Focus ST Intake Systems - Which is best?
Intake upgrades typically happen early on in the modification process and for good reason. They're easy to put on, they give the engine bay a better appearance, and they free up airflow, creating more power and torque. Not to mention, they expose some of those "turbo noises" we all love. But there are so many of them out there. Which is the best? Should you get a cold air intake? Does it actually give you any more power? Here are some answers that might help you select the right one.
Focus ST intake kits are a dime a dozen. Many companies make them. It's a high volume part. "I want to modify my Focus ST but I don't want to touch the intake system", said no one. As with many high volume, high level parts, there are brands that take the time to do them right and there are the look-a-likes. There are 5 things I would consider when choosing your intake:
Performance + Fitment + Quality + Function + Finish
With that said, we don't carry anything that is severely compromised in any of those categories. That's our standard. But there are some that have focused on one or some of those, more than the others. That doesn't make it a bad intake. You just have to pick an intake that aligns with your goals. You may wish to show you car. In that case, you probably won't pick an intake that uses the stock airbox, even if it performs better than one with a really nice finish. To tell you which one is the best is to tell you our opinion, which might not be yours. I'll give you my best shot based on our experience and what we generally know about each of these intakes and brands. Again, there isn't an intake on this list that we don't approve. We don't sell parts we wouldn't put on our own cars.
I'll start with a quick answer to a common question. What's the best cold air intake for my Focus ST? "Cold air intake" is an age old term that tends to be misused as a blanket term that covers all aftermarket intakes, or something like that. A true cold air intake is one that upgrades and relocates the filter to a colder location than stock, most often deeper into the fender area or front bumper. There is nothing like that available for the Focus ST. The stock airbox is in a place where heat is not terribly high and it gets fed fresh, cool air through ducting inside of the front bumper cover. For the most part, you won't find upgraded intakes in alternative positions for the ST. They exist, but not really in the bolt-on sense. So just keep that in mind. All these are just intake replacements in the same position as the stock intake. Unless you're doing something really exotic, this is perfectly fine.
All kits share these features:
- 3 inch piping, smooth mandrel bends
- Bolt-on fitment, no modifications
- Filters are all reusable, unlike the OEM paper filter
This intake is available in two different finishes, black and polished. The best part of this intake is the factory finish, aluminum airbox. Not everyone enjoys the appearance of an airbox. However, it is 100% functional on the Focus ST. With the Mishimoto kit, the box fits very well and significantly improves the appearance when compared to the clunky, plastic OEM airbox. It retains the ducting that feeds cool air from the front bumper area. It also comes with a reusable oiled filter. We have very relevant experience with this intake. We used it on one of our two shop Focus STs and it produced good results. It's a very complete kit and addresses all the little quirks of the long, clunky Focus ST intake.
Function is the main goal with the Cobb intake. With their basic intake upgrade (they have two), they took the approach of giving you everything you need and nothing you don't. It's available only in black, it reuses the factory airbox, and it comes with a better filter. The top of the filter adds some outside exposure, unlike the sealed filter top from Ford, so turbo spooling noises will be louder. You can clean the filter and reuse it, as well. This is a solid choice and looks much better than the plastic piping.
Cobb Tuning Redline
There's a reason why it's twice the price as their base kit. The Cobb Tuning Redline Intake, made 100% of carbon fiber, is probably the nicest intake you'll ever see available for the ST. This is getting into higher end, European market vehicle territory. Some of you care about this stuff, some of you don't. But you cannot deny the carbon fiber effect. Aesthetically, it's very pleasing to the eye. Functionally, it doesn't heat up like metal, and it's very lightweight. All good things for power and performance. On top of that, Cobb Tuning stuff is always made with high standards. They don't cut corners and they certainly didn't here. This will give you more power and make a lot bigger statement when you open your hood.
We have experience with this one, as well. cp-e was one of the first brands to release an intake for the car and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. It's all aluminum construction with a really nicely made airbox to take place of the stock unit. One cool feature it has is the clear lid on the box so you can see the filter, which is also useful for inspecting it's cleanliness. But sealing the box is also important so that it's less affected by hot engine bay temperatures. Black and red are the two color options. You will not go wrong with a cp-e intake.
This is another function first intake kit for the Focus ST. Available in black and red, this kit allows you the option to just get the 3" piping and silicone couplers by themselves and get a new filter as an option (Green Filter brand, good quality). This is great for those that might have already upgraded their filter to a better unit and now just want to complete the system. Whether you choose a new filter or not, it makes use of the stock airbox. JBR makes many parts for the Focus ST and the intake fits right into their quality lineup.
This is a full replacement kit in black only and features a heat shield, but not a full box. It does seal against the underside of the hood so heat is still kept to a minimum. Some people like the look of the filter showing in their engine bay and this would suit that requirement. They offer 2 different filters, one dry and one oiled. Oiled filters generally flow better as they need less filter media overall since the oil is doing some of the filtering work. But the dry filter is very convenient and doesn't require a fresh coat of filter oil each time you clean. Just let it dry and pop it in.
Whereas all the other kits are made by companies that make more parts for the car than just an intake, Injen is historically an intake brand and makes intake kits for a wide variety of cars, along with a few other bolt on parts like exhausts, intercoolers, and piping for a handful of platforms. It's available in red and polished piping and comes complete with all piping and silicone from filter to turbo and includes a more basic heat shield for slightly better heat control than if you didn't have one at all. If I had one major gripe about any kit on this list it's that the heat shielding isn't super robust on this Injen kit but if you like it, I wouldn't let that completely steer you away. It probably won't be the absolute best performer because of the heat issue, though.
Hopefully this helps you decide what the best intake is for your Focus ST. No matter which one you get, go have fun making a few extra ponies and showing off at your next car meet.
About JP Alonso
I'm the founder of Edge Autosport and I remember first getting into cars in high school. I read all the magazines, bought a bunch of technical books, and finally got to start wrenching around the age of 19. I really enjoy modding and being able to live out a passion is truly awesome. I wouldn't change a thing.