VRSF HD Intercooler Review: Best BMW F-Series Intercooler?

VRSF HD Intercooler Review: Best BMW F-Series Intercooler?

If you’re someone who loves to squeeze every bit of performance out of their car, then you know how crucial a good intercooler is, especially for turbocharged engines.

Today, I’m excited to share my experiences with the VRSF 5″ Performance HD Intercooler, which I recently installed on my BMW M135i.

Let’s dive in!

Overview: VRSF 5″ Performance HD Intercooler

The VRSF 5″ Performance HD Intercooler is an upgrade over your stock intercooler:

VRSF HD Intercooler unboxed

This specific intercooler is designed to fit BMW F20 and F30 models made from 2012 to 2018, including the F20 M135i, which I drive.

Directly after the unboxing, I could see that the VRSF team had put a lot of thought into making this intercooler a significant upgrade over the standard one.

VRSF HD Intercooler box

For starters, the core of this intercooler is what VRSF calls their “High Density” fin pack. It means that the intercooler has lots of tiny fins packed closely together, which helps cool down the air before it enters your engine.

When air is cooler, it’s denser, meaning it contains more oxygen. More oxygen means the engine can burn fuel more effectively, boosting its power!

The build of the intercooler is impressive, you can see and feel the quality:

VRSF HD Intercooler side view

Unlike the OEM intercooler, which uses a lot of plastic, the VRSF intercooler is made from solid aluminum:

VRSF HD Intercooler top view

This intercooler is designed to be a direct bolt-on replacement. That means it fits right into place without any need for complicated adjustments!

Installing the VRSF HD Intercooler

I was genuinely impressed with how straightforward the installation of the VRSF HD Intercooler was.

The OEM intercooler is placed at the bottom of the front of the car:

BMW M135i N55 OEM intercooler installed

The VRSF HD Intercooler is designed to fit in the same place without requiring any adjustments, so upgrading is just a matter of removing the OEM intercooler and installing the VRSF intercooler.

I removed the front bumper for this process, but as it later turned out, this is not needed.

The OEM and VRSF intercoolers will slide in & out just behind the bottom of the front bumper, as you can see from the image above.

So, you can save yourself quite a bit of time by not disassembling the front bumper!

The OEM intercooler is held in place by the turbocharger-intercooler pipe, the charge pipe, two screws, and plastic clips on both sides.

The two pipes can be loosed by unclipping the C-clip. Here’s how the OEM charge pipe looks with the OEM intercooler removed and the C-clip loosened:

BMW N55 OEM Chargepipe installed

The two screws are located at the underside on both sides and are quite easy to spot. The clips are also located on both sides, near the screws:

BMW N55 intercooler removal

Ideally, you need an extra pair of hands to push the clips to the outside while wiggling out the OEM intercooler.

Once the OEM intercooler is out, you can see just how small it is:

BMW N55 OEM intercooler

Here is a size comparison of the OEM intercooler vs. the VRSF 5″ HD Intercooler:

VRSF HD Intercooler vs. OEM BMW N55 intercooler

It’s also interesting to see how the OEM intercooler uses lots of plastic, brittle parts on the sides:

BMW N55 OEM Intercooler closeup

Before installing the VRSF intercooler, don’t forget to remove the red silicone caps:

VRSF HD Intercooler back view

With those removed, you can wiggle in your new VRSF intercooler. I recommend doing this with 2 people as it’s quite a bit heavier than the OEM intercooler.

Once the VRSF intercooler is in, secure it with the two provided screws and attach the turbo pipe and charge pipe on both sides with the C-clips.

That’s it, you’re done!

VRSF HD Intercooler install

9 Benefits of a VRSF HD Intercooler

From my experience and what I’ve gathered, here are the nine benefits of upgrading to a VRSF HD Intercooler:

  1. Ease of installation. One of the biggest surprises for me was how straightforward the installation process was. VRSF claims it takes less than 1.5 hours, which I found pretty accurate. But guess what? I removed the front bumper for the installation, and it turned out that it was completely unnecessary. The old/new intercooler will slide in just behind the front bumper.
  2. Lower air intake temperatures. The intercooler’s main job is to keep the intake air cool, and the VRSF HD Intercooler excels at this, being 87% larger than the OEM intercooler. VRSF has shared data logs where the intake air temperature stays consistent with their intercooler, whereas it increases significantly on the stock intercooler:
BMW N55 OEM Intercooler vs. VRSF HD Intercooler performance
  1. Proprietary high-density fin pack. Another feature that helps cool down the intake air is the high-density fin pack, which means the VRSF intercooler has more fins per square inch than standard intercoolers.
  2. Performance improvement. While I haven’t pushed my BMW to the extreme limits yet since installing the intercooler, I genuinely believe it offers significant performance upgrades, especially if you live in warmer climates or have tuned your car. Cooler air is denser, providing your engine with more oxygen for combustion and, consequently, more power.
  3. Support for high power levels. The 5″ model supports up to 600whp, while the 6.5″ competition model can handle up to 800whp.
  4. Durability and quality. When you hold the VRSF intercooler, you can feel the quality. The all-aluminum construction is a significant step up from the OEM intercooler, which has lots of plastic parts.
  5. Innovative core design. The intercooler’s bar and plate core design is a significant upgrade from the standard tube and fin design found in the OEM intercooler.
VRSF HD Intercooler vs. BMW N55 OEM intercooler size difference
  1. Perfect fitment. The VRSF HD Intercooler fits perfectly in my BMW M135i, and it’s designed to be universally compatible with similar BMW models. It’s also designed to work with both OEM and aftermarket charge pipes, such as the VRSF Charge Pipe Upgrade Kit.
  2. Lifetime warranty. VRSF stands behind its product with a lifetime warranty.

FAQs about upgrading your intercooler

Here are some FAQs about upgrading your intercooler:

Is it worth upgrading your intercooler?

Yes, upgrading your intercooler is worth it, especially if you’re aiming to tune your car’s software. A better intercooler like the VRSF HD Intercooler keeps your engine’s intake cooler, which is crucial for performance.

How much HP does a VRSF Intercooler add?

The VRSF Intercooler itself doesn’t directly add horsepower. Rather, it prevents a decrease in power you may experience with the OEM intercooler due to rising intake temperatures. The VRSF Intercooler significantly reduces the intake air temperature, which indirectly leads to horsepower gains, especially in tuned setups.

Do you need a tune for an intercooler?

You don’t necessarily need a tune after installing an upgraded intercooler like the VRSF. However, to fully capitalize on the intercooler’s benefits, pairing it with a proper tune can be very beneficial.

Does an intercooler increase efficiency?

Yes, an intercooler can increase your vehicle’s efficiency. Cooling down the intake air can provide better combustion and potentially improve fuel economy under certain conditions.


From my own experience, putting the VRSF HD Intercooler into my BMW M135i was pretty straightforward and rewarding.

You might not notice a huge difference right away when you’re just driving around town, but knowing that your engine is staying cooler and running better is a big plus!

It’s one of those upgrades (like the VRSF downpipe) that many BMW owners, myself included, are really glad they went for.

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