My Subaru isn’t a special edition STI boasting huge horsepower, nor is it a future classic, however, I do cherish my 2004 WRX as it’s in time warp condition. It’s also my favourite body style, and the carbon black coated stock alloys compliment the car’s flawless silver metallic paint. It also came with some very nice added components, which I’ll touch upon later.
Owners of big turbo cars will eventually face the inevitable question: “Increase the boost, buy a faster car, or add new components?”
The answer will obviously vary depending on your level of wrenching skills. Some will rejoice at the thought of shiny new components whilst others will imagine themselves frequenting a vast and endless pit along with a wheelbarrow brimmed with their hard-earned cash – that or an expensive explosion…
I fall somewhere in between with wrenching, understanding the mechanics and processes of changing parts, with the added common knowledge and experience of servicing my car. With that said, I wouldn’t feel entirely confident installing a bigger turbo, especially as a decent one would cost half of my car’s value.
The usual and sensible solution to more power is to find a faster car, but what if you didn’t want to give up all the plus points of your current car? I wanted to see if it was possible to increase my WRX’s power without the worry of a future explosion. Could I spend enough to do my car justice without entering the ‘new car’ territory price bracket?
Performance Vs Reliability
Now I’m no master mechanic, but even I knew there was more to it than just plugging my car into a laptop and hitting some keys. Whilst more power could be achieved, I wanted it along with the knowledge my car wasn’t going to overheat or blow a gasket.
To get a clear idea about added upgrades for my particular WRX, I used CARiD.com, a site covering all aspects of after market parts and accessories. Using the drop down menus to select make, model and year, the site saves time searching for different parts, as once you’ve entered your details, you are presented with categories – in my case I chose ‘Performance’ and checked out all the compatible upgrades for my model and year of WRX.
To get a better feel of their customer base, check out their Facebook page.
Luckily my WRX came with a full Prodrive exhaust system and race clutch upon purchase. These were installed to allow for a significant power increase after a remap. Although this was never done, I had pondered on having her put on a dyno and boosted before, so I considered this when searching for upgrades.
Going against the idea of a bigger and expensive turbo, I decided the best option for increased reliability after a remap would be to compliment my straight pipe exhaust with a better air intake, and to allow my engine to not only breathe more efficiently, but to cool faster too. CARiD found me a vast selection of parts that allow for easy fitment, and I ended up selecting a Mishimoto front-mounted oil-cooler and aluminium radiator, plus an Injen Ram air intake.
The nano fibre Ram intake promised an extra 10-hp gain, but to me the important part was making life easier for the engine and turbo after a remap.
Because this wasn’t going to be a track car and the fact I had previously installed grooved discs and hardwearing pads, I felt confident the modest power increase didn’t warrant a bigger brake system.
Going back to the question: “Increase the boost, buy a faster car, or add new components?” CARiD.com presented me with a sensible and cost effective way of reaching my 285+hp goal. After all, I wasn’t looking for a top-fuel dragster; my aim was set at a realistic and pragmatic 60-hp increase.
Including a service (by me) and the eventual remap, I spent just over £1000, which included a lot of fettling and fixing the components into place (if you are like me, allow for at least twice the listed time of install). My WRX managed a safe 200.9 kW (270-hp) on the dyno and I really notice the throttle response through the gears.
So after some head scratching and research, I reached my goal (albeit it a few hp shy) for nearly four times the cost of upgrading to the same model STI. I kept my girl and I’m also proud of the fact I installed the relatively easy parts myself.
If you are willing to get your hands dirty and your knuckles skinned, upgrades are well worth the time, effort and money.