POWERRRRRR: The best high performance air filters
These high performance air filters will make sure your car has Clarkson approved levels of SPEEEEED!
High performance air filters are an essential cornerstone of the world of tuning. Just swapping out your car's air filter for a better one can help give your engine a bit of a performance boost. The world of high performance air filters can be a bit confusing at times, so I've put together a guide to the best ones on the market right now!
K&N is a cornerstone of high performance car parts and air filters are one of its strongest lines. This offering claims to have 50% more airflow than the usual factory-fitted paper filters. It's also pre-oiled and set up to be dropped straight into your car's airbox. For extra peace of mind, its wash and reusable and has a 10-year/million mile warranty. While we wouldn't hold our breath for any performance gains, you can expect a meaty induction growl.
K&N are a big and trusted brand and this simple and easy filter is a great starting point.
For those of you that want a cone-style high performance air filter, K&N will offer you one of those as well! This filter is a universal one, so it'll be able to fit basically any car on the market and even applications outside of the car world such as remote-controlled cars, petrol generators, snowmobiles and much more. Like the filter above, it claims to be able to boost your engine's airflow as well as increasing power and acceleration. It's not the cheapest filter on the market, but it does look cool!
Finally, if you've got a Ford, Volvo or Mazda from the 00s or 10s, this high performance air filter should be a perfect fit! It offers the same benefits as the previous two K&N filters and the same kind of guaranteed high quality. If you've got a fast Ford that you want to tune and tweak, want to give your old diesel V70 a bit of extra oomph or even treat your Transit, this air filter is a great start.
The chunky, motorsport inspired one
Ramair is another well-known manufacturer of high performance air filters. This one is cheaper than K&N's panel filter and it's constructed using a motorsport-developed stainless steel cage. It should be durable enough to withstand whatever might be thrown at it (air, mostly)! This particular filter will fit most VWs from 1996-2011, so if you're a VAG person who wants extra grunt out of your Golf GTI step right up.
Whilst Ramair's panel filter is specifically designed for VAG customers only, this cone one is a universal fit and should provide the same kind of rugged construction and (naturally) induction roar to die for, even if the claimed performance gains don't manifest themselves. It can even be used in boats!
This high performance air filter from Sumex is very striking, to say the least. It's not that often you see such a green air filter! It has a very low price point compared to the bigger branded filters on here and, thanks to it coming with a plethora of different adaptors, it should fit pretty much any car on the market. Promising higher engine efficiency and a sportier sound, for the low price it's listed at it's probably a pretty good bet!
Another big brand
Pipercross is well known in the performance air filter market, making great quality products for cars and bikes. This 80mm universal cone air filter should be great for pretty much any car. It claims to have a 30% increase in airflow over a standard air filter, increased intake noise and a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. It's not the cheapest though...
High performance air filters aren't just something you can find for cars; the motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts among us need a bit of love in this category too and Petrolscooter have a great one available for them! This Pitbike 48mm air filter has an awesome jet turbine look to it and the neck can flex or contract up to 1-2mm to allow for fitting. It's on the more expensive end of bike air filters, but not a massively expensive proposition! It's also suitable for a wide variety of different bikes.
For those of us who would rather have a more conventional looking high performance air filter, there's also this slightly cheaper Pitbike option. It should fit all the same kinds of bikes as its turbine-looking bigger brother and the neck can also flex and contract up to 1-2mm to make fitting it easier.
Do performance air filters work?
Unfortunately for you, you’ve unwittingly stumbled upon one of the most hotly disputed questions in the world of car tuning – do performance air filters work?
The truth is there are no right or wrong answers. What we can be certain about is that any performance gains will be minimal – get an extra 10hp from your performance air filter and you’ll be doing well. The gains will usually be much smaller than that and depend on A: what type of performance air filter you fit and B: what kind of engine you’re fitting it to.
Take an exposed cone filter as an example. These draw hot air from the engine bay and are unlikely to be as efficient as the OEM setup (which will usually have been designed to draw cooler, denser air from outside the engine bay). Performance gains are unlikely as a result, and if there are any, they'll probably come right at the top of your engine’s rev range – where a performance filter's free-flowing nature allows it to gulp up more air than a standard system.
What can be almost guaranteed, however, is that a performance filter will make your car sound better – replacing the sick pussy purr of a standard system, with the hearty roar of a lion in fine fettle. DT editor Russell Campbell maintains this was a key upgrade on his old MX-5, you won’t necessarily agree.
To get that noise, and have a decent chance at performance gains, you’ll want to push the boat out on something like the K&N Typhoon air filter. It comes complete with a separate housing that shields the filter from the engine compartment’s hot air. Small performance gains have been recorded with these types of filters.