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How to boost new car horsepower & responsiveness, performance?

My general question: Is it possible to boost the horsepower and responsiveness of a new car WITHOUT voiding the warranty?

More specifically, I’m interested in the possibilities for my own car. It’s not a “sports” car-- a 2012 Kia Sportage EX AWD w/ automatic transmission. Just so you have a better sense of what I’m craving: I had tried mightily to obtain the turbo (SX) version of the Sportage, but they have been rare/unavailable in my region for over two months. If I had the money I would have been shopping for an Audi Q5. Basically I was in the market for a small crossover with lots of smooth zip & power. So,

Is there any way for me to nudge my Sportage just a teensy weensy bit in the direction of performing like an Audi Q5?

Thanks for your help!

Basically the answer is no. Manufacturers warrant the products they sell, turn it into something else all bets are off. Can’t blame them really.

Is the intake drawing air from under the hood?
A simple mod to draw cooler air can boost power and torque:

A cold air intake is a great idea. But be aware that the air intake is now at the bottom of the engine bay the next time you come upon a flooded road. It’s especially easy to suck up water as you pass through the (large) puddle, and that will trash your engine. I’m not telling you to avoid this mod, but suggesting that you think about it in the context of where you live and how the roads handle water when it rains. As circuitsmith illustrated, the best (only?) place this works is at the front of the engine bay.

There’s loose fitting between the original intake and flex-hose, so it shouldn’t develop much suction unless I stomp on the throttle in the middle of a deep puddle.
And I’ve never had to drive through water 6 or more inches deep.
If the day comes I have to ford a stream it only takes a minute to pull it off.

Off topic? Really?

Leave it alone…With today’s computer controlled and monitored vehicles, if the ECM sees something it does not understand or does not like, it’s going to throw a trouble code and a CEL and it’s all downhill from there…

“And I’ve never had to drive through water 6 or more inches deep.”

Just don’t go south of M Street in Georgetown or into Rock Creek Park when the Potomac rises. Agnes made quite an impression on me.

A better solution is to leave the original intake on and remove the “inner” secondary air filter. As long as you keep a clean filter in at all times, you won’t destroy your engine.

It appears that your engine has 176 horsepower with a 0-to-60 time of 9.5 seconds and that the SX has 260 horsepower with a 0-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds. That’s a huge difference. I don’t think there’s anything realistic you can do here. I’m afraid you probably bought the wrong car.

Thanks, everyone, for your insightful answers!

vin123, in light of the other posters’ warnings (warranty issues, water getting into mods, etc.) it seems like your suggestion treads an appropriately cautious path of usefulness by accomplishing some performance gain without rerouting any significant car parts! Anyone else care to chime in on vin123’s idea?

Air filter restriction is significant only at wide open throttle and high rpm.
The secondary filter restriction is only a fraction of the main filter.
How much time do you spend driving on the streets with the gas pedal to the floor and the tach near redline?

There’s always the technique described in the classic website 50 Free Horsepower From A Coffee Can. (Obviously just a joke, but for some reason this seems to still be the preferred method of performance boost here in Northern California.)

If your car has an engine hiccup and if any kind of engine modification (intake, exhaust, whatever) is seen when the hood comes up you are unlikely to get a warranty fix on it.

You’re not going to gain any noticeable power with a ho-hum intake or catback exhaust swap. Noticeable power can be gotten but it will involve much money and loss of your warranty.

OK folks, I’m satisfied! Thanks again for your responses; I’ve got a great warranty, and not a single iota of inclination to screw it up, so I’m gonna leave well enough alone.

BTW, hubby and I spent a while laughing helplessly at the ads for computer chips that are supposed to add anywhere from 4 to 16 horses to your power, and increase your mpg’s by mind-boggling amounts!! That’s what got me thinking and made me ask my original question here, to see if there were any LEGITIMATE options out there-- and I am grateful for the sanity of your answers :slight_smile:

No worries, lion9car-- I didn’t buy the wrong car. According to the list of several features that I hoped to find in one vehicle, my new baby is the best car for me of those available in my price range, and it’s a beauty that’s enjoyable to drive. It was worth exploring the possibility of liking & enjoying it just a bit more, but I will be quite appreciative and content with it “as is” until I can do better!

Gonna take great care of it, and see how many happy miles of adventure we can share…

There are some tuners for various vehicles that actually DO increase horsepower and let you firm up your transmission shifts, and adjust a wide range of parameters. Usually you would have to use higher octane when you use these modifications, and it will void your warranty in most cases. But these tuners, which are fairly sophisticated electronic devices that allow you to replace your car’s programming with enhanced versions, are pretty much only available for vehicles that are considered high-performance to begin with.

Those forum members who have been around for awhile will probably recall a post…perhaps about 6-8 months ago…from someone who installed a “performance chip” in their relatively new Ford pickup truck. I don’t recall the exact details of how the engine was damaged, but it did sustain very expensive damage, and Ford refused to give warranty coverage on the repair, as a result of that chip.

Caveat Emptor!

The “secondary air filter” is actually a carbon filter to capture any hydrocarbon molecules that waft up from the cylinder when you shut the engine down. If you analyze the cycles in a 4-banger, you’ll find that at any moment there is always one cylinder on the intake stroke, with the intake valve open and the injector spraying. Thus, whenever you shut the engine off, there’re unburned hydrocarbons just past an open intake valve. The EPA now requires that they be prevented from finding their way into the environment. Thus, the carbon filter.

I removed my carbon filter as part of an induction system redesign I did that made it a ram air system feeding directly off of a “scoop” intake in the from bumper. My system is designed to prevent the possibility of water from being ingested even if I go through a puddle. Removal of the carbon filter will not “tripp a light” or cause an emissions failure, however it by itself will also not help performance one iota. Even my design is only effective at WOT and at speed. It makes a definite difference on the highway when I “punch it” to pass, or when accelerating to merge with traffic, but no difference “off the line”.

And yes, were my warranty not long-since expired it would have voided it. Any modification you do to the engine provides them with an excuse to disqualify warranty coverage for and engine-related failures.

Oh, and the CAI systems on the market are junk. They take the air typically from the same area as the original snorkle, and the only real benefit they offer is reduction of pumping losses at WOT by displacing original induction system components that have obstructions to the airflow with smooth piping. They do this at the expense of noisiness and the risk of screwing up the mass airflow sensor from the oil in th efilter they use.

Bottom line:

  1. Any modification you do will provide them with an excuse to disqualify warranty coverage.
  2. make no changes unless and until you understand exactly what you’re doing and have realistic expectations for the results.
  3. be very, very wary of chips and reprogramming, as VDC has emphasized. Unless you know what you’re doing you can ruin an engine, and the people selling these things don;t necessarily care if you do. There’s lots of destructive rubbish on the market.

It depresses me to see someone buy a car he or she doesn’t really want, and then be unhappy with it. It’s a shame you didn’t wait for a car you really want, because modifying this one would likely void your warranty and not give you any appreciable boost in performance.

Lette, you might say this is the right car for you, but it sounds like you settled for the lesser of evils. That may be okay when you vote, but when you spend money on a vehicle, I don’t think you should have to settle like you have.

I remember very well the poster VDCdriver mentioned who ended up with the trashed Ford pickup, which had just been purchased brand new. This couple was moving from CA to New England and not only had the truck loaded down but also had a travel trailer attached to it.

The truck was moving a lot of weight and when the upgrade was combined with the very long ascent to Flagstaff, AZ in the mountains the diesel engine took itself out. They were upset that warranty would not pay the 12 grand or so for that new engine but the dealer and FOMOCO are correct; warranty is not applicable in this case.

What was left unsaid was that hubby got a new toy, started hitting the on-line and magazine purveyors of pep 'em up stuff while thinking about all of that weight he was going to be towing.
The upgrade that he purchased (name escapes me) plainly states in very fine print that the upgrade company is not liable for any engine damage that may be caused by the use of those upgrades; all of the flowery pre-fine print lingo aside.

Often we don’t know what we really want.
In the past it has taken me weeks or months to realize I don’t have the sax mouthpiece or woman that really suits me ;o)