What is a Torque Damper:
A damper is any device that serves to diminish the vibrations of any oscillating object (i.e. your engine).
Why is it in my car?:
A Torque damper (or pitch mount) on a wrx serves as a damper to the forward-backward motion of the engine. Because the crankshaft spins, it has angular momentum, which produces a forward (or backward) force depending on direction of spin. The job of the pitch mount is to minimize this force.
Why would I want a stiffer damper?
The stronger this damper is, the less the engine moves. Basically, you install a strengthened damper to make the engine “seem” more responsive, so when you hit the gas, instead of the engine twisting and then transferring power, it will transfer power directly to the tranny a bit quicker. It is important to note, this mod DOES NOT eliminate any “drivetrain losses” as some manufacturers will say… it just serves to make the engine feel more responsive.
What are the upsides and downsides to a stiffer damper?
The upside is that you get a more connected feeling with your car. Throttle response feels more immediate, downshifting feels more exact, and overall shifting feels more firm. The downside is added noise. With the stock pitch mount, most of the engine’s vibrations are absorbed in the rubber. With stiffer mounts, the engines vibrations begin to be absorbed by your firewall. The stiffer the mount, the more vibrations and noise in the cabin.
OK, what are my options?
The three main aftermarket dampers that you can purchase are the STi Group-N pitch mount, the Ingalls PowerStick, and the Weapon-R. Starting with the STi mount, it looks very similar to the stock mount, but replaces the soft rubber with a harder rubber compound to minimize engine pitch. The Ingalls PowerStick uses a solid metal rod, with a metal bearing on the engine side, and a rubber or polyurethane bushing on the firewall side. The polyurethane option will be stronger but noisier, while the rubber option will not be as strong, and also not as noisy. The Weapon-R is the closest thing to a real damper, and incorporates a “shock absorber” type design to minimize engine pitch. This kit also comes with new engine and firewall mounts.
Any final thoughts?
When I installed the STi pitch mount, I noticed a slight change in engine responsiveness with minimal noise, but honestly, not as much as I would have liked. When I switched back to the stock one for comparison reasons, the increase in movement was very noticeable. While it was definitely better, your 50 bucks could probably be better spent elsewhere. To compare the extreme cases, I drove the car without any pitch mount, and then with a solid aluminum, bushingless mount. Between those two, there is an ENORMOUS difference in engine responsiveness, but also an ENORMOUS difference in cabin sound level. While I never tried the Weapon-R, I tried the Ingalls PowerStick with urethane bushings on my friend’s wrx, and it felt pretty darn good. The cabin was loud, so we replaced the urethane bushing with the rubber one, and we both felt that was perfect.
So, if I had to recommend a torque damper, I would say get the Ingalls PowerStick… rubber if you care about noise, or urethane if you don’t.