intercooler Designs

Both factory and aftermarket Kia Stinger GT intercoolers are air-to-air, front mounted intercoolers. Air-to-air intercoolers work as heat exchangers by transferring heat from the turbo’s compressed air into the atmosphere. This is done through ambient air flowing over the intercooler’s air galleries while it is in motion.

You might be wondering, if intercoolers are in the hot engine bay then how can they effectively transfer heat using the ambient air? That’s where front mounted intercoolers come in. Front mounts, or FMICs, locate the intercooler core at the front of the engine just behind the fender. This allows them to utilize air flowing in from the grille for heat dissipation. FMICs are typically more expensive than top or side mounted intercoolers, but they perform much better.

Intercooler Core Sizes

The main reason to get an upgraded Kia Stinger intercooler is because of the small size of the stock unit. While the stock intercooler is sufficient for a couple of pulls at stock power levels, it is quickly overmatched when you do any sort of tuning or repeated pulls. Aftermarket intercoolers have much thicker and larger cores that allow for better and more optimal cooling and heat dissipation. This means that the intercooler will be able to keep up with increased boost pressure, horsepower, and repeated pulls.

However, it’s important to recognize that intercoolers need to be appropriately sized for their respective builds. Intercoolers that are too small, like the stock one, will struggle to effectively cool builds that are pushing more power. But intercoolers that are too big, like one rated for 1000+hp on a 400 hp build, will actually hurt performance by increasing turbo lag and adding unnecessary weight.

You want to make sure your intercooler is rated for a little more power than you plan on without going too big. Most companies will rate their cores for a specified horsepower level, so make sure to pay attention to that.

Bar and Plate vs Tube and Fin

There are two kinds of intercoolers available for the Kia Stinger: Bar & plate is one type and tube & fin is the other. They both utilize similar methods of ambient air cooling, but the difference is in the layout of the air galleries. Bar & plate layouts generally have larger, rectangular air galleries, whereas tube & fin layouts are rounded and usually smaller in comparison. The OEM intercooler on the Stinger is a tube & fin design.

The bar & plate galleries are capable of taking in more air but they are also less efficient for cooling. The larger galleries make them heavier than the tube & fin’s, but they are also stronger and more durable. Bar & plate intercoolers will also have less pressure drop, meaning less boost will be lost while it flows through the intercooler.

We recommend bar & plate intercoolers over tube & fin, but to be honest on this platform both perform very well. If your build is shooting for the most power possible then you should probably go with a bar & plate design. But, if you prefer the aesthetics of a tube & fin version, then going with that won’t adversely affect performance for most builds.

End Tanks

Intercooler end tanks are another important aspect that need to be considered. The end tanks are, as you might guess, the ends or outlets of the intercooler that connect to the charge pipes. While it might not seem important, having quality end tanks is actually very critical when it comes to intercooler flow. Most OEM intercoolers have cheap plastic end tanks, which are susceptible to cracking, restrict flow, and do a poor job of heat dissipation.

Most aftermarket Kia Stinger intercoolers will have either aluminum or cast aluminum end tanks. These rectify all of the problems with cheap plastic end tanks by improving flow, durability, and heat dissipation. Make sure you keep an eye on what kind of end tanks each intercooler has, as that should definitely play a part in the decision.

Charge Pipes

Another important aspect of intercooler kits is the piping that connects it to the turbo and throttle body. These are known as boost tubes or charge pipes, and they play a very important role for the intercooler. There is both a cold side, the side that connects to the throttle body, and a hot side, which is the side that connects to the turbo. Air passes from the hot side charge pipe, through the intercooler, and out the cold side charge pipe and into the throttle body and then combustion chamber.

As you might guess, going with a larger intercooler generally means larger diameter charge pipes. Most intercooler kits come with piping to replace the smaller stock boost tubes. It’s important to make sure fitment from the charge pipes is spot on to avoid any leaks, which are the number one issue with intercoolers. Leaks will lead to loss of boost and thus performance, and will even hurt gas mileage by spiking fuel trims.

Kia Intercoolers and Water/Methanol Injection

Now let’s talk about water/methanol injection and intercoolers. Water/methanol injection is a great mod for Kia Stingers for several reasons. It adds power, reduces detonation (engine knock), and reduces carbon deposits. Many Kia Stinger intercooler kits already come with preinstalled bungs set up to accept water methanol injection.

How water/methanol injection works is by first spraying a mix of water and methanol into the intercooler. The water/methanol mixes with the charge air on its way into the combustion chamber, reducing the temperature. Once in the combustion chamber, the methanol then works to decrease cylinder pressures, which lowers temperatures and reduces the possibility of engine knock. Tuners can take advantage of the decreased cylinder pressures to run more boost and timing without the engine knocking.

It’s probably not suited for smaller and mid-level builds, but anyone really thinking about making serious power should definitely consider water/meth injection. Especially if you live in an area without E85, water/meth becomes one of the best alternative fuels available.

3.3T Stinger Intercooler Upgrade Benefits

Benefits to upgrading the intercooler on your Kia Stinger are:

  • +10-20 whp/wtq
  • Sustained performance after multiple pulls
  • Reduced charge air temperatures
  • Reduced heat soak
  • Reduced detonation

One of the biggest benefits of upgraded intercoolers on the Stinger is the increase in power. Even without an equivalent tune a new intercooler can see decent gains. However, getting your car tuned really unleashes the full benefits of intercoolers. Running a bigger intercooler allows your tune to run higher levels of boost than stock for longer without risking knock. That means bigger peak power and a larger power band for the engine. With a tune, users have reported as much as 20 whp/wtq at peak power.

However, just looking at peak numbers does not tell the whole story. As we mentioned earlier, intercoolers are valuable not just for increasing power with more boost and timing, but they are somewhat of a safety mod for your car. Reduced charge air temperatures means less potential for knock and heat soak, especially on repeated pulls.

You probably will not see a huge benefit in the winter months, but in the summer months intercoolers really shine. Kia Stinger FMICs can reduce intake manifold temperatures by as much as 40* during WOT on the Lambda II This vastly decreases chances of misfires, pre-ignition, or engine knock.

5 Best Kia Stinger 3.3T Intercoolers

The top 5 Kia Stinger 3.3T Intercoolers are:

  • BMS
  • Wagner
  • IMR
  • Mishimoto
  • Jonny Tig

Now it’s time to look at our recommendations for the top 5 best Kia Stinger intercooler upgrades. This is not a complete list of all available intercoolers, as that list would be too exhaustive and not helpful. Here, we have broken down the top 5 options for intercoolers on the Kia Stinger GT2 that balance cost, performance, and quality. We have also picked out a few kits that are CARB certified if you happen to live in a CARB regulated state. Let’s get started!

1) Burger Motorsports (BMS) Stinger High Performance Intercooler

Price: $699.00

CARB Certified: Yes.

Core Size: 24” x 11” x 3.5”

Type: Bar & Plate

Buy Here: Kia Stinger BMS Intercooler Upgrade

The first intercooler on our list is the Burger Motorsports (BMS) High Performance Intercooler. This is one of the more popular kits on the market due to its price and performance. It is also one of the cheapest options, but still performs as well as some that cost twice as much. The core is 24” x 11” x 3.5” and is capable of up to 800whp. It also has a preinstalled ⅛” NPT bung for easy water/meth integration into the intercooler, and it has larger end tanks than stock.

The BMS intercooler is a direct replacement for the OEM intercooler and does not come with a full set of charge pipes – the stock ones are reused. The lack of larger aftermarket charge pipes does restrict gains a little bit, but other charge pipes can be fitted to make that up. Gains are about 10whp with the intercooler by itself, and maybe 5whp more with tuning.

BMS states their intercooler in 50 states is emissions legal, so if you live in a CARB regulated state this is a solid choice. It is very highly reviewed by the Stinger community and one of the top kits available – especially at its price point.

2) Wagner Tuning Competition Stinger Intercooler Kit

Price: $1,140.00 – $1,700.10

CARB Certified: No.

Core Size: 23.6” x 17.5” x 4.1”

Type: Tube & Fin

Buy Here

The next intercooler we have on the list is from Wagner Tuning and it is a doozy. Wagner Tuning is one of the top intercooler companies in the entire industry, and their Kia Stinger piece is fantastic. It is a tube & fin style intercooler, but the core is absolutely massive. The core is 23.6” x 17.5” x 4.1”, making it one of the tallest intercoolers for the Kia Stinger possible. It also has 175% larger frontal surface area and 183% more core volume than the stock intercooler.

The Wagner Tuning intercooler for the Kia Stinger has a stepped design which allows the taller core to fit easily behind the bumper bar. The end tanks are aluminum cast and designed for optimal flow over stock. It is one of the most praised intercoolers for the Lambda II, due to its incredible performance and sleek design. Gains of up to 20whp (with tuning) can be achieved using the Wagner Tuning Kia Stinger intercooler.

The kit can be purchased with just the core, with chargepipes, and/or with air ducts that funnel air directly into the intercooler. The anti-corrosion powder coating also helps reduce heat soak. We highly recommend the Wagner Tuning intercooler for bigger builds that are pushing considerable horsepower. The core might be a bit oversized for smaller builds, but it likely is not big enough to hurt performance.

3) IMR Custom FMIC for Stinger 3.3T

Price: $640.00 – $1,394.99

CARB Certified: No.

Core Size: 24” x 10.5” x 3.5” (600hp); 22” x 10.5” x 4.5” (800hp)

Type: Bar & Plate

Buy Here

Our third intercooler for the Kia Stinger is the IMR America Custom Stinger FMIC System. IMR is a small but reputable company known for producing intercoolers primarily for the Stinger and Hyundai Genesis platforms. Their Kia Stinger system has two options for cores, a 600hp core (24” x 10.5” x 3.5”) and a 800hp core (22” x 10.5” x 4.5”). They are both bar and plate designs using the renowned Treadstone intercooler cores.

The 600hp core has a 1,000CFM flow rate and has only 1-2 PSI of pressure drop, which is the same pressure drop as the 800hp core, which flows 1,300 CFM. The IMR Kia Stinger intercooler can be had with just the core and cold side charge pipes, or as a full kit with a full charge pipe system. IMR also has options for a water/meth injection port and several powder coating choices, making it very customizable.

Though IMR is not nearly as big a company as some of our other options, they are highly rated for customer satisfaction. Their intercooler is one of the top reviewed for Lambda II engine in the Stinger. Its relatively cheap price makes it a very intriguing option, and we definitely recommend it as a solid choice. The only caveat is the somewhat undersized end tanks compared with other versions, but those likely won’t have too much of an effect on performance.

4) Stinger Mishimoto Performance Intercooler System

Price: $1,504.99

CARB Certified: Yes (#D-759-15)

Core Size: Not specified.

Type: Bar & Plate

Buy Here

The next intercooler on our list is the Kia Stinger Mishimoto Performance Intercooler. Mishimoto is well known as one of the top intercooler companies on the market for many different cars, and the Kia Stinger is one of their latest offerings. While they do not give complete dimensions for their intercooler, compared with stock it is 94% larger, has a 74% increase in external fin surface area, and a 51% increase in flow.

Outlet temperatures decrease by 29* on the stock tune as as much as 41* with ECU tuning, which is a massive benefit for performance.

The Mishimoto intercooler kit comes with full 3” charge pipes and a merge collector, and it also fits most aftermarket intakes, as well as the stock intake. It is a bar & plate design with TIG-welded cast aluminum end tanks. There is also a preinstalled bung that can be used for water/meth injection.

Mishimoto claims gains of up to 14whp and 16wtq with their intercooler and ECU tuning, and it stands up very well to repeated pulls. The Mishimoto Kit is definitely not cheap and one of our more expensive options, but it is also probably the most popular in the Stinger community. It is also CARB certified, so big builds in CARB regulated states this is the obvious choice.

5) Jonny Tig Intercooler Kit for 3.3T Stinger

Price: $1,999.00 – $2,100.00 (AUD)

CARB Certified: No. (Manufactured in Australia)

Core Size: 26” x 11.8” x 3”

Type: Tube & Fin

Buy Here

Our final intercooler recommendation is the Jonny Tig 3.3L TT 1,000hp Stinger Intercooler kit. Jonny Tig is an Australian manufacturer that is well known in the Kia Stinger community. In addition to their highly rated intake, they also have an outstanding intercooler kit, too. The core is incredibly large, coming in at 26” x 11.8” x 3” with a total thickness of 3.5”. The kit comes with full charge pipes which can be powder coated or polished.

Jonny Tig rates the intercooler for 1,000hp, meaning it is a great fit for larger builds and not so much smaller ones. Gains with the Jonny Tig Stinger intercooler are 10-15whp/wtq by itself, with an additional 5-10whp through tuning.

Overall, we recommend the Jonny Tig only for those who have the biggest builds pushing the most boost. In addition, Jonny Tig is known for having long wait times between ordering and receiving their product. Part of this is due to them being based in Australia, and it also because of the customized nature of their products. It’s worth the wait, but if you need something right away you should probably stick with a domestic manufacturer.

Stinger 3.3T Intercooler Upgrade Summary

An upgraded intercooler is a fantastic performance and reliability mod for the Lambda II Kia Stinger. Not only are the performance gains noticeable, but they also reduce the potential for heat soak and allow for more consistent and sustained performance. Reducing heat soak decreases the likelihood of serious engine problems like misfiring, pre-ignition, or knock, which greatly increases engine longevity.

Anyone running higher than stock power levels, or living in a hot climate, should seriously consider an upgraded intercooler. Benefits will not be as prominent in the winter, but in the summer they are very noticeable and can help save your engine. Utilizing a tune in combination with your intercooler is the best bang for your buck and offers the biggest gains.

We looked at five different intercoolers in this guide, and all of them offer their own advantages. BMS’ intercooler is the cheapest option and performs very well, but it is not available as a full kit and would need other charge pipes for optimum performance. The Wagner Tuning and Jonny Tig Kia Stinger intercoolers are going to have cores capable of the most power, but they are also the most expensive.

IMR’s intercooler System has two cores, and the smaller option is a good choice for builds not pushing a ton of power. Mishimoto is probably the most well known and reviewed on the platform and it has fantastic engineering and design, but it is also on the more expensive side of things.

Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.

Let us know what you think about intercooling the Kia Stingers in the comments below!

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