Of the entire Ford EcoBoost family, the 1.5L inline-4 is probably the most overlooked and underserved engine in terms of performance potential. That is in large part due to the fact that the 1.5L EcoBoost was really only found in the second-generation Ford Fusion from 2014-2020 in the US. It is also overshadowed by the 2.7L and 3.5L EcoBoost engines which hogged most of the aftermarket’s attention.
With that being said, all of the Ford EcoBoost engines are ripe for modifications and have plenty of performance potential. That includes the 1.5L EcoBoost. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the most popular 1.5L EcoBoost engine upgrades in detail.
1.5 EcoBoost Engine Information
The 1.5L EcoBoost was the second 4-cylinder entrant into the Ford EcoBoost engine family. When it was initially released in 2014, it powered the second-generation Fusion. It would later go on to power the 2017-2019 Escape and other non-US models including the C-Max, Mondeo, and some international Focus models.
From the factory, the 1.5L EcoBoost is a very impressive engine. Producing up to 181 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque from a 1.5L inline-4 is no easy task. As with all of the other engines in the EcoBoost family, the 1.5L is a direct-injection turbocharged engine. The 1.5L is based on the earlier 1.6L EcoBoost and shares a very similar construction. However, the 1.5L got some goodies of its own, including an integrated exhaust manifold and a computer-controlled water pump clutch.
1.5 EcoBoost vs 1.5 EcoBoost Dragon
Before we get into detail about the best engine upgrades for the 1.5 EcoBoost, we need to make an important distinction first. There are actually two 1.5L EcoBoost engines, but they do not share the same design. The 1.5L EcoBoost that we’ll be discussing in this article is the 4-cylinder variant that is based on the larger 1.6L EcoBoost engine. The 1.5 EcoBoost Dragon is a 3-cylinder variant that evolved from the Ford Fox engine series.
The I4 1.5L EcoBoost engine has been a part of the EcoBoost family since 2014. It is very similar to the larger displacement inline-4 engines in the EcoBoost engine family. In fact, the primary reason that the 1.5 EcoBoost exists is to skirt Chinese displacement tax regulations. Like the other engines in the family, the 1.5L I4 EcoBoost is a turbocharged, direct injection engine with 4-valves per cylinder and dual overhead cams.
The inline-3 cylinder 1.5 EcoBoost Dragon was released in 2018 as an expansion of the smaller 1.0L EcoBoost engine. The extra displacement comes from bored cylinders that increased the cylinder capacity by 500cc per cylinder. Since the 1.5 EcoBoost Dragon is the newer engine, it received some notable improvements. Most notably, it combines direct and port injection and cylinder deactivation technology.
While the two engines have an identical displacement and overall recipe, the older 1.5L EcoBoost’s extra cylinder distinguishes it from the newer one.
1.5 EcoBoost Power Limits and Common Problems
The 1.5L EcoBoost, similar to most of the other engines in the EcoBoost engine family, is a stout, well-optimized, and generally reliable engine overall. It is very impressive that Ford was able to create such a small engine that produced such respectable performance.
Despite the impressive factory performance of the Ford 1.5L Turbo, the limited aftermarket support for the engine means that there aren’t many extremely impressive 1.5L EcoBoost power builds. Most of the high-power Ford 1.5L builds are in European Focus,’ with the highest power examples being around 280-300 horsepower. While it is possible to go beyond that with an upgraded turbo, fueling mods, and other 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades, it is pretty hard to breach the 250+ horsepower mark from a stock Ford 1.5 EcoBoost.
Another problem with making big power from a 1.5 EcoBoost is the engine’s open deck design. Even at stock power levels, the 1.5 Ecoboost has coolant intrusion issues from blown head gaskets. The problem is caused by an insufficient mating surface between the head and block due to the 1.5 I4’s open deck cooling design. You can read more about that in our Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Common Problems Guide. That is significant to mention, as that problem can be amplified with additional modifications and more power.
As a result, most people don’t tend to push the 1.5 EcoBoost too far beyond stock power levels.
Best 1.5L EcoBoost Engine Upgrades
At this point, the 1.5L Ecoboost has been around for 9 years. As a result, the aftermarket community has likely done all of what they will do in terms of 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades by now. Compared to some of the other larger displacement EcoBoost engines, like the 2.7L and 3.5L EcoBoosts, the 1.5L doesn’t have quite as large of an aftermarket base. That mainly has to do with the engine’s relatively short build cycle and its placement mainly in the Fusion.
The 1.5 liter EcoBoost is also pretty well optimized from the factory. That makes it hard to squeeze a significant amount more horsepower out of it. However, there are still some worthwhile modifications to get the most out of your 1.5L. For now, the most popular 1.5L EcoBoost engine upgrades include the following:
- Upgraded Intake
- ECU Tune
- Cat-Back Exhaust
- High-Flow/Catless Downpipe
1.5 EcoBoost Cold Air Intake Upgrade
One of the most popular 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades is an upgraded intake. Intakes are a worthwhile modification for a few reasons. The most important benefit is the increase in intake flow over the factory 1.5 EcoBoost intake. While the factory intake is perfectly fine for stock power levels, a higher-flowing intake will help increase the benefit of a tune and other modifications down the line.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of 1.5 EcoBoost intakes on the market. However, there are a few different options depending on your vehicle. The majority of intakes for the 1.5L Fusion and 1.5L Focus are closed box intakes. That means that they enclose the air filter in a sealed airbox from the rest of the engine. This helps keep air intake temperatures to a minimum. However, that doesn’t matter as much with a turbocharged engine that relies on an intercooler to cool the air after the turbo.
There are also some open air intakes available for the 1.5L EcoBoost which is likely the best route to go if you are looking for the best intake sounds. While it might not matter to some people, having louder intake sounds is a fun addition to the driving experience of your Ford. While open air intakes might not provide the lowest IATs, they make up for it with slightly better flow.
As an added point, one of the best aspects of upgrading to an aftermarket intake is the reusable filter. Unlike the factory filter that needs to be replaced every 15,000-30,000 miles, most aftermarket filters can be cleaned and reused.
Best Ford Fusion Cold Air Intake
Steeda is one of the leading manufacturers of aftermarket components for the Ford Fusion and multiple other Ford vehicles. Due to their popularity and trust from the community, their closed air intake is our recommendation for the 1.5 EcoBoost. Their specially designed intake enclosure was designed to keep IATs at a minimum.
The airbox was designed to utilize cold air flow from the grille while sealing directly to the hood liner to ensure cool, dense charge air to the engine. This results in a slight power gain of around 5 horsepower and marginally better fuel economy. Due to the fact that it is a closed air intake, the Steeda might not be the best option for someone that is looking for loud intake noises. A K&N open intake with a heat shield would be your best bet for better sound.
Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Engine Tune
Of all of the available Ford 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades, a tune is without a doubt the best value for money. The purpose of a 1.5 EcoBoost tune is to adjust air, fuel, and boost parameters to get the absolute maximum performance from the engine. This is a good option for those looking for decent power gains without the need for additional performance parts. Some plug-and-play tunes can boost a 1.5 liter EcoBoost’s output by 40 horsepower and nearly 70 lb-ft of torque on a stock engine.
Beyond just the additional power and torque, a 1.5 EcoBoost tune can also adjust other engine and transmission parameters to improve performance in other areas. For example, some EcoBoost tunes allow for transmission remapping to change or modify shift points. This is good for 1.5L Fusion owners that want a bit more aggression from their automatic transmission. Other tune features usually include enhanced throttle response, maps for different fuel octane levels, and the ability to read and clear engine codes.
It is also important to note that tunes will generally produce even more horsepower than advertised when combined with other 1.5L EcoBoost engine upgrades. Most tuning companies also offer custom tuning when you purchase one of their products. A custom tune allows you to dial in your tune to your specific modifications.
Best Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Tune
When it comes to tunes for the 1.5L EcoBoost engine, Livernois has a stranglehold on the market. Pretty much every tuned 1.5L Fusion is running a tune from either Livernois or 5StarTuning. However, Livernois’ offering is more enticing since their unit is so easy to use and chock full of advanced features.
The Livernois Ford 1.5 I4 tuner provides the best out-of-the-box performance of any tuner on the market. On an otherwise stock 1.5L Ford Fusion, the Livernois tuner can unlock up to 41 horsepower and 68 torque. That number can be elevated even further with the other mods on this list including an intake and exhaust/downpipe. In terms of value for money, this is one of the best 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades here.
In addition to the power and torque gains, the Livernois EcoBoost tuner also allows for other adjustments to shift points, torque management, and the top speed limiter. They also offer tuning for different octane fuel, from 87-93 octane, and custom tuning for an additional price.
1.5 EcoBoost Exhaust/Downpipe
Rounding out our list, we have a modification that won’t necessarily provide massive power gains but will enhance the driving experience of your Ford Fusion. An upgraded 1.5L EcoBoost cat-back exhaust is one of the most popular modifications for the Fusion and other international models that use the 1.5 I4.
A cat-back exhaust is an exhaust system that replaces the factory 1.5L EcoBoost system after the catalytic converter. While the stock exhaust isn’t particularly restrictive, a larger diameter main and muffler piping will help the Ford 1.5L flow a bit more than the stock setup, allowing for a slight performance increase and a growlier tone. While a 1.5 EcoBoost cat back exhaust might not be the most effective 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrade from a performance standpoint, you will pick up a few ponies when you combine it with a tune.
Along similar lines to a cat-back, an upgraded 1.5 EcoBoost downpipe is another quality exhaust-related modification. This is a somewhat under-the-radar mod for the 1.5 EcoBoost, as there aren’t many on the market. That said, high-flow and catless downpipes are extremely popular on other higher-displacement Ecoboost engines and provide similar benefits on the 1.5 EB.
As the first element after the turbo, the 1.5 EcoBoost’s downpipe plays a very important role. Since the factory downpipe has a restrictive catalytic converter, back pressure builds up behind the turbo, decreasing performance. Upgrading to an upgraded high-flow or catless downpipe can yield a bit more power, allow for the turbo to spool faster, and help throttle response.
Best Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Exhaust
There truly isn’t a bigger name in the performance exhaust game than Magnaflow. They are one of the most popular names for exhausts of any kind for any manufacturer, Ford included. While being an incredibly popular and well-constructed Ford Fusion exhaust, the Magnaflow Street Series is also one of the only exhausts on the market for the Fusion, making it a no-brainer.
The 1.5 EcoBoost Magnaflow Cat-Back is made from 304 mandrel bent stainless steel, making it fast-flowing and corrosion-resistant. The larger 2.5” main pipe diameter allows exhaust gasses a larger area to escape through. That helps decrease backpressure and increase exhaust flow out of the engine.
Most Ford Fusion owners that have the Magnaflow exhaust say that it provides a deep and rich tone on the exterior but doesn’t drone in the cabin. While the Magnaflow is the only real exhaust option for the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost, it is a solid option at a reasonable price.
Best 1.5L EcoBoost Downpipe
As we mentioned above, downpipes aren’t a very common modification for the 1.5L EcoBoost. As a result, there aren’t any direct dyno results or proven performance gains for the CD3. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t a worthwhile upgrade. Currently, the CD3 Performance downpipe is the only option available for the Ford 1.5. It can be ordered with either a high-flow catalytic converter or catless.
While the CD3 downpipe might not provide the same power gains as a catless/high-flow downpipe would on a larger 2.7L or 3.5L EcoBoost, you can still count on it providing moderate power gains and a significant improvement to turbo spool time and throttle response.
1.5L EcoBoost Engine Upgrades FAQ
From the factory, the 1.5L EcoBoost makes 181 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Other non-US 1.5 L EcoBoosts made between 148-179 horsepower.
The initial 1.5 EcoBoost is an inline-4 cylinder engine. The 1.5 Ecoboost 4-cylinder was in production from 2014-2020. However, it was replaced with the 3-cylinder 1.5L EcoBoost Dragon in 2018.
The best 1.5 EcoBoost engine upgrades include an upgraded intake, ECU Tune, cat-back exhaust, and a performance downpipe. While the 1.5 EcoBoost might not have the most support, there are a few worthwhile mods.