MK7 Intercoolers: AMS Intercooler upgrade

Miles: 100923

Took the car over to Equilibrium Tuning and had them install the AMS Intercooler.

The AMS Intercooler is direct fit, tube and fin design which is in the same location and style that the stock intercooler on the MK7, just bigger and more efficient. Another design type is a bar and plate intercooler which are significantly heavier but offer some benefits over tube and fin like better heat rejection. This was a nice post I found about the differences between the two types:

I mentioned that the AMS is a direct fit intercooler which means it replaces the stock intercooler that is between the radiator and AC condenser. The car was designed for this location and works well allowing a lot of surface area flow for good heat rejection. I don’t have data to back this up but I feel tube the and fin design works better for the stock location so it doesn’t starve the rest of the devices its sandwiched between. Allowing more air to flow helps the general temperature ecosystem of the engine bay.

Another option is a front mount intercooler or FMIC. On the MK7 platforms the FMIC is typically placed in front of the radiator, a bit below the crash bar and behind the bumper. FMIC intercoolers are designed to replace or work in conjunction with the stock intercooler. FMIC’s dont have as much surface area and typically don’t perform as well as a direct fit intercooler but still better than the stock intercooler in most cases. One situation where an FMIC does preform better is when you have the AC on, since its not sandwiched with the AC condenser. FMIC’s are significantly easier to install and much cheaper. They typically show through the bottom grill in the bumper which people like a lot for its aggressive look.

One issue with both types of upgraded intercoolers is if you have ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and have an early MK7 model the sensor is in the middle of the honeycomb grill and can get in the way. This is especially true for FMIC intercoolers but also applies to some very large direct mount intercoolers. Later MK7 models moved the ACC sensor to the emblem in the grill which causes less issues with fitment. My car didn’t have this feature so it wasn’t an issue for me.

Most FMICs and some direct fit intercoolers will need trimming or drilling to make them fit. With FMICs the temperature sensor and horns will likely need to be relocated. One common issue with the horns is mounting them so water can get inside which will break or make it sound horrible. You will need to do your research first when deciding on which intercooler to go with. Size, location, type and your power goals all play a role in how your install goes and how it will preform.

Here is APR’s guide for installing their intercooler which is a direct replacement for the stock intercooler: APR Intercooler guide You will notice its not a quick task and also has recommendation for an extra set of hands. This is Forge’s Twincooler install guide which is designed to work in conjunction with the stock intercooler. Forge Twin Cooler Guide It takes much less time to install and you barely need to jack your car up. There is a fantastic comparison between common intercooler options for our cars here: This gentleman puts a lot of work into testing and the rest of his website is a great read also. I highly recommend going through all the data he has. Please be aware his test don’t test all aspects or real world conditions only single aspects. So just because an intercooler is top of the list for a test doesn’t mean its the best, its just good at that one thing he is testing for. I could replace an intercooler with straight pipe and it would beat all of these in flow but wouldn’t help at all with heat rejection.

This is a crude test to help show the difference between stock and the AMS intercooler. Here are the results of a second, third gear pull with my stock intercooler

You can see ambient temperature is 50 degrees. IAT was about 90 before the pull. During the pull it initially dropped to 70 form 90 then climbed all the way up to 104 at the end before I cut it. From this you can see how the issue can keep compounding itself and getting worse because the intercooler cant keep up. The stock IC is fine for a stock tune when you are not tracking it or beating on it for long periods of time. When the intercooler cant keep the temperatures under control anymore that’s when the engine starts holding back and performance is reduced.

Here are the results of a third, third gear pull with the AMS intercooler installed

One thing not in our favor is that the ambient temp is higher at 64 degrees on the AMS example than the 50 degree stock example, yet the AMS still never gets as high as the stock IC did. In this example the graph is the third of three, third gear pulls. We even started out at 90 degrees IAT again in this example but it only got lower from there as the car builds up speed. It was high initially because the car was stopped idling before the pull.

I did notice that power was always there now even after idling or going slow around sharp cornered winding roads. The AMS intercooler just does such a better job at keeping the heat under control that the ECU doesn’t have to pull back ever it seems.

This test surely isn’t perfect but its the best I could do and I think shows that an upgraded intercooler does make a big difference. Because of the lower IAT’s the ECU now doesn’t have to hold back and downgrade timing or trigger other safety measures to keep the engine safe. Hopefully this helps answer some questions about intercooler options for the MK7 and likely other MQB platform cars. As for which IC is right for you? Only you can answer that.


Here is the EQT E30 Stage 1 tune pull I did this morning. This is a second in 3rd gear pull that was done.

I also went over the logs more closely with another enthusiast and we realized the PSI on the AMS log was lower at the end and tapered off quicker. This was due to the car already meeting its torque requirement and not having to push the turbo as hard. These cars are torque targeted, not boost which is why this happened. This is a good thing, it means the turbo system doesnt have to work as hard to get the same torque results. I guess if I wanted I could get re-tuned by Ed and it would yield more hp/tq.