If you’re like most gearheads, you probably can’t leave your car stock for long. However, it’s not so clearcut where to begin or how to get the most benefit out of every modification dollar. The Modification Experts recently helped us put together this list of the 5 best Performance Upgrades for the money. These span all aspects of vehicle performance and where you’re going to “feel” the benefit the most.
A) Sway Bars
First things first – “sway bars”, “anti-roll bars” and “anti-sway” bars are all the same thing, sort of like how “pants” and “trousers” or “color” and “colour” all mean the same. Sway bars are among the best things you can do for your car as far as bang-for-the-buck performance is concerned. The Sway Bars help reduce body roll during fast cornering or over irregularities in the surface of the road. The sway bar itself connects the left and right wheels on axle together through short lever arms (sway bar endlinks) linked by a torsion spring (the sway bar itself). A sway bar increases (or in some cases, decreases) the roll stiffness of your suspension. While most sway bars have set spring rates, some are adjustable by increasing or decreasing the length of the lever arms (sway bar endlinks).
For instance, this set of Sway Bars for FR-S from Cusco which are designed to eliminate body roll.
B) A Performance ECU Tune
Many people confuse just what “tuning” your car really means. No, just because you’ve fitted an intake and exhaust, your car is not “tuned”. Tuning is done by actually manipulating the car’s engine control computer, changing things like the fuel delivery map – which controls how much fuel is injected into the engine and when, spark timing – which is when the spark plugs fire relative to the position of the piston and other things, for instance on an automatic transmission car, shift points and shift firmness, how fast the shift is or in the case of a turbocharged car, it can control boost pressure.
Because an ECU alters so many performance parameters simply by plugging a module into the vehicles OBD II port, gains of up to +50hp can be had without physically changing a thing on the car. This incredible ease of installation and the high gain figures mean that you’ll be getting every bit of performance out of your engine. ModBargains offers tunes from such names as Cobb, E S S, SPM, IPF Tuning, Velocity AP, Hypertech, Superchips and Vishnu.
Your tires are one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of your vehicle’s overall performance, and one of the easiest ways to drastically improve the handling of your car. You can increase your grip with tires in a number of ways – you can choose a stickier, more aggressive tire compound that will keep you glued to the road (but may wear out more quickly), choose a different tread pattern or style (for instance, summer versus winter tires) or you can increase your grip by increasing the footprint of your tire with a wider tire. Generally speaking, you can usually go a few sizes wider than stock without rubbing, but be sure to consult a Modification Expert regarding how wide you can go with your particular application.
Lowering springs, as the name implies, were created for the express purpose of lowering the ride height of your vehicle by a set amount, typically with retaining some degree of comfort in mind but these springs put aesthetics first – Tanabe NF210 “Normal Feeling” springs, for instance, are a perfect example, offering a like-OEM ride with a mild drop. Lowering springs replace your OEM springs to lower your car’s ride height. Sport Springs, on the other hand, while they usually lower your vehicle, they are typically more conservative than lowering springs in the amount of drop and aim to improve handling more than aesthetics, often with a different spring rate than OEM to change the vehicle’s ride and handling characteristics. Sport Springs are ideal when you want to improve handling without resorting to a more expensive coilover setup. Sport Springs or Lowering Springs should be paired with a lowering shock that can compensate for the reduction in ride height to best retain ride quality.
An Intake is usually what people’s “Go-To” Mod is, but it’s not necessarily the biggest gain in power. The biggest benefits of an intake are improved throttle response and you “hear” your engine more under wide open throttle – turbo and supercharged cars will hear more supercharger whine or turbo spool and a few horsepower at the rear wheels. Turbocharged cars, however, have a lot to gain from the use of an aftermarket intake designed with performance in mind. An Intake, on a naturally aspirated (nonturbo) car will usually deliver a 5-10 CRANK HP gain, whereas a turbocharged car may pick up closer to 20hp. Occasionally, your mileage may even improve with a performance air intake.
Of course, these are just great ways to get started and there are always more options available. These are general guidelines and each vehicle application is different, be sure to consult a Modification Expert on what mods are best for your application.
Story by Nicholas Gregson