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AEM Cold Air Intake System

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Sep 3, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A cold wind blows through the AEM intake system

By Roy Nakano Back in the 1960s, Carroll Shelby used to boast that the scoops on the side of his GT500 were functional. What he meant was that air actually passed through those side scoops rather than being completely sealed off. Never mind that the air went straight to the rear tire and did little to cool the brakes. By 1960s standards, the hood scoop on a new MINI Cooper S is functional. Some air actually does pass through the scoop and into the engine compartment. Whether the engine benefits from this is questionable at best.

Note that the grille on the MINI Cooper S hood scoop lets in little air

The folks at Advanced Engine Management, more popularly known as AEM, have been studying that hood scoop on the MINI Cooper S and Clubman S for a number of years. They came to the conclusion that with a few modification, the hood scoop could be used as the basis for a cold air intake system on the Cooper S and Clubman S vehicles. Both the MINI Cooper S and Clubman S models are fitted with an intercooled twin-scroll turbocharger that feeds air into a BMW-designed, direct-injected, variable intake valve timing 1.6-liter dual overhead cam four-in line engine (since 2011, the engine incorporates Valvetronic, BMW's version of variable valve lift and timing). To extract even more power from the engine, AEM engineers went to work on the hood scoop, opening up its air intake even more, building a channel to run cold air into a new intake system with a low restriction filter. “Initially, a prototype intake was designed from sheet metal with a ‘half-clam shell’ hood scoop mounted under the hood, but it was unsuccessful, resulting in high IATs (intake air temperatures, in cold air induction lingo) due to extreme underhood heat,” says AEM’s Bruno Porro. AEM decided to go with a different approach to keep the IATs near outside ambient air temperature (see specifications below for features incorporated into the AEM-21-699-1 Cold Air Intake kit).

The stock R56 MINI Cooper S engine compartment

Porro says their MINI Cooper S test vehicles were instrumented with an on-board DAQ (Data Acquisition) system and thermocouples mounted in several locations, then road tested to further optimize the design. “The final results were IAT’s consistently 25-30°F lower than stock at the MAF sensor and 10-15°F lower than stock entering the intake manifold (after the turbocharger and intercooler),” says Porro. See Figures 1, 2, and 3. John P. Concialdi of AEM Induction Systems division says vehicle dyno testing with the intake yielded gains of 14.14 horsepower at 5400 rpm and and 11.3 pound-feet of torque at 3400 RPM over the stock intake. “Peak horsepower and torque also increased from 152 horsepower and 131 pound-feet stock to 164 horsepower and 137 pound-feet at the wheels with the AEM Cold Air Intake,” says Concialdi. That is a serious amount of gain, considering no changes are made to the exhaust (the MINI Cooper S is already fitted with a relatively low-restriction exhaust, for a factory vehicle). “No additional tuning is required, and no CELs (Check Engine Lights) were encountered after over 60 road tests and dyno pulls,” says Concialdi. So how is the AEM-21-699-1 Cold Air Intake kit in real life? We put the system together on a Saturday afternoon, and can say that everything came together without a hitch. The instructions are the clearest we’ve seen in many moons. Even more of a delightful surprise, the pieces all fit very well—none of the usual wrestling with parts. Everything came on and off with little effort. If AEM’s cold air intake system did nothing, there would be MINI Cooper S owners that would still want it. That’s because what it does to transform the look of the engine compartment is worth the asking price. Whoever was responsible for the look of the AEM-21-699 DRYFLOW Cold Air Intake system is to be commended. It is a work of art.

The MINI with the AEM-21-699-1 Cold Air Intake kit

The only detraction from an appearance standpoint is that the AEM cold air conversion calls for removal of the plastic grille from the hood scoop to open up the air passages. Unfortunately, that leaves the scoop area looking a little odd—particularly if your MINI has a light paint color, such as our Pepper White car. We would (and we did) add some mascara to the hood scoop area. Using some blue paint tape, a rag to block the intake hole, and some newspaper to protect the car, we painted the area flat back. The results can be seen in the photo gallery below. Thankfully, the AEM-21-699 DRYFLOW Cold Air Intake system AEM-21-699 DRYFLOW Cold Air Intake system provides the go to match the show. The difference is not that noticeable at the lower RPMs. However, once you’re out on the highway and reaching the higher RPMs, there will be a slightly louder growl coming from the engine compartment, accompanied by an ability to get up to speed quicker than before. The engine just feels happier—14.4 horsepower happier, according to AEM. By the way, we advise keeping the old parts around. While the AEM-21-699-1 is street legal in most states, it’s not legal in all states (check the AEM site for AEM-21-699-1 for the applicable states). If you happen to reside in one of the states that has adopted the heightened standards, you’ll need to retrofit the old parts after frolicking with your car in “off road” mode. With the newfound cold air intake, should one be concerned about water getting into the system during a torrential downpour? AEM says the dry filter AEM uses is designed to not allow water to enter the intake tract, and that water entering the port should evaporates or dissipate even before it reaches the filter. For extreme weather conditions, AEM says its 1-4007 Pre-Filter Air Filter Wrap is available for added peace of mind.


SUMMARY JUDGMENT Pro: It’s the best $369 one can spend on a MINI Cooper S. Con: It’s only available for the 2007-2010 MINI Cooper S and Clubman S 1.6L Turbo models (for now) For more information about AEM products, go to For performance data and specifications, go to: A Cold Wind Blowing - Part 2 PROJECT CAR 2010 MINI Cooper S (R56) AEM-21-699 DRYFLOW Cold Air Intake system (manufacturer sourced) 6-speed Sportronic with sequential manual mode, paddle shifters and FES Auto sport mode modification Southern Audio Systems subwoofer Dash and door panels by Vinyl Styles

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