What Automotive Performance Stages Mean

Article by Dmitriy Orlov. Images courtesy of Jotech Motorsports, Perrin Performance and

We’re often asked what "Stages” refers to regarding automotive performance packages. What are the differences between Stage 1 and Stage 3? Can stages be compared between different platforms? Or how much power will I receive if I get a Stage 4? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a definitive line between white and black, but we will explain car stages in a general sense so that you can better understand what automotive performance stages mean as they apply to your vehicle.

You can take many different approaches in getting more from a vehicle—power, handling, longevity, and even economy (link to our Performance Paths article). There is, however, some logic in how things should be done in order to ensure reliability and performance as well as reducing time and cost.

Typically, with upgrading some components, other components or electronics will need attention to compensate or complement such upgrades, which are often grouped into "stages,” hence the term "staged upgrades.” There is no standardized formula for these stages, perhaps only a general rule of thumb. Many performance retailers that specialize in one platform or another will have their own recommended stages, which, in turn, vary from company to company and platform to platform.

jotech motorsports r35 gt-r stage 3 performance kit
This depicts a Stage 3 performance kit from Jotech Motorsports. This particular "Stage" applies only to the particular manufacturer (Jotech Motorsports) and this particular platform.

Criteria used for creating these stages consider the logic, cost, and marketing behind selling upgrades for your vehicle. The combinations are designed to be reasonably priced "combo deals” and offer adequate performance gains along with supplemental parts to sustain the gains safely. Marketing is particularly important, too, since companies try to gauge and balance the performance benefit with affordability and popularity.

At Jotech Motorsports we use our Stages as a way for people to simply select the power level they desire for their car when bringing it in for modification, instead of listing every part they want installed. Every car has different weak points, and with every step up in horsepower, there will be a new weak point. With experience in building well over 100 GT-Rs we have discovered most all of these weak points and reliability issues, and this experience allows us to recommend the parts needed to keep their car reliable and capable of handling the power level they desire. This of course also allows a much more direct way of telling someone who is familiar with our system what is done to your car, without having to breakdown everything you've done. As an example, if one of our GT-R customers is talking to another GT-R owner, he can say I've got a Stage 4 w/ Track Package, instead of saying I've got a fully-built motor, upgraded larger twin turbo kit, upgraded Dodson clutch, upgraded fuel system, Coilovers, Brake Rotors, Sway Bars, larger injectors, etc. — This system simply makes it easier for people who are either new to the GT-R platform or new to modifying cars and don't know exactly every part they need.

When considering staged upgrades, it is important to know what you as an enthusiast are trying to achieve with your car. Do you seek high horsepower, or do you want just a healthy bump that is still very reliable and consistent? How much money are you willing to spend, or how comprehensive do you want the upgrades to be?

Generally, staged upgrades are related to engine modifications, as the engine typically represents the most complex part of the vehicle. Some companies consider the rest of the car as well—and you can also plan various stages for braking systems, suspension, or aerodynamics. All these can be tied to power gains and stepped up every time the vehicle acquires more power. Common sense indicates that if the car goes faster then it needs the ability to stop better or handle more precisely on the track.

Jotech Motorsports Nissan GT-R R35 staged performance packages highlight the component differences between stages

Jotech Motorsport's Nissan GT-R R35 staged performance packages highlight the component differences between stages.

The basic breakdown of performance stages consists of adding and upgrading various components to sustain and deliver target power levels. At the lowest level, you want to open up the engine a little with an intake and cat-back system and maybe a tune to make the most of what the car comes with off the floor. Then you focus on upgrading more systems, such as headers and manifolds, swapping injectors for more fuel, and upgrading intercooler piping, once again tuning the car. You may add a new front-mount intercooler, turbos, cams, and perhaps consider building the engine. Before making any massive power upgrades, though, you actually build the engine, which offers a great many options. After the engine, the sky is the limit: bigger turbos, larger tubing, more fuel, and whatever else is possible.

perrin performance mitsubishi evo x stage performance packages kits

Cars are built differently. Some may be overengineered and can sustain a serious bump in power before cracking open the motor, but most need help up front. One of the most "bulletproof” platforms around is the Toyota Supra MKIV’s 2JZ engine. You can double the horsepower with simple power adders and supporting upgrades (e.g., large single turbos, fuel injectors & pumps, and tune) without ever actually modifying the engine. Today, however, having something so robust from the factory isn’t typical due to the OE manufacturer’s value engineering.

Owners should do some research about their platforms and talk to various reputable shops specializing in working with their cars. Find out what others have done and what the tuners recommend. This approach should give you a decently clear picture as to how to get a little (or a lot) more out of your vehicle—safely, reliably, and successfully. As always, Revvolution is building a community around such questions. We have the technical know-how, and the people who write these articles would love the opportunity to help you modify your car. Whether you’re just starting out with "Stage 1” or going for a full-blown engine build, we are here to help!

Big thanks to Jotech Motorsports for their support in creating this article. Visit them @

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Rockysds's Profile Image

There are always such misconceptions about stages that this really helps people understand the concept. Great article Dmitriy!