The Truth and Nothing but The Truth
The truth is that nearly all the major automotive magazines cater to their advertisers. They don't make money from selling magazines. They make money from selling advertising. The more subscribers they have, the more they can charge for their ads. Did you ever wonder how they can afford to charge so little for their subscriptions? Most magazines would lose money if all they had to count on were revenue from magazine sales.
So that brings us to the truth. Do you think the magazines want to upset one of their advertisers? Of course not. That's why you rarely see a manufacturer's product depicted in anything but positive terms. Why do you think that most magazine product tests end up concluding: "all of the products performed well". Their project cars get sponsorship from the manufacturers, which is why you see every system being replaced with an aftermarket performance part.
The truth is that many of these products are hype. You won't get 15 horsepower by adding an exhaust. Of course, under certain circumstances, in a sterile engine dyno lab, using 115 octane fuel, and artificially creating a situation where an engine is choking on it's own exhaust gasses, you could get 15 hp. But for most of us, we will be lucky to get 5, if anything, and low end torque will likely be sacrificed. Ignition components will add ZERO horsepower, except under certain conditions or in very high performance applications.
Here's a question for you: "How many performance magazines have their own dynamometer?" The answer: hardly any. In fact, over 90% of all the articles written about performance parts rely on horsepower and torque statistics generated by someone else doing the testing, such as the manufacturer. And the few magazines that own a dyno have an older, out-dated Dynojet or Superflow (or worse - Sun) unit. But we are the exception. We cared enough about the truth to make the investment, and own the latest high-tech dyno custom-made especially for us by Mustang Dynamometer, Inc.
You can't add up the horsepower numbers when you install performance parts: header (5hp), exhaust (15hp), air intake (5hp) = 25 horsepower. The truth: you may get 5-10 total depending on what else you have done to your car, but you may also get ZERO and you will most certainly lose low end torque.
Now don't get us wrong. You can get some good information from a magazine, but you need to be cautious of the claims that are made. Books, however, contain no advertising, so we authors are free to tell it like it is. Unfortunately, many of the performance products on the market today are more hype than help. In addition, magazine readers are often encouraged to buy products that they don't really need. The real story is that most manufacturer's claims are exaggerated. You won't get 15 horsepower by adding an exhaust system.
However, at the same time, we owe a debt of gratitude to the manufacturers for creating the products that do work. Without them, there would not be an import performance movement. But the truth is that most brands of headers, air intakes and exhaust systems are mostly the same when it comes to adding power. The difference between a $500 header and a $150 header is simply $350 and a cool "name". Both the cheap and the brand name part will likely give you the same minor power increase (if anything at all).
NEWS ALERT! We just completed testing on VTEC controllers, and the news is not good. No need to single out any particular manufacturer- we've tested them all. The result - NOTHING! After hours and hours of tweaking and manipulating parameters on our dyno, neither of our test cars showed any improvement in horsepower. So if you own a 2000 Civic Si or a 2000 Integra GSR, don't waste your money. Spend $17.95 to buy the Honda and Acura Performance Handbook and see how you can save even more money! Next test - Performance Chips! Our guess - no change except in highly modified cars.
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