STAGE 1 TUNING
Stage one of course, means nothing but in line with what RC develeopments would call stage 1, to me it refers to getting the breathing sorted on the car. In addition, I also had a dump valve fitted and a set of the Eibach lowering springs. Almost any performance vehicle comes with a very restricted exhaust and air filter (and a cat) so as to cater for the mass market and abide by emissions regulations so if you do only one mod then this is the thing to sort. There is untapped power in most cars and its a crime not to release it by allowing a more liberated exchange of gases from the outside air through the engine and out again. Usually, the gain is unexpectedly large in terms of performance but also throttle response and the cars soundtrack are also drastically improved.
I chose to go for the Magnex mainly because it offered a full system including cat replacement pipe and downpipe from the turbo without the hassle of sourcing these bits and the tail pipe all from individual manufacturers. Also, it seemed a hell of a lot cheaper, had good reviews as far as BHP gain and sound were concerned and there was one available secondhand at the time.
The Exhaust was fitted in just 1 hour. Couldn't believe the length of the OEM exhaust when layed out on the floor - looked like it had come off a routemaster or something. Basically, the Magnex has opened up the engine no end and the car now feels really unrestricted breathing wise. Throttle response is markedly improved and the turbo takes a shorter time to get working and deliver its punch. The difference really is quite big. Flooring in 5th on Motorway (in Germany where speed restrictions allow), the car now responds much more instantaneously with very quick pickup and in a split second your well over the ton.
As for the noise, well its pretty raucous. There's a bit of a deep burble on tickover (which would be better if it was a touch louder IMO) but after about 4000rpm the thing really comes into its own and develops a very loud howling and throaty roar. On the motorway however, the noise at steady revs is never intrusive.
Also, the driveability of the car has been improved upon. Its now much more satisfying and viable to blip the throttle on downchanges and generally heel & toe. The noise given off makes the whole process a lot more credible and the engine is more free revving when doing so. There is nothing worse than heel & toeing a car that has a real stuffy back end and sounds like a food mixer with a tea cosy on it.
Finally, its worth noting that the decat pipe and the downpipe are giving most of the benefits described above. I would seriosuly reconsider if you are planning on buying just a tailpipe.
I ordered my Apexi induction kit from DP Motorsports. I went for the Apexi simply because judging from owners comments and reviews (see: http://www.gtrowner.com/induction.html, and also here http://220.127.116.11/~joss/forum/upload/showthread.php?s=&threadid=606 ) it appeared to boast the best filtration.
I didn't like the idea of changing the mushroom filters on the HKS kit which get quite dirty and also the Blitz kit has very large holes and some owners have reported that it can let a lot of unwanted material in, particularly if driving offroad. The Apexi has a funnel shape down its length which supposedly avoids the build up of turbulence which cone filters often create. Also it comes with a nice heat shield which I suspect is mainly cosmetic.
You can definitely hear the induction roar with the Apexi. Hit the gas and the sucking starts to build from just behind the glove box and gets stronger and stronger, eventually drowned out by the roar of the exhaust if you have any windows open !
Thing is, the cooler the air that can get to the engine the better and really the last thing you want is hot air circulating inside the engine bay going inside. This is an obvious weakpoint of the EVO's mechanical layout and probably the best thing to do is purchase one of the battery relocation kits available to resite the air filter in the left hand corner of the engine bay and also within its own cold air box with a dedicated feed of cold air. These kits cost quite a bit of money for what they are though although cusco do a kit which is very tempting that also includes a polished and straighter aluminium pipe that connects the filter down to the turbo.
For the time being, I decided to create my own cold air feed. Homebase sell a 1.5m length of aluminium piping for about 10 quid. I attached this to the left fog lamp hole in the bumper and obviously removed the foglamp cover that was originally in place. I then pulled the pipe up through a convenient gap to the right of the battery then through the space between the battery and fuse box, pointing directly at the filter. Okay so it looks a bit messy and whilst the width of the pipe was near perfect for the fog lamp pod, I had to squeeze and crush it somewhat to get it past the battery. But it must be doing some good there, increasing the percentage of cold air going into the filter that is being rammed into the front of the car with significant pressure at high speed. I also happen to like the DIY / no bullshit look of the hole in the front bumper now.
VTA Dump Valve
I was intending to buy the HKS dump valve simply because countless people told me that it was the best. But Dragon Autosport had a good deal waiting for me on the blitz one which seemed equally as well made.
First things first. From my research it seems that a vent to atmosphere dump valve does not really help an EVO. Dump valves can be of use in other turbocharged cars as a way of releasing excess boost when you come off throttle and allowing you to get going again quicker during gear changes but the best thing with the EVO seems to be a recirculating valve like the standard one. Also, idling problems can occur after they are fitted. Supposedly, a decent dump valve can prevent excess boost (when the throttle is closed) from pressurising and physically damaging the turbo compressor but I have yet to hear about an EVO in which this has happened.
There's really only one reason for these things and that's the noise. There's much better places to spend 200 quid but if you want the ultimate sonics for your car then the BOV is the icing on the cake. The blitz makes a lovely splashing/whipping sound when you change up, its a very clean noise and very pleasing to the ear as a finale to the exhaust roar. Excessive, perhaps.... but then I've never been shy with cars !
One issue with the Blitz dump valve is that when accelerating at high speed, say on a motorway, if you come off the gas quite suddenly the car can shudder. Im not sure if this is an inherent problem with just the Blitz dump valve or if I need to adjust it. I will have to look into it but have read similar complaints from a user of an HKS BOV.
I was informed before these mods that a decat, downpipe and blow off valve was what was required to get the mixture rich enough to produce flames from the exhaust if it was hot enough. Sure enough, on my first outing after the mods, a friend behind me spied a ball of flame lurking in the tailpipe and then witnessed it shooting out of the exhaust in a quick but very noticeble flash. Thing is the exhaust was not even that hot so lord knows what will happen if I ever go on track with the car.
Eibach Lowering Springs
Bit of a contentious one this. These springs lower the car by something like 32mm front and 20mm rear and they certainly make the car look a lot better. But as for handling and ride I am still undecided. To be honest I am finding it hard to remember the car in standard trim and maybe did not have it long enough to appreciate the true differences. But if my gut instincts are serving my well, I would say that there is very very little improvement in the handling or feel of the car. The turn in doesn't seem any sharper and the ride quality feels not more compliant but basically a little more bouncy. It seems to have slightly taken the hard edge off of the original setup when hitting bumps and holes in the road but in a way the car has become more bouncy and doesn't necessarily feel any more planted ... less so perhaps if anything.
I may be completely wrong here but one thing is for sure, I am not entirely happy with the suspension on my EVO. I like a hard ride, maybe even stiffer and flatter than the standard springs but also I like compliance to be very well integrated. For my mind, running on Bridgestone SO3's and either the Ralliart or OEM springs the car is filtering far too much "crap" back to the driver. And note that this is not proper feel, this is unwanted bumping, jostling & camber chasing etc.. Once you're pressing on an dhard driving its absolutely fine but for everyday use and commuting it can be somehwat intrusive and annoying. Like all "good uns" the EVO comes into its own once its up and runinng with a several MPH under its belt. Lower speeds and traffic driving and it can often feel clumsy and not make particularly good sense.
Whatever the way, I doubt I'll ever change matters. I have heard great things about Proflex Gp. N and Drummond suspension but I don't intend that type of expenditure with this car. I would be very interested to drive a Makinen again and also the EVO7 to see how they compare in this respect - perhaps I'll report my findings back here when I do.
The EVO modifying bug is so very catching. If you are short on funds or those close to you disapprove, just be very very careful ! Not only can you get such big horsepower for relatively small prices (esp. compared to the Lotus scene) but the 4G63 engine is pretty much bulletproof. Go up to 380bhp and beyond and it seems that its wise to start uprating internals but even then, many claim that 400-450 is not a problem on standard rods and pistons. To be honest I never thought I would be lured into the whole Dyno mentality - speed has never been my top priority - but day by day I'm getting that little bit more obsessed by exactly how much torque and BHP lies under the bonnet of my car.
At the moment though I really don't know how far I'll take it. I have been quoted in the region of 1500 quid to take my car up to a genuine 350bhp. That will involve a boost controller and fuel regulator, uprated fuel pump and a sustained boost pressure of 1.4 bar with smooth and reliable delivery. My car is at best 300-310bhp at the moment so it will be a significant jump but I have to put my trackday & driving tuition budget first !!! Always spend money upgrading the driver (although I never follow that particular rule). We will have to wait and see and I guess a lot will depend on whether I change to a Makinen edition next year or even an EVO 7.5 when it is eventually released. Despite the EVO being primarily a family car for me I have to admit .. its very tempting :-)
Thanks goes to Dragon Autosport who sitted all of the above. They come highly recommended on price, abilty and friendliness !