Subaru’s WRX is like the golden middle between a “tamed” family hauler and a capable off-roading beast. Thanks to superb engineering, it’s equally good on highways and city streets and on challenging terrain somewhere in the suburbs. The powertrain under that hood is mighty good, and it can handle whatever you throw its way. However, to keep the price to a minimum, Subaru saved a bit on the air filtration system.
So, if you want to improve the airflow, maximize performance, and enjoy a hassle-free ride in the toughest trails, you’ll need the best cold air intake for Subaru WRX. I’m talking about aftermarket gear, of course. For this review, I manually tested dozens of intake kits to figure out which one(s) deserve a spot on the list. And, here they are: my top picks for the WRX.
Best Cold Air Intake for Subaru WRX (Updated December, 2020)
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Best Subaru WRX Cold Air Intake Review
1. K&N Cold Air Intake Kit SUBARU WRX
This is one of those aftermarket products that we like to call “worth every single penny”. K&N, a known leader in the field, put a lot of effort into making its cold air intake kit a market leader. The first thing that you’ll most likely notice will be the aggressive sound, that “vroom vroom” that all the fans of aggressive-sounding engines tend to like. What’s more important, the engineers delivered a near-perfect build and material quality.
So, you won’t have to worry about durability and reliability – there’s plenty of that. Another standout point is the enhanced compatibility. With K&N, you can choose one of the three available air intake systems. They are compatible with specific WRX model years and ensure perfect fitment. The only (minor) con has to do with the horsepower and torque boost. The gain in performance is modest, but still decent for an off-roading vehicle.
As a replacement air intake, K&N’s gear is a sure pick. It sounds like a million bucks, fits a wide range of WRX model years, and, above all, boasts premium engineering. And while the HP and torque increase isn’t very impressive, you’ll still feel the powertrain boost once the air kit is installed.
2. AEM Cold Air Intake System for Subaru WRX
If you’re a bit low on cash right now, but need a replacement intake system ASAP, I recommend checking out AEM’s offer. It won’t be hard to install with basic tools, even if you’re a novice with very little mechanical experience. The whole process will take +/- an hour. Plus, since this is a US-made product (designed, produced, and dyno-tested), you won’t have to do any tuning/calibrating. That makes the installation a lot easier.
Now, it’s a bit louder than most aftermarket air intakes and that can be a downside for some drivers. On the other hand, since the WRX is an off-road-friendly type of vehicle, the extra growling sounds won’t be that big of a deal. Overall, as an affordable purchase, it will be money well spent, thanks to the high-performance filter, mandrel-bent aluminum tube, and high-end hardware.
Affordability is AEM’s biggest selling point with this cold intake system. So, put it on your list of must-haves if the price is the #1 factor for you. Manufactured and tested in the USA, it won’t be hard to install and doesn’t require any tuning for a perfect fit. It can get really loud on acceleration, though.
3. Mishimoto Subaru WRX Performance Air Intake
WRX drivers in the market for a high-end replacement air intake kit will, most definitely, find Mishimoto’s gear to be right up their alley. Just like with K&N, the buyers will get outstanding construction-material quality. The high-grade, wire-reinforced induction hose, for example, boasts extended durability. The free-flowing design, in turn, contributes to the air filtration efficiency, taking performance to the next level.
As a result, Subaru WRX gets amazing gains in horsepower and torque. I also want to mention that Mishimoto’s lifetime warranty comes as a part of the package. So, feel free to get in contact with customer service if you get a faulty/damaged kit. However, all these “perks” come at a slightly steep price (not unreasonably high – just above the average). Folks that put quality above everything else will still consider it to be an attractive pick.
Mishimoto’s cold air intake is a no-brainer if you don’t mind the somewhat steep price-tag. It comes backed by a lifetime warranty and features premium-grade parts that were built to last. And, above all, the gains in HP and torque are truly impressive and will make an instant difference the second you hit the pedal.
As I mentioned briefly in the beginning, the WRX is a universal steel horse. Back in the day, it used to be any rally driver’s dream because of the impeccable performance on muddy and snowy terrain. In recent years, Subaru made it more “civilized” and more attractive for the average American driver. With that said, both the old and the new WRX models will greatly benefit from an aftermarket air intake system.
This is especially true if you’re planning on hitting the off-road as opposed to using it for in-city commutes. Of the three reviewed cold air intakes, AEM has the most affordable offer. K&N, in turn, is a bit pricier, but it covers a wide range of WRX model years. And Mishimoto – the most expensive option – provides an impressive gain in HP and torque.