Subaru WRX (FA20DIT) Intercooler Upgrade Guide

Subaru WRX 2015-2021 VA with FA20DIT is a terrific car that reacts well to performance upgrades. We previously covered the finest WRX (VA) downpipe/J-pipe, so now we’ll take a look at the top intercoolers. With the WRX, an intercooler is a no-brainer if you’re concerned about intake temperature, and it does so admirably. There are several benefits to upgrading your Subaru WRX intercooler, as well as a variety of alternatives to choose from. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best intercooler for the WRX’s FA20.

Subaru WRX Intercooler Basics

On the Subaru WRX, intercoolers are the greatest way to lower intake manifold temperatures (VA). Because they are primarily driven by the engine’s exhaust gases, turbos generate a significant amount of heat. The temperature rises as well when the air is compressed. Hot air is less dense and has a lower oxygen content than colder air, hence greater intake temperatures have a negative impact on horsepower. As a result, the FA20DIT can be damaged over time by heat soak, knocking, and pre-ignition.

The aim of an intercooler is to lower the temperature of the air before it enters the combustion chamber. When compared to the factory intercooler, the WRX’s upgraded intercooler performs better in terms of cooling and recovery time. Because the air is more dense and contains more oxygen due to the drop in temperature, more power may be generated. FA20’s stock intercooler can handle factory power levels, however it quickly falls short at higher rpm.

The air-to-air intercooler in the WRX FA20 makes use of the car’s characteristic hood-scoop. It is through the hood-scoop that the outside air enters the engine compartment and reaches the intercooler. This decreases heat soak and the temperature of the air passing through the intercooler by cooling it down.

Subaru WRX Intercooler Design and Location

Front-mount intercoolers (FMIC) and top-mount intercoolers (TMIC) are the two most common intercooler upgrades for the Subaru WRX (VA) (TMIC). TMICs bolt straight to the factory charge pipe and throttle body of the WRX.

FMICs put the intercooler immediately in front of the radiator, behind the front bumper. In addition to replacing the original charge pipe, they often do not properly fit the OEM intake.

WRX Top Mount Intercoolers

Installing TMICs is substantially more straightforward because they maintain the majority of factory intake parts. The OEM hood scoop is still used to keep the engine bay cool.

The WRX’s top-mounted intercoolers will also cost less than front-mounted intercoolers. As a result of the limited space in the engine compartment, TMIC cores are typically smaller than FMIC cores. For the FA20DIT, top-mounts use less pipe than front-mounts because of their placement.

WRX Front Mount Intercoolers

It’s more difficult to install a front-mount intercooler than a top-mount one, and it usually necessitates some additional alterations. Front-mounts frequently necessitate the purchase and installation of a new intake system since they do not link cleanly to the stock intake system. Additional trimming and cutting is required to fit core inside WRX’s bumper on the inside.

Turbo-lag is slightly increased when using front-mount FMICs due to the higher volume of pipework. Because of this, they have larger cores than top-mounts and are more efficient than top-mounts in terms of power.

Switching to a front-mount intercooler has the potential to reduce engine heat soak the most. FMICs stay colder to the touch than TMICs since they are located in front of the engine rather than on top of it, and the bumper aperture is larger as a result. The FA20 benefits from better cooling and lower intake temperatures as a result of less heat being absorbed.

FA20 WRX Intercooler Upgrade Benefits

Benefits of Subaru WRX intercooler upgraded include:

  • +10-42 whp
  • +10-30 wtq
  • More sustained performance
  • Reduced intake temperatures
  • Reduced heat soak
  • Knock and pre-ignition prevention

The WRX’s increased power is one of the main advantages of upgrading the intercoolers. Top-mount and front-mount intercoolers can both see considerable benefits even without an equivalent tune. At least 10-20 whp/wtq is possible with either the FMIC or the stock intercooler.

Tuning your car, on the other hand, brings out the full potential of intercoolers. Tuners can run greater boost levels for longer periods of time without risking knock by using a larger intercooler. That means the engine has a greater peak output and a wider power band. People have reported getting up to 42 whp out of the FA20 when using an FMIC and a tune.

Modifying automobiles with FA20 WRX intercoolers might improve their overall safety, especially in hotter regions. Increased intake temperatures don’t help the banging problem with Subaru WRX engines, which are notoriously difficult to start. Because of heat soak and high intake temperatures, a poor intercooler might actually cause your automobile to lose horsepower.

In the cold, intercoolers aren’t going to do anything for you, but in the summer they truly shine. During WOT on the FA20, TMICs and FMICs can both reduce intake manifold temperatures by up to 40°F. Misfires, pre-ignition, and engine knock are greatly reduced as a result of this.

TMIC vs FMIC: Which is right for me?

When picking between a TMIC and an FMIC, there are numerous crucial considerations to keep in mind. FMICs are more expensive than TMICs on the WRX, so that will be the main difference. With front-mounts, you’ll need to buy a new intake and make changes to your bumper. In most cases, the OEM crash bar must be replaced, which can pose a safety hazard.

In the battle against heat soak, front-mount intercoolers fare far better than top-mount intercoolers. Because hot air rises, the top-mounts on top-mount engines collect heat constantly. Due to their location in front of the engine and radiator, front-mounts have an advantage in terms of shedding heat. As a result, the FMICs have better access to cooler air through the bumper’s bigger aperture.

In the event that you already have multiple bolt-on mods and are trying to maximize your WRX’s power, FMICs are the best option. TMICs are a good option if you want to boost cooling in the summer while gaining a small amount of power. In comparison to a TMIC, an FMIC typically allows tuners to run higher boost for longer periods of time.

Best FA20 WRX Intercooler Upgrades

The benefits of intercoolers for Subaru’s WRX are now clear to us. Now, let’s take a look at some of the greatest intercoolers for the FA20DIT WRX. Top-mount intercoolers are listed first, followed by those mounted in the front.

In terms of craftsmanship, pricing, and performance, these intercoolers for the VA WRX stand out above the rest. From 2015 through 2021, these intercoolers will fit all VA WRX models with intercoolers.

1) Subaru WRX GrimmSpeed TMIC w/ Splitter

In terms of TMICs, the GrimmSpeed Top-mount intercooler comes out on top for the FA20 WRX. When it comes to the best US-made products, GrimmSpeed is unquestionably among the best. Their TMIC is an incredible beast. This splitter has a Cross Flow Core measuring 13.1″ by 10″ by 3.75,” as well as an integrated two-piece splitter. The end tanks are made of cast aluminum, and a pre-drilled bung makes it simple to connect to a water or methanol system.

The GrimmSpeed TMIC may increase the power of FA20 WRXs by 10-20 hp without tuning and 15-30 hp after tuning. The integrated splitter replaces the stock unit with one that is far more efficient, and the fit and finish are superb. When compared to the stock intake, intake temperatures can be reduced by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using TIG welded construction, all of GrimmSpeed’s goods are manufactured in the state of Minnesota. One of the best TMICs on the market, if not the best, is their FA20 WRX TMIC.

2) Subaru WRX Garrett Motion Top-Mount Intercooler

Top-mount intercooler from Garret Motion is our second choice. Garrett is a leading maker of turbochargers, both aftermarket and OEM, as well as intercoolers.

There is an optional Garret TMIC for the Subaru FA20 that can deliver up to 530 horsepower, with a 13′′x10.2′′x4′′ core. It is 70 percent larger than stock and can increase horsepower and torque by up to 16 hp/wtq. Under WOT, users might expect a 30* drop in intake temperature. Recovering from WOT runs and multi-gear shifts is likewise a breeze with this gearbox.

Despite its lower performance, the Garret TMIC is significantly less expensive than GrimmSpeed. It’s a great alternative for individuals who don’t want to spend a fortune but yet want to upgrade. In the classifieds, you can often find these for as little as $400-500 used.

3) WRX Cobb Tuning Front-Mount Intercooler

Cobb Tuning is the manufacturer of the first of our front-mount intercoolers on the list. Cobb is a world-renowned performance brand, and their FMIC for the FA20 WRX more than lives up to the reputation.

It has a gigantic 24″ x 11″ x 4″ core and 2.5″ pipes, allowing it to produce tremendous horsepower improvements while still working well on mid-range designs. Only the Cobb Big SF Intake is compatible with it, so make sure to order both of them at the same time. To install the Cobb FMIC, the WRX’s undertray must be modified, but the bumper is left untouched.

The Cobb front-mount is 100% CARB-compliant, which is one of the most important selling points. With a tune, users can expect improvements of up to 40whp and intake temps that are almost ambient.

4) Subaru WRX GrimmSpeed FMIC

Because of its solid performance, we include GrimmSpeed’s FMIC in our list of recommended products. An enormous 27″ x 11″ x 4″ Cross Flow Core can handle small, medium and large horsepower builds with ease. The GrimmSpeed FMIC features the FA20 WRX’s largest core to yet.

Both the GrimmSpeed intake and the stock intake for the FA20 WRX can be used with the GrimmSpeed intercooler. With an accompanying tune, users can expect 35-40 horsepower and a drop in intake temps of up to 40 degrees. GrimmSpeed’s FMICs are among of the best on the market, thanks to their attention to detail and craftsmanship.

5) WRX FA20 PRL Front-Mount Intercooler

The PRL Front-mount intercooler for the FA20 WRX is the next item on our list. This is a company that was among the first to create FMICs for the VA WRX and has been around for a while now.

With a diameter of 22 inches, the PRL FMIC is capable of producing up to 600 horsepower. According to their claims, their FMIC outperformed the underlying TMIC by a wide margin. To put it another way, they’re claiming up to 40 horsepower without a tune. It’s possible to gain 60-75 horsepower above standard with a tune and some simple modifications.

The PRL is the most cost-effective FMIC on this list. It’s the cheapest option that still offers decent gains, and many top tuners suggest it.

6) Subaru WRX ETS FMIC Upgrade

The final inclusion on our list comes from Extreme Turbo Systems (ETS) and is one of the most well-established. ETS, like PRL, developed one of the first FMIC kits, which were utilized on various famous and massive hp builds. The ETS FMIC was used in the first 9 second Subaru WRX with the FA20.

The ETS core measures 26″ x 11.37″ and comes in three thicknesses: 3″, 3.5″, and 4″. An alternative titanium brushed pipe kit is also available for improved cooling on the cold side. With the ETS FMIC, users can likely expect 30-35 whp increases from the FA20, as well as intake temperature reductions of up to 40*.

Subaru WRX FA20 Intercooler Upgrade Summary

The FA20 Subaru WRX benefits greatly from an upgraded intercooler in terms of both performance and dependability. Intercoolers not only increase hp/tq, but they also reduce heat soak and allow for more consistent and long-lasting power. Reducing heat soak extends the life of the engine by decreasing the likelihood of serious engine issues like misfiring, pre-ignition, or knock.

An intercooler upgrade should be considered by anyone who drives their VA WRX at a higher RPM level or in a hot climate. In the winter, the benefits will be less noticeable, but in the summer they can save your engine. The biggest and most cost-effective gains come from combining an intercooler and a tune.

The GrimmSpeed and Garrett top-mount intercoolers on our list are both excellent choices. For a little more money you get better performance and cooling with the GrimmSpeed. For the best value in front-mount intercoolers, the PRL is the best option. There is no difference in performance between Cobb and GrimmSpeed FMICs, except that GrimmSpeed has the largest core of all FMICs. Among the FA20 WRX options, the ETS is by far the most well-tested and well-documented FMIC, and it has been a part of some truly iconic builds.

Since they’re all made to fit VA WRX models from 2015 to 2021, the only decision to be made here is between a top- and front-mount. On the FA20DIT, top-mounts are easier to install and less expensive, but they have a lower level of performance and are more susceptible to heat soak.

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