Ford Ranger 2.3L Performance Mods Guide
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The 4 Best 2.3L Ford Ranger Performance Mods

Jake Mayock

Meet Jake

Jake is a founder of 8020 Media and TuningPro. He has over a decade of experience in the automotive industry including parts sales, writing, DIY modifications & repairs, and more. Jake is currently converting his N54 to a single turbo and building a Miata track car. He’s an experienced, hands-on automotive enthusiast who delivers in-depth, well-researched content.

A 2.3L 4-banger engine in a truck might not sound like a lot of power or performance. While the Ranger produces 270hp and 310lb-ft. of torque from the factory, the turbocharged 2.3L EcoBoost engine can produce a lot more power with some simple bolt-on modifications. This guide is going to cover the four best performance upgrades for the 2.3L Ford Ranger including a tune, intake, downpipe, and intercooler.

Ford Ranger 2.3L Performance Mods Guide

2.3L Ford Ranger Performance Upgrades

  • Tune
  • Cold air intake
  • High-flow downpipe
  • Intercooler

The Ranger is a bit underquoted from the factory. Most stock trucks will dyno right around the 265-270whp and 300-310lb-ft. of torque. However, what’s more important is, how much power can the Ranger reliably handle?

The 2.3L EcoBoost can generally handle about 420-450wtq before we would start recommending internal upgrades. The mods we list here should keep you safely within these power limits. However, with that being said, adding power always increases the likelihood of problems. The safer you are with your tuning, the better off you’ll be.

We don’t have any turbo upgrades included in our list since this will push the 2.3 EcoBoost beyond its power limits and therefore require some more significant mods.

If you would rather consume this content via a video, check out our How to Build a 350WHP+ Ford Ranger for ONLY $2,000 video below:

1) Ford Ranger Tuner

If you are going to make one mod to your Ranger, a tune would be our top recommendation. Tunes offer the best bang-for-the-buck and can add up to 50whp and 70wtq on an otherwise completely stock Ranger. With prices for tuners coming in around $500, you can’t beat the price per horsepower you get out of a tuner.

Another benefit of tuners is that they properly adjust your engine to account for other mods you are running. By doing so they help maximize the power gains you get from the subsequent mods and help your engine run properly with mods.

Tuning Performance Benefits

  • Up to 50whp gains
  • Up to 70wtq gains
  • Multiple pre-loaded maps for various power levels and fuels
  • E85 compatible maps
  • Maximizes other mods

Tuner Selection: Flash vs. Piggyback

There are a lot of tuners on the market. There are generally two types: flash tuners and piggyback tuners. Flash tuners actually modify the ECU by “re-flashing” it and changing various engine parameters. Piggyback tuners don’t actually flash the engine, and instead spoof various signals and data that is sent to the ECU. The main difference is that piggyback tuners aren’t traceable whereas flash tuners are. The downside being they don’t support custom tuning.

I bring up the traceability since the majority of 2.3 Ranger’s still have warranty. You can remove a piggyback tuner and the dealer won’t have any clue it was there. When you use a flash tuner since it actually modifies the ECU, the dealer can easily tell that it was tuned. Simply uninstall a piggyback tuner before going to the dealer and they won’t ever know it was tuned.

2) Upgraded Intake

Our second favorite Ford Ranger performance upgrade is a cold air intake system. Tuners predominantly increase power by increasing the boost level, or psi, of the turbocharger. Bringing more air to the turbocharger is important as it reduces the amount of effort and stress put on the turbo as it compresses air down further.

While an intake will provide some solid power gains, it will also help improve the efficiency of the turbocharger which is good for the health and reliability of the turbo. The stock turbo on the 2.3 EcoBoost is actually pretty small, inefficient, and weak. So helping it out with some extra air flow is highly recommended.

There are a lot of intake options on the market. Any aftermarket intake will outflow the stock intake and therefore is a plus. However, there are some intakes that will outflow others on the market.

Intake Upgrade Benefits

  • 5-10whp and torque gains (possibly more on aggressive tune)
  • 30%+ increase to airflow over stock intake
  • Improved turbo efficiency
  • Better throttle response
  • Cool intake “whoosh” noises

3) High-Flow Downpipe

Downpipes are another favorite Ranger mod since they offer the second best power gains behind a tuner. Some of the benefits of upgrading the downpipe include:

  • 10-15whp gains and similar torque gains
  • Faster turbo spool
  • Decreased exhaust back-pressure
  • Mild increase in exhaust tone

A downpipe is the first part of the exhaust system and bolts up directly to the turbocharger. It also houses the catalytic converter which makes it highly restrictive. Since it sits right on the turbo, it creates a lot of backpressure which has a negative impact on the turbo. Additionally, once you have a tune and an intake bringing more air into the engine, it’s important to increase the flow out of the engine.

Power gains come from the reduction in backpressure which actually allows the turbo to run a few psi more. The less pressure in the exhaust the more freely and quickly the turbo can spool, therefore increase the amount of boost it can run.

Catless vs. High-Flow Downpipes

The most restrictive part of the downpipe is the catalytic converter located inside of it. Therefore, the best way to reduce backpressure and performance is to remove the catalytic converter, or go catless. However, the downside to this method is that it is illegal and will cause your Ranger to fail emissions.

Therefore, the alternative option is to run a high-flow downpipe. High-flow options use a catalytic converter, which keeps your car legal, but opt for a cat that is less restrictive than the OEM one.

Catless downpipes are the best for maximizing performance. High-flow downpipes are the best for practicality and ease of ownership. We generally recommend sticking with a high-flow option unless you are planning on upgrading your turbo and shooting for really big power numbers.

If you want to dig deeper here, we have a more comprehensive Ranger Downpipe Upgrade Guide.

CVF 3″ High-Flow Downpipe

CVF offers one of the most affordable, best bang-for-the-buck downpipes on the market. They used to offer a catless option as well but due to EPA crackdowns, you can only find a high-flow option available nowadays. This is our favorite option on the market when you consider the combination of performance, value, and quality.

The downpipe is a 3″ 304 stainless steel piping with a 400-cell catalytic converter. They also offer a lifetime warranty which is pretty rare for downpipes since the cats can burn out over time.

Price: $449

Buy Here: Ford Ranger CVF Catted Downpipe

4) Intercooler Upgrade (FMIC)

The last upgrade, but possibly one of the best, on our list is an upgraded front mount intercooler. The factory intercooler is small and while sufficient for stock boost levels, it quickly becomes overwhelmed when boost is increased. This can result in heat soak which can actually cause you to lose horsepower. When this happens, the air from the turbo gets so hot that the intercooler isn’t actually able to effectively cool the air before it enters the combustion chamber.

The solution here is to upgrade to a larger intercooler. This will allow for more consistent performance and increase power while also preventing any power loss incurred from heat soak. A larger intercooler means cooler air entering the engine which means more horsepower.

  • 10-20whp gains (when tuned)
  • More consistent performance
  • Reduces heat soak and power loss
  • Decreased chance of engine knock
  • Improved timing

If you ever do back to back pulls in your Ranger, or like to drive aggressively, you’ve probably noticed power decreases after the first few pulls. This is because of heat soak. When the air entering the intercooler gets too hot, it can’t effectively cool it.

The solution here is to get a bigger intercooler with more cooling capacity. The two factors that affect cooling are the core size and the amount of surface area of the intercooler.

Intercoolers are a more expensive upgrade, but they are one of the best reliability mods for upgraded Rangers. Cooler air means less chance of knock, better timing, lower EGTs, and more consistent performance which results in an overall healthier engine. Heat is the killer of engines and an intercooler is one of the best ways to keep engine temps down.

For a more detailed guide, check out our Ford Ranger Intercooler Upgrade Guide.

CVF Performance Intercooler

CVF offers the best bang on the market, and this is no different with their Ranger intercooler. This intercooler is a direct bolt-on replacement with a core size 46% larger than the stock intercooler. It also utilizes high-flow end tanks to improve air flow in and out of the intercooler. Additionally, it offers more surface area which increases cooling efficiency, resulting in lower IATs.

Price: $599

Buy Here: 2.3L Ford Ranger CVF Intercooler

Four Mods for 350whp

The Ford Ranger is a bit underpowered and underrated from the factory. At just 270hp and 310tq, the power levels come in well below other 2.3 EcoBoost cars that produce up to 345hp. Fortunately, Ford also underrated this engine considering it dyno’s the same numbers to the wheels as it’s quoted power wise which is awesome. However, there is still a lot of power potential left on the table.

Four simple bolt-on performance upgrades can transform the 270whp and 310wtq Ford Ranger to a 350whp and 400wtq beast. A tuner is our favorite mod since it offers the biggest power gains and is the most affordable with respect to price per horsepower. We always recommend an upgraded intake with a tune. And with an upgraded intake and tune we recommend adding a high-flow downpipe to improve turbo efficiency and reduce backpressure. Lastly, an intercooler is one of the best performance mods and reliability mods for a tuned Ranger.

While all of these mods might sound expensive, they come in at just about $2,000 which is really a steal of a deal for 80whp+ and 90wtq+. You won’t see power gains anywhere near this from a naturally-aspirated engine with that amount of money in mods.

What mods are you running or considering in your Ranger EcoBoost? Also, check out some of our additional content like the most common Ford Ranger problems and 2.0 vs 2.3 EcoBoost.

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4 Comments

  1. Sounds good ,but can you run 87 or 88 octane gas with the jb4 tune. What is the difference in the ranger 2.3 and the mustang 2.3

  2. Piggy back, “remove it and the dealer will never know.” So, screw up the engine and then try to force Ford to fix it. Nice ethics. Tuning. Is totally fine. But be prepared to pay to play.

    1. Lew,

      These tunes really shouldn’t affect longevity or cause any problems under warranty. This more so comes down to manufacturer and dealer ethics. Most dealers will try to give you the run around if your car is tuned, even if the tune wasn’t the actual cause of the failure. In the US, they have to prove that the tune was the cause of the problem but they usually won’t honor that. You’ll end up in legal battles and it will be a bigger hassle than simply paying for the problem.

      Sure, if you send a rod thru the block because you were running the engine lean then you should be ethical and understand your tune caused that issue and accept the expense. Unfortunately, many dealers will give you a headache about replacing unrelated parts like a power steering hose.

      A local BMW dealer replaced my turbos 2x under warranty knowing the turbos were running over double the stock boost. I was running a JB4 and could have hidden the fact the car was modded. I didn’t because running the stock turbos at double the stock boost surely played a role in the failure. They were honest and covered both replacements on the basis that the turbos still shouldn’t have failed so quickly, even at that boost. Some dealers are genuine. Some aren’t. I’ve seen and heard way too many stories about dealers finding out the car is modded and rejecting repairs that are 100% unrelated to a tune or whatever mod is in question.

      Regards,
      Zach

  3. Would adding a Ford performance exhaust system on top of these mods increase the torque to the point that internal upgrades would be necessary?

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