February 19, 2021

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Can I Add a Turbo to My Non-Turbo Subaru?

Subaru engine with Blouch turbo

"Can I install a turbo on my <insert non-turbo Subaru model here>?" This seems to be a common question I'm fielding lately, so I'm going to gather my thoughts here, then just be like "Read this link."

So you've got a non-turbo 2006 Subaru Legacy, or 2018 Impreza 2.0i, or 2012 Crosstrek. You see these cool turbo Subarus rolling around and you think, "Why can't I get some of that? Subarus have interchangeable parts, right? It's like a Lego kit, right?" Well, as with most everything else in the world, the answer is that it's a little bit complicated.

Basically, in almost every case, it's going to cost WAY more than your car is worth to turbocharge it. You would be better off just selling your non-turbo car, and purchasing the equivalent factory-turbocharged model. I know, you have grown attached to your existing car, and you added those custom Hella Supertones horns, and you don't want to do that all over again, but trust me on this.

Let's pick an example just so I can prove my point. The 2006 Legacy owner wants to turbocharge his car. On the one hand, we know this is possible to do because Subaru offered a turbo version of the car in 2006, the Legacy GT. So the parts exist, and it could be done. 

Now let's go through what you would need to do it. At the bare minimum, you would need these components:

  • Turbocharger
  • Boost control solenoid and plumbing
  • Intercooler and charge piping
  • Exhaust manifold and up pipe
  • Exhaust downpipe
  • Intake manifold
  • Turbo inlet
  • Intake/airbox
  • Turbocharger oil plumbing
  • Turbocharger coolant plumbing
  • Higher-flow fuel pump
  • Higher-flow fuel injectors
  • Hood with hood scoop
  • Hood scoop ducting

Probably the turbo model car has additional oil cooling that the non-turbo model does not have, but we'll ignore that for the moment. This is already thousands of dollars in parts, and we haven't even tallied up any gaskets, miscellaneous clips and trim pieces, plugs, clamps, nuts and bolts, and other random bits. "I'll get all these at the pick-and-parts place for cheap," you say. Sure you will. When's the last time you saw a Legacy GT in the salvage yard? Yeah, I thought so.

Oh, and your non-turbo clutch is probably not going to be happy with the increased torque, so plan on installing a higher-strength turbo car clutch.

But anyway, let's say you DO assemble all this hardware, and you bolt it all to your existing non-turbo block. That 2.5i block has a compression ratio of 10.0:1, which is much higher than the equivalent turbo block, which was 8.2:1. The higher compression ratio will make the motor more prone to detonation under boost, meaning you will have to run less-aggressive boost/fuel/timing settings than you otherwise would be able to, so the maximum power will be lower than the turbo motor would generate.

Oh, and speaking of ECU calibration, how are you going to accomplish that? The easy way would be to use an Accessport and a turbo-car ECU, and have it custom-tuned on the dyno, but then you'd have to acquire a turbo ECU (more money), and is the ECU wiring harness identical between the two cars? They are almost certainly not, so you would need to re-wire the ECU wiring harness. That sounds like a lot of difficult work, fraught with the possibility of difficult-to-diagnose errors. Okay, so let's stick with the non-turbo ECU. Can that even be programmed to handle a turbocharged motor? How would we even program it? There is no Cobb Accessport for the non-turbo ECU. You probably could have an expert program it using open source tools, but the number of people who can do that (or want to) is small, and they charge a lot.

"My local JDM importer place has all these EJ20X motors for pretty cheap. How about I use that?" The EJ20X is a dual-AVCS JDM (Japan Domestic Market) motor that was never offered here in the U.S. (AVCS is Subaru's variable cam timing system. Dual AVCS means both the intake and exhaust cams are adjustable.) The only ECU in the U.S. lineup that can run dual AVCS hardware is from the 2008+ WRX STI, and that's not going to be plug-compatible with your 2006 Legacy 2.5i body harness, nor would the US ECU work directly with the JDM cam sensors. Again, it COULD be done with custom wiring and/or sensor mods, but it's not simple or cheap. We have seen these engines installed with the AVCS locked out, but the result is LAG, since the cam is extra peaky. It was designed have a tall torque peak that can be moved around as the engine goes through its RPM range. If you can't move it around, you get a very weak low-end and an unusually fast fall-off after the torque peak.

Now let's go back to the value of the car, and what you might purchase instead on the used market. Looking at a standard used-car value site, I show a ballpark value of a 2006 Legacy 2.5i manual-transmission sedan at something like $3800. If I change it to a 2006 Legacy GT manual-transmission sedan the value goes up by something like...$300. I know what you are going to say, "I can't find a Legacy GT to buy." They are out there, but they were never common, so be patient and you should probably cast a pretty wide geographic net. Also remember that the Outback XT was also available for that timeframe. You could even get a manual trans Outback XT.

So my point is for a whopping $300 difference in value, you could just upgrade your existing Legacy 2.5i to a factory-turbocharged car that is ALREADY BUILT. Why would you bother spending $5000 (or more?) converting your non-turbo car? The whole car is not even worth $5000.

Now I've offended that reader out there with the 2018 Impreza 2.0i. That person is saying, "Hey, my Impreza is worth way more than that! It's gotta be worth it to turbocharge this beauty!" My point still stands. Just eyeballing used car values, let's say you can get $19,000 for that Impreza on the used market. You can get a decent 2018 WRX for maybe $23,000. There is NO WAY you could turbocharge the Impreza for $4,000. Even if you did or could, the WRX has SO many other factory upgrades -- wider bodywork, bigger brakes, bigger wheels and tires, performance suspension, the list goes on. 

Of course these swaps have been done, and you can find examples of WRX-swapped Crosstreks, STI-powered base Imprezas, and other fun projects on the internet. Trust me, those projects MADE NO FINANCIAL SENSE. Sure, if you love a challenge, have tons of free time, and you hate money, jump right in. Otherwise, if you are a sane and rational person, just sell your existing car. Buy the closest Subaru factory-built performance variant, and start your project from there.

December 30, 2020

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Farewell 2020

We can't say we're sorry to see the last of this year, but despite the pandemic challenges, we have continued to work and push forward with new projects and new products. Here are some of the things we have been working on recently.

We just received our latest batch of Mach V Awesome and Wicked Awesome wheels. Besides restocking some existing sizes and colors, we also have new colors available for the 17x9" Awesome wheel, and the 18x9.5" 5x114 Wicked Awesome wheel. The new matte bronze and Storm Gray look great. Product photos are on the product pages. Watch for some on-car photos soon.

Another new wheel we are excited about is a 19x9" version of our popular Mach V Crucial wheel. The 19x9" size will accept the OEM 2018+ STI 245/35R19 tire, or up to a 265-width tire after the OEM tires wear out. We spent extra time engineering this wheel for maximum depth in the center cup, to give a concave look you don't see on the OEM Subaru wheels. It clears all Brembo brakes, including older four-piston versions and the newer six-pot STI Brembos. Watch for inventory to arrive around the end of February 2021.

We are proud to announce our own Mach V bolt-on wheel spacers. These spacers incorporate their own studs, so you can widen the car's track easily without the time and effort of having to remove and replace the stock wheel studs. Our spacers incorporate all the wish-list features we wanted, including knurling and tool slots of ease of installation and removal; clear labeling for easy identification; and the highest-strength and durability we could find for both the aluminum spacer material and the steel hardware. We are very proud of the results and we think you will love them too. Available in 5x100 and 5x114 bolt patterns, and hubcentric for all Subaru models.

One last announcement we shouldn't forget -- we acquired a 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 towards the end of 2020. This is a very special, very limited Subaru car -- only 209 were made! Features include special widened body work, 341 factory horsepower, a carbon fiber roof and rear wing, and special suspension, wheels, and tires. And yes, we do plan to do some (careful, and reversible) modifications on the car. Watch for photos and updates about this very rare Subaru in the coming year.

We are very grateful to all our staff, suppliers, and customers for continuing to be part of the Mach V Motorsports community. We look forward to 2021, and wish you all health and happiness.

August 18, 2020

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Coronavirus Update, August 18 2020

As the summer winds down we find ourselves thinking of the events we would usually have hosted or attended by now -- our spring and summer open house events, dyno days, the rescheduled and finally cancelled Boxerfest 2020 event, our local weekend Cars & Coffee that's suspended for now. Of course these are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme, but we do look forward to (someday) resuming those opportunities for human connection.

Mach V mail order operations still operating relatively normally. We continued to have to work around delays in our supply chain, so many parts (including OEM Subaru parts) are taking longer for us to get. International shipments, both to and from the U.S., are still taking longer than usual. US Postal Service shipments have been unusually slow lately, too. We are sorry for these delays; thank you for understanding. We are still taking orders on our web sites, and shipping every weekday. Thank you as always for continuing to purchase from us!

If you need to pick parts up, order on FastWRX.com or MachV.com and select "Hold for pickup in store" for your shipping option. We'll let you know when your order is ready and you can come by the shop, and we'll bring it out to you curb-side. Note that we are NOT currently open on weekends.

Our service department is also working, but for safety reasons our retail showroom is CLOSED. We have suspended our usual Saturday hours for the time being. Plan to drop off or pick up your car using our after-hours drop box. Call our service department at (571) 434-8333 for more details.

We have had a number of inquiries about our chassis dyno and baseline or tuning sessions. We are NOT currently doing baseline dyno sessions. We are still doing ECU tuning, by appointment only and on a drop-off basis. Call the number above for more information.

Stay safe.

May 15, 2020

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Coronavirus Update, May 15 2020

Mach V mail order operations are up and running. We are still experiencing delays in our supply chain, so some parts (including OEM Subaru parts) are taking longer for us to get. International shipments, both to and from the U.S., are taking longer than usual. Thank you for understanding. We are still taking orders on our web sites, and shipping every weekday. Thank you, customers, for continuing to purchase from us!

If you need to pick parts up, order on FastWRX.com or MachV.com and select "Hold for pickup in store" for your shipping option. We'll let you know when your order is ready and you can come by the shop, and we'll bring it out to you curb-side. Note that we are NOT currently open on weekends.

Our service department is also working, but for safety reasons our retail showroom is CLOSED. We have suspended our usual Saturday hours for the time being. Plan to drop off or pick up your car using our after-hours drop box. Service business is a little slack, so if you need something done in a hurry, there's a good chance we can accommodate you. Call our service department at (571) 434-8333 for more details.

We have had a number of inquiries about our chassis dyno and baseline or tuning sessions. We are NOT currently doing baseline dyno sessions. We are still doing ECU tuning, by appointment only and on a drop-off basis. Call the number above for more information.

Stay safe.

April 08, 2020

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Coronavirus Update, April 8 2020

Since we last posted here, the governor of Virginia (and most other states) has declared a state of emergency, and non-essential businesses have been ordered to close. Restaurants are operating as take-out only. School has been closed until at least the summer. It is heart-breaking and anxiety-producing to see the virus spread and kill people around the world.

As auto parts sales and automotive service are deemed essential businesses, Mach V mail order and service operations are still up and running. Some of our suppliers are having some minor delays on inbound parts shipments, so our inventory is a little less stocked than usual, but otherwise we're still taking and shipping orders. Thank you, customers, for continuing to purchase from us.

Our service department is also working, but for safety reasons our retail showroom is CLOSED. Plan to drop off or pick up your car using our after-hours drop box. Service business is a little slack, so if you need something done in a hurry, there's a good chance we can accommodate you. Call our service department at (571) 434-8333 for more details.

Stay safe.

March 18, 2020

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Coronavirus Update

The coronavirus pandemic has so far not affected Mach V Motorsports operations, but we are taking precautions. These include refraining from physical contact, and maintaining distance between our own staff, as well as between us and our in-store customers. Our technicians wear latex gloves while working on your car, and all interior surfaces and keys are disinfected after each job.We'd like to remind our service customers that we do offer after-hours drop-off and pickup. Call us for details.

For customers who do need to wait on their car, our showroom is large enough that customers can sit more than ten feet away from each other.

Mail-order operations are running normally for the time being, but we do anticipate shipping slowdowns on both the inbound and outbound sides of our business in the near future, and longer term there will probably be some product shortages. Please be patient with us as we deal with these unavoidable delays; we are trying our best to get your product to you promptly.

We have dyno tuning scheduled for next week, and as of now that is still going on as planned. We do ask that tuning customers use our drop-off service if possible, to reduce the number of customers spending time in the showroom.

We would normally be planning our Spring Open House event, but we're going to let the situation stabilize (and the epidemic subside, we hope) before we plan that.

Note that Boxerfest, previously scheduled for May 31, has been rescheduled to September 27 this year.

Thank you for working with us as we all try to figure out how to live with this unusual situation.

December 20, 2019

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Winter Wheels and Tires for the 2018+ Subaru WRX STI

2018 STI on 18x8.5" Rota KB-FStarting in the 2018 model year, the Subaru WRX STI comes with a 19x8.5" wheel and 245/35R19 tires. The STI is a supremely capable winter car, but not on the stock tires, which are made from a high-performance summer compound that becomes hard and slick below about 40 degrees F. Most of our customers like to switch to winter tires for the cold season, but 19" winter or all-season tires are very expensive, not to mention the super-low-profile tires are not ideal for snowy roads, potholes, and unseen curbs.

The solution for many customers is to downsize to an 18" wheel and tire package for the winter. Cheaper 18" tires save money, and the taller sidewalls of an 18" tire setup are better suited for rough winter roads. Our preferred tire size for an 18x8.5" wheel is 245/40R18, which is the same as the STI used to come with when 18" wheels were standard.

Of course, Subaru's switch to 19" wheels corresponded with the up-sizing of the STI brakes, and the six-piston front Brembo calipers won't fit under a lot of wheels. That's where we come in. We've selected together all the wheels that we sell that will fit over the 2018+ STI brakes, so you can easily shop for 18" winter wheels knowing that they'll fit on your car.

Note that like any modern car the STI comes with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). There are a few different choices about what to do with the TPMS system when you switch to your winter wheels. You can install new factory-style TMPS sensors in the winter wheels, but then your installer will have to use a special tool to talk to the car and introduce it to the new sensors, and then that will have to happen again when you switch back to your summer wheels.

The second approach is to just not install TMPS sensors in the winter wheels. Hey, we survived for almost 100 years without them, we can manage for three months. Honestly, we don't recommend this option, because modern drivers (us included) are out of the habit of manually checking tire pressures, and you'll have a TPMS light on in the dash all the time, but this is the most economical option.

Our preferred way to handle TPMS for a second set of wheels is to install "cloneable" sensors in the new wheels. The sensor information from the original wheels will be copied onto the new sensors, so as far as the car is concerned, the same sensors are still on the car. No TPMS errors, and no need to reprogram the car. Ask your tire installer for more details on cloneable tire pressure sensors.

 

November 26, 2019

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Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2019

Turkey dinnerIf you're wondering if we'll be having Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials this year, the answer is yes. Watch our home page for daily specials and deals starting now and going through Monday, December 2, 2019. We'll have individual featured products as well as entire product line discounts. Also keep an eye on our Facebook page for various updates and promotions.

Our retail showroom and service department will be closing early Wednesday, November 27. We'll be closed Thursday and Friday to give our hard-working staff some time off for Thanksgiving. The Mach V retail showroom WILL be open Saturday, November 30, from noon until at least 3pm.

Of course our web site is always open, and there's years of built-up knowledge in both the Q&A sections of the site and the product pages themselves.

Happy holiday shopping!

 

November 19, 2019

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Cobb Accessport for Subaru Ascent

Subaru AscentWe had wondered if Cobb Tuning was going to support the new Subaru Ascent with an Accessport, and the answer is yes! Just released today, the Accessport for the 2019-2020 Ascent adds decent power even with just 87 octane, and yields even more benefits with 93 octane gas.

As with other Accessports, installation couldn't be easier, and the dedicated hardware device is simple to understand and use. Besides increased performance, the Accessport offers a slew of other features: You can keep it mounted on your dash for live gauge display and other ECU-related functions, or you can just store it away after the ECU programming is done; it's up to you.

Accessport for Subaru Ascent is available right now from Mach V Motorsports. Get one today.

March 13, 2019

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2015-2020 STI Fuel System and Staged Upgrades

Cobb Stage 3 PackageIn this post I'm going to address some limitations with the factory fuel system on the 2015-2020 Subaru WRX STI. In the old days, you could bolt an intake and a turbo-back exhaust (consisting of a downpipe and a cat-back exhaust) to an STI, and then install the Stage 2 map from your Cobb Accessport, and you'd be all set. The stock STI fuel pump and fuel injectors provided adequate fuel flow for the Stage 2 hardware.

The current STI (2015-2020) is closer to the edge in terms of fuel supply, and if you install both a turbo-back exhaust AND a high-flow intake system, the car will run out of fuel supply. We know this because we can watch the fuel injector duty cycle, and in this state the car will run 100% injector duty cycle even before red line in higher gears. If you run short of fuel supply you could find yourself with a lean fuel mixture in the combustion chamber under boost. That's a recipe for detonation and/or melted pistons -- either way it could destroy the engine.

So what should you do? You could run just a turbo-back exhaust, with no intake. On this car, that's what Cobb Tuning calls Stage 2. You can buy a complete kit for that setup HERE. Or, if you really want to do the full exhaust plus the intake, you'll need to add upgraded fuel injectors and fuel pump. We highly recommend the Injector Dynamics 1050x injectors, and the AEM 340 lph fuel pump. Finally, the Cobb fuel pressure regulator kit is a must. There's no off-the-shelf map for this exact setup, so custom tuning would be required.

If you want to go whole hog, there's a complete Cobb Tuning Stage 3 Power Package including all those upgrades -- including the intake, exhaust, and all the fuel upgrades mentioned above -- plus upgraded fuel rails and AN lines. Cobb offers an off-the-shelf Stage 3 Accessport map for this setup, so you would not need custom dyno tuning.

To review: Unlike with older Subarus, the 2015-2020 WRX STI is nearly tapped-out in terms of fuel supply, and if you install both a high-flow intake and a turbo-back exhaust, you will run out of fuel. In order do prevent that you can run an intake ONLY, or a turbo-back exhaust ONLY, but not both together on the stock fuel system. Or you can upgrade the fuel system with larger fuel injectors and fuel pump, and then you'll be free to install all the intake and exhaust upgrades you want.

Happy modding.