For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project C30: K&N Intake and Bell Intercooler Add More Power with IPD ECU Upgrade

After augmenting our C30 with bigger wheels, a new body kit, and adding significantly more punch with an IPD/MTE ECU upgrade, we decided to explore other areas to continue upgrading our C30. With more air being pumped through the engine as a result of higher boost from the ECU upgrade, removing some of the bottlenecks in the forced induction system became our next priority. We decided to start removing restrictions by replacing the small factory intercooler with a larger and freer-flowing unit.

We sourced our upgrade part from Bell Intercoolers, ordering our Front Mount Intercooler System in the optional anodized black finish. Although the factory intercooler is silver, choosing the more subtle black finish for the larger unit makes it noticeable only to trained eyes. Upon first glance, the size difference between the factory and bell intercooler is staggering. Bell claims that on a factory-tuned ECU, gains of 8-9 hp at the wheels will be seen. However, according to Bell’s in-house testing, with an ECU upgrade running 15 PSI of boost, gains of 23 hp and 22 lb-ft were seen at the wheels. Furthermore, the outlet temperature of the intercooler dropped from 177 degrees to 117 degrees � an impressive drop of 60 ticks on the thermometer. Pressure resistance was also significantly decreased, from 1.87 PSI to 0.93 PSI; that is almost a 50 percent reduction. This can be attributed to the size, design, and the bar-and-plate core of the intercooler, which increases airflow and reduces resistance, thus increasing power.

Fortunately, the installation was rather straightforward, despite having to remove the front bumper. The first step is to remove the headlights, which is done by simply sliding up on the metal tab that secures them to the body of the car, removing the five torx screws in each side of the fender liners, the five rivets across the top of the bumper cover and two fasteners. Finally, you’ll have to remove the seven torx screws holding the splash guard underneath the engine. If you have headlight washer nozzles, gently pull up on the cover, grab the stalk, and then remove the cover by carefully prying it off the stalk. After all the screws and rivets are removed, the bumper should be rather loose. Grab one side, pull it forward (it will snap out), and then do the same on the other side. If you are afraid of dropping the bumper, have someone hold the opposite side. Before you pull it off completely, you will need to reach down and unhook the fog lights before the bumper will be completely free.

With the bumper cover removed, you can now see the intercooler and the factory-installed plastic air guides that surround it. This is the tricky part, as removing the two torx screws is very time consuming - they are hidden behind the front rebar. Because of the location of these screws, it is impossible to use a normal torx driver to remove them. We had to get creative and we ended up using just a torx bit and turning it with an adjustable wrench, repeating this process for about 30 minutes until both screws were removed.

Now having full access to the intercooler, remove the two hose clamps on each side of the intercooler, and unplug the IAT (Intake Air Temperature) sensor. Remove the two mounting bolts that secure the intercooler to the car, then remove the intercooler. At this point you will clearly be able to see how small the factory unit is compared to the Bell intercooler. Install the IAT sensor in the Bell unit, and secure it with the new hardware provided.

Because of the significant size difference between the intercoolers, the Bell unit does not use the same mounting points. To mount the intercooler, you need to remove the left and right crossmember mounting bolts. Fit the intercooler to the car, use the longer bolts provided in the kit and secure it to the crossmember. Now just plug in the IAT sensor wiring harness, connect the inlet and outlet hoses and secure them with the provided hose clamps, and the intercooler is now installed.

Bell recommends trimming half an inch off of the lower grill opening on the bumper cover to prevent it from rubbing against the intercooler. We didn’t - ours was barely touching in the bottom two corners, so we thought we’d be okay. However, in the few months since, we’ve noticed that the rubbing has started to wear down the anodizing of the intercooler. Furthermore, in the spots where it was touching, some of the fins became slightly depressed. While the core was still completely intact and functionally everything still worked perfectly, it is important to not overlook this step. In addition to preventing any potential damage to the intercooler, trimming the lower grill opening also allows for more airflow through the intercooler. Once this is done, reinstall the bumper in the reverse order of the removal process.

As for Bell’s claim of over 20 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque, all we can say is that we’re pretty sure they aren’t lying. While we were unable to run a before-and-after dyno test, the increase in power is so evident that you can feel it in the seat of your pants.

While on this power high, we decided that we may as well add even more as long as we were at it. And this time, we wanted to really hear the turbo working. To satisfy our aural needs, we picked up a K&N Typhoon Intake System. The K&N system replaces all the factory pieces from the airbox back to the turbo inlet tube. Removing the restrictive airbox should give us quite an increase in airflow, not only adding to the sound, but also further increasing our power.

Surprisingly, the installation of the K&N intake requires more time than installing the intercooler. This is mainly because the ECU is mounted to the airbox, and it needs to be relocated to the heat shield of the K&N system. The move is rather tricky and time intensive, as a lot of the wiring harnesses need to be relocated and rerouted to accommodate the new location of the ECU. K&N includes a 50 step instruction manual, and it is imperative that every step is followed to the letter.

In addition to relocating wiring harnesses, some vacuum lines need to be extended and rerouted as well. Some T5 engines have an EVAP recirculation line in addition to a vacuum line that connects to the EVAP canister, but ours did not. IPD attributed this to different emissions configurations for each region. Alas, since our K&N intake tube had both ports on it, we simply capped off the recirculation line port with a vacuum cap.

The hardest part of the installation, hands down is removing the factory airbox. At first glance, it looks like there is no way it will come out of the engine bay. However, it needs to be slightly contorted, and a bit of muscle needs to be applied, to slide it towards the driver’s side of the car and then up and out. Don’t be afraid to apply a lot of pressure; otherwise it will never come out.

After all of the relocating was done, it was now time to assemble the heat shield, mount the MAF sensor and the ECU, and fit the intake tube and filter. One of the Z-brackets that secures the intake tube to the engine needs to be bent slightly to fit properly, but otherwise the fitment is perfect. After everything is in place, tighten the hose clamps and brackets, and connect the vacuum lines.

The total install time should be about four hours. At first the install seems overwhelming, but as long as it’s done step by step, the job is not too bad, just time consuming. In the end, the result of all the hard work is well worth it. From merely a design standpoint, the K&N intake system gives the engine compartment some much-needed flavor. But the real reason for this upgrade is the drastic increase in intake and turbo noise. The engine now sounds throaty and hearing the turbo boost at 15 PSI is a treat for the ears.

Now that we have the retuned ECU, larger intercooler, and freer-breathing intake system in place, the power upgrades are finished for our C30. Results have been most impressive. In first gear, traction is hard to come by, and in second gear at full throttle, the tires find themselves squirming for traction. To put it another way, let’s just say that we’ve run with a few Mitsubishi Evos, and there is no better feeling than pulling on an Evo with a diminutive Volvo hatchback.


Bell Intercoolers

K&N Typhoon Air Filter at IPD

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