ECIS – Evolution Air Intake System

Pros: Measurable performance improvement and great sound
Cons: I can’t think of any
Cost: $225 plus shipping from East Coast Intake Systems

I monitor the M3 bulletin boards regularly for news and opinions on performance modifications which might apply to my M Roadster, and there I saw quite a bit of favorable comment on the ECIS cold air intake system. ECIS stands for East Coast Intake Systems, and their product is called the Evolution Air Intake System. Common unshielded open air intakes seek to increase air flow by providing a larger air filter, but often produce less power than the factory air box because of the twin problems of turbulent fan wash and underhood heat. ECIS insures that the larger filter receives only cool, non-turbulent air by constructing a shield which completely isolates the filter from the engine compartment, receiving air from the same source as the factory filter box. They offer both their complete Evolution Air Intake System; consisting of their custom heat shield, mandrel bent inlet tube, 6″ K&N cone filter, brackets, silicone connection hose, clamps and detailed instructions for $225; or the heat shield alone for $70. The heat shield can be used with a number of aftermarket open filter systems available from BMP Design, Bavarian Autosport, and Turner Motorsport, as well as other aftermarket suppliers.

At the time I first read about ECIS they offered only systems for the M3, but I e-mailed them and quickly received a return message from Sean Cain at ECIS informing me that the M Roadster system was in the design stage and due out soon. Then, 45 days later, I got another message from Kenny Bernatsky of ECIS to let me know that the M Roadster system was now complete, with details available on the ECIS web page. Their web page provides just about all the info you need; photos, dyno runs, testimonials, an FAQ, and ordering information. The web page does not support on-line product ordering, but they have a handy order form which you can fill out and print, then mail with your check. I sent my order in that day and several days later received an e-mail from Kenny citing a delivery date and Airborne Express tracking number. My shipment arrived as promised, neatly packed. My relations with ECIS couldn’t have been better. Sean and Kenny answer inquiries promptly and keep in touch, qualities often absent with other web merchants. As I was writing this, I got a Christmas card from them. How’s that for customer service?

When I unpacked my carton from ECIS, I found the ECIS custom shield, the K&N filter, still packed in its original box, the various bits and pieces to attach the filter to the air flow meter, and a colorfully illustrated set of installation instructions. I was impressed to find that the silicone connection hose was in place on the inlet tube, held on by the loosely tightened hose clamps. No possibility that this amateur mechanic won’t know where the parts fit. More impressive still, a bolt which is required to attach the inlet tube support to a bracket on the inner fender of the car was carefully taped to the end of the support. For sure, this bolt isn’t going to be thrown out in the trash! The shield itself is a really neat piece. Constructed from lightweight, slightly flexible material which I believe is sheet fiberglass. The fiberglass was obviously cut from a single sheet, then folded and riveted into its final shape. The outside is finished with insulation which matches the car’s underhood finish, and the inside is sprayed with undercoating. The top edge of the shield is weather stripped to seal against the underside of the closed hood, fully enclosing the filter. Three holes are provided in the shield at the points where the shield mates to the air flow meter, the air inlet flange, and the car’s rubber air box support grommet. No holes need be drilled in the car in order to install the ECIS system. I had expected to provide a step-by-step installation guide, but ECIS’s instruction sheet is so well presented, and the installation so easy that I’m going to dive right into my driving impressions and performance testing.

On my first drive, my admittedly inexperienced butt dyno couldn’t detect any obvious performance improvement, but the engine seems to run smoother and, though not loud, the intake makes a low, pleasant moan which sure makes the car sound more powerful. My wife—she of the exquisitely sensitive hearing—approved of the new sound. More driving convinced me that, though not dramatic, the car did accelerate more forcefully, especially as it approached redline. I decided then to go back and perform before and after objective tests to validate the performance improvement my butt told me I had achieved.

The almost trivial installation procedure made returning the stock air box to the car a matter of, perhaps, ten minutes. Not wanting to torture the clutch, skin the rear tires, or invite the unwanted attention of the sheriff, standing start tests wouldn’t do. I decided to perform acceleration tests in second gear, timing from 1000 rpm to 6500 rpm. This test had the advantage of testing almost the entire rpm range, without having to exceed the speed limit. I drove the car hard for about 100 miles to insure that the ECU had readapted to the stock air box, then took the car out to a straight, flat section of country road nearby. I let the car settle at 1000 rpm in second, then started my watch as I floorboarded the accelerator, stopping my watch as the tach reached 6500 rpm. I timed eight runs, four in each direction, discarded the fastest and slowest times, then averaged the remaining six times. My average time for this series of tests was 5.71 seconds. I then reinstalled the ECIS intake, another ten minute job, and again drove the car hard for 100 miles to readapt the ECU. Another trip to the country road, using the same timing techniques as before, yielded an average time of 5.55 seconds, an improvement of .16 seconds.

So is the ECIS Evolution Air Intake System a worthwhile performance modification? For my money, the sound alone is worth the price of admission. Dealing with Sean and Kenny made the purchase really pleasant and I’m particularly impressed with the clarity of the instructions they provide. The system itself is well designed, with high quality construction. That it provably provides a small but measurable performance improvement is icing on a very large cake.