Best Cold Air Intake for C5 Corvette

The C5 Corvette is a wondrous machine that is as much fun to drive as it is beautiful to look at. The engineers over at Chevrolet did a fantastic job building a high-performance machine that is one of the fastest cars in America right off the lot. But, there are some modifications you can make at home that will squeeze even more power and performance from the 5.7-liter V8 engine in your C5 Corvette. A cold air intake lets the engine breathe better, improves throttle response, and can even give you better fuel mileage. We are going to help you pick the best cold air intake for C5 Corvette LS1 or LS6. We’ve found that the cold air intake from K&N are the best available options for your upgrade.

Best Cold Air Intake for C5 Corvette – Top Picks:

K&N 57-3020Rtunes Racing ‎SI-CH-02RDHigh Performance Parts SI-CH-02CKK&N 57-3035BBK 17260Airaid AIR-250-292
OEM Part Number‎57-3020‎SI-CH-02RD‎SI-CH-02CK‎57-3035‎17260‎250-292
Torque Increase17.58 ft. lbs. of torqueNo data6 to 10 percent12.93 ft. lbs. of torqueNo data6-10%
Horsepower increase18.29 hpNo data6 to 10 percent11.35 hpNo data5-10%
Airflow increaseup to 50%No dataNo dataup to 50%up to 75%113%
Filter TypeWashable and reusableWashable and reusableWashable and reusableWashable and reusableWashable and reusableWashable and reusable
Vehicle applications year1997-20001997-20001997-20002001-20041997-20042001-2004
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Best Cold Air Intake for C5 Corvette LS1

There are some slight differences between the inlet piping for the LS1 and LS6 5.7-liter engines. With modification, some systems will work on either variant, but we thought it would benefit buyers the most to show the best products for both engines. The first three examples are intended to fit the C5 Corvette with the 5.7l LS1 engine built from 1997-2000.

Top Performance Pick: K&N 57-3020 for 1997-2000 LS1

K&N 57-3020

K&N is known world-wide for producing high-performance air intake systems, air filters, and other go-fast goodies. When you are looking to gain some extra oomph from your C5 LS1, you won’t find a better system than the one from K&N.

K&N dyno-tests every product they make to ensure the air intake kit you install will add power and performance. This kit provides as much as 50% more airflow to your intake, boosting power and providing a performance sound. You can anticipate gains of about 5 horsepower and one or two miles-per-gallon when you install this air intake kit.

Installation is somewhat more difficult than other designs due to the placement of the filter. You’ll need to modify your radiator shroud in order to install this kit. K&N includes everything you need to make the needed modifications, so don’t worry about having to run off to the hardware store in order to hook it up.


  • Easy way to add performance and power to the C5 Corvette
  • Washable, reusable filter means you’ll never have to buy a new air filter
  • Unmistakable sound and appearance shows you want only the best


  • Requires modification of radiator shroud to install
  • Cost is significantly higher than competitor products

Appearance Upgrade: Rtunes Racing Ram Air Filter

Rtunes Racing ‎SI-CH-02RD

If you are looking to add a high-performance look to your C5 Corvette but don’t care too much about adding power, this is a great way to give your car a race car look without spending a lot of money. The Rtunes kit provides dual washable air filters that mount in the factory location in only a few minutes.

Rtunes uses high-quality aluminum to direct the air back to the intake. While the aluminum looks good, the material has the tendency to absorb and retain heat more than polycarbonate as used in K&N kits. The filters are directed in front of the radiator to aid in gathering cooler air with less restriction than the factory air box.

This is a good looking kit, but will provide only a modest performance boost you probably won’t notice. The biggest advantage to this kit is the low cost and the ability to wash the filters, meaning you’ll go at least five years without replacing the filter.


  • Very inexpensive way to add a performance look to your car
  • Easy to install without modification


  • Not approved for pollution-controlled vehicles so you’ll have to put the stock equipment back to pass smog testing
  • Minimal performance gains over factory air box

Runner-up: High Performance Parts Ram Air

High Performance Parts SI-CH-02CK

This is essentially the same product as the Rtunes kit except the air filters are not as high quality. Otherwise, it uses the same aluminum piping and installs in the factory location with common hand tools.

The kit includes everything you need to install it in about 45 minutes. Due to the placement of the filters, you won’t get a huge boost in power or sound, but you will get a performance look. Unfortunately, this is not a CARB-approved part, so in order to pass emissions testing, you may have to remove it and reinstall the factory system.


  • Very, very cheap
  • Looks nice when installed


  • Not CARB-approved for emissions-controlled vehicles
  • Minimal performance gains
  • No warranty

Best Cold Air Intake for LS6

The LS6 engine uses a slightly different plenum to connect the air filter to the intake manifold. Surprisingly, we found a larger variety of high-performance options for the LS6 engine over the LS1 engine. Our top-three picks are all performance-oriented, CARB-approved, and all are made in the United States. In an age where most things are made overseas, we like to support businesses that provide jobs in the US.

Top Performance Pick: K&N 57-3035 for 2001-2004 LS6

K&N 57-3035

K&N produces the finest air intake and air filter kit on the market, and this kit for the LS6 Corvette is the best you can buy. It’s dyno-proven to provide a horsepower and torque boost while improving fuel mileage and creating a one-of-a-kind race car sound.

Unlike most of the cold air intake kits, you’ll have to make some modifications to the radiator shroud in order for this kit to work. Those modifications are essential in order to allow the proper amount of airflow to move around the air filter, which is where the performance gains come from. Other kits don’t make as much power, but are much easier to install.

The oversized, oil-coated air filter is guaranteed to last for at least 10 years or one million miles, so you’ll only need to buy the oil and cleaner rather than a new air filter. You can expect around a five horsepower bump along with better torque. You’ll feel the difference as soon as you put your foot into it with this kit.


  • Excellent way to add horsepower, torque, and improve throttle response
  • Durable design won’t rot, rust, or wear out
  • Trusted brand with proven record of performance success


  • Requires modification of radiator shroud to install
  • May take 4-8 hours to install

Polished Look: BBK 17260

BBK 17260

If the thought of hacking up your radiator shroud just to add a better air filter turns you off, you’re in luck. BBK builds this air intake kit to mount in the factory location without modifications to your vehicle. The best part is the polished aluminum body that gives your C5 Corvette the looks to match its performance.

The air filter is a cotton material with an oil bath that allows significantly more airflow over stock. Since the filter is washable and reusable, you’ll never need to replace it. The kit even includes a CARB-EO sticker so you can smog your Corvette in all 50 states with this modification in place.

We really like the look of this design. The polished aluminum body looks great when installed and you can hear and feel a performance difference. This is a well-made kit that installs in about an hour using common hand tools without having to modify your car.


  • Great looking polished aluminum body
  • Air filter improves engine performance
  • Simple to install without modification


  • Won’t produce as much power as K&N but costs just as much
  • Blue filter isn’t everyone’s favorite color

Runner-up: Airaid AIR-250-292

Airaid AIR-250-292

This is an excellent design for drivers who are looking for a simple installation and don’t like the look of polished aluminum. Retaining the black plastic appearance helps this air intake kit insulate the air better than aluminum, providing a cooler air charge. Airaid designs are known for their ability to produce torque and are particularly popular with racers and off-road enthusiasts.

The 250-292 uses a cotton air filter that is oil-bathed. This allows for more airflow and a cooler, denser intake charge. The design of the piping helps to smooth and straighten the airflow for more power. Everything you’ll need to install this kit is included and it’ll only take you about an hour using regular hand tools to install.


  • Oversized air filter provides maximum airflow
  • Design of piping plenum provides smoother airflow than a straight-through design
  • Easy to install


  • Not as nice looking as other designs

Final Thoughts

We think that K&N air filter designs are the best in the world. Even though both of the K&N cold air intake systems we described today require modifications to your C5 Corvette, the proven power gains make the modification worthwhile. When you install the K&N systems correctly, you won’t notice that the modification was even done. But you will notice it when you stomp on the gas pedal and feel the extra power. Cleaning and oiling K&N filters is necessary, but a little maintenance is the price you pay for performance in our book.

The other products on this list are all good quality and will provide you with either performance or appearance upgrades. Choosing the best air intake for the LS1 and LS6 Corvette is a great first step to building true power and performance. A cold air intake improves the power gains you’ll get from installing an x-pipe and a free flowing exhaust while maximizing gains from computer tuning. We believe you’ll never regret buying a K&N cold air intake for your C5 Corvette and that’s the reason it’s our number one pick.