How To Build A 500+WHP 3.5 EcoBoost
It’s no secret the 3.5 EcoBoost is a highly capable performance engine. The twin turbo 3.5L V6 design is the perfect base to build a fast, powerful Ford F-150. 3.5 EcoBoost engines are also in many other Ford models. With anywhere from 355-450hp it’s already a great engine from the factory. However, some owners want to take their twin turbo V6 engine to the next level. A few simple 3.5 EcoBoost performance upgrades can easily take the engine to 450-550+whp. In this article, we discuss a few of those best bolt-on upgrades for the Ford 3.5 EcoBoost.
*This guide is relevant to all 3.5L twin turbo EcoBoost engines. However, exact fitment of these upgrades will depend on each year and model. There are also differences between the engines, so some variants of the 3.5 EcoBoost are more or less capable than others.
5 Best EcoBoost Performance Upgrades
Some of the 3.5L EcoBoost performance upgrades we will discuss in this guide include:
- Methanol Injection
These mods may be referred to as full bolt-on or FBO for short. Different people have different ideas of FBO, and some may include a full exhaust. However, the power gains from the downpipe back are pretty minimal. We’ll discuss that once we move onto the 3.5 EcoBoost downpipe section.
Anyways, the above 5 upgrades can truly boost your Ford 3.5 EcoBoost engine to the next level. We will examine these mods in greater depth throughout the rest of this article.
Gen 1 vs Gen 2 EcoBoost Upgrades
Before diving into the more exciting stuff it’s important to differentiate the Gen 1 and Gen 2 EcoBoost engines. Ford made some great updates with the 2nd gen 3.5 EcoBoost. A few of the updates were intended to improve reliability and emissions. One of the most notable changes was the additional of port fuel injection, which has great performance benefits (it still uses direct injection, too).
The dual fuel system makes fueling high horsepower 3.5 EcoBoost engines a lot easier. Direct injection is great, but it operates at extremely high pressure. Upgrades to the HPFP and direct injectors are costly. It’s a lot easier to upgrade the 2nd gen 3.5 EcoBoost fueling system to handle lots of power on E85. More on this later, and we’ll also have a separate post regarding fueling mods down the road.
Anyways, the 2nd gen 3.5L engine is more capable when it comes to upgrades. Ford also made some turbo upgrades that include EWG (electronic wastegates) and lighter turbine wheels with improved angles. That’s not to say the Gen 1 EcoBoost engines are slouches by any means. However, the 2nd Gen engines are usually capable of about 25-50whp more with similar bolt-on performance upgrades.
1) Ford 3.5L EcoBoost Tuners
If you only want one 3.5 EcoBoost performance upgrade a tune would be our first recommendation – by a large margin. Tuners are the starting point in building a powerful F-150 3.5L EcoBoost. A tune alone on the twin turbo EcoBoost can add roughly 50-80whp and 70-120wtq. Great gains for a single mod that only costs around $500.
Furthermore, a 3.5 EcoBoost tuner allows for bigger power gains when adding more performance upgrades. Other mods simply won’t reach their full potential without a proper tune to account for the changes.
Plenty of tuners exist for all of the various 3.5L EcoBoost engines. Look for a tuner from a reputable, known company in the industry. Otherwise, which tuner is right for your F-150 likely just comes down to personal preference. One big thing to look for is a tune that has great support for adding or changing tunes in the future. As you add more bolt-on upgrades you’ll want an updated tune to get the full performance out of it.
Best F-150 EcoBoost Tuners
Again, lots of great options exist so this isn’t an exhaustive list. We believe a few of the best tunes for the 3.5 EcoBoost engine include:
- SCT X4
- COBB Accesport
In the near future we’ll have a tuning guide for the 3.5 twin turbo EcoBoost where we’ll expand on all of this. All of the above tuners are a great starting point, and there are some other great options. nGauge is unfortunately shutting down (or recently has), however you can still find some of their tuner devices floating around.
The JB4 is a unique tuner option for the 3.5 EcoBoost. It’s a piggyback tune, which is a lot different than a typical flash tune. However, they’ve been very common in the BMW turbo world for a long time and are excellent tunes. The JB4 does allow for very easy installation and simple map changes on the fly. There are tons of benefits to running the JB4, but it does also have some drawbacks for those looking to make massive power (550-600+whp). We’ll expand on all of this in a 3.5 EcoBoost tuner article soon.
3.5 EcoBoost Tuner Price: ~$400-600
3.5 EB Tuner HP Gains: 50-80+whp (70-120+wtq)
2) 3.5 EcoBoost Intake Upgrades
Chances are just about everyone is familiar with intake performance upgrades for the 3.5 EcoBoost. They may also be referred to as cold air intakes, air filter upgrades, etc. It’s a popular upgrade on tons of engines and cars, so the 3.5L EB isn’t alone here. Intakes generally offer pretty solid horsepower gains on turbo engines.
The stock F-150 twin turbo V6 intake is efficient at stock boost and on modest tunes. However, start increasing power and boost too much and the factory intake is quickly overwhelmed. This is especially true towards the top-end of the power curve. That’s where high-flow 3.5 EcoBoost intake upgrades come into play.
Intakes are a great mod to compliment a tune. The further you push the EcoBoost the more benefits you’ll see from an intake mod. On an otherwise stock truck an intake may only add a couple horsepower. However, intakes can add somewhere in the 5-10whp ballpark when you start pushing the Ford 3.5 EcoBoost further.
Finding the right intake upgrade for your 3.5 EcoBoost can be confusing, and it’s understandable. With so many intake options on the market where do you even begin? In reality, most intakes will offer nearly the same performance.
3.5L V6 Twin Turbo Open vs Closed Intakes
We like to break down intakes as open and closed. Open performance air intakes are – as the name suggests – open to the engine bay. On the other hand, a closed system has a box/shield to protect the filter and pull in colder air. It’s an important differentiation on naturally aspirated engines. However, it’s nearly meaningless on modern turbo engines.
An open intake will pull in slightly warmer air due to heat in the engine bay. That air then passes through the turbos that are operating at extreme temperatures. Additionally, compressing air generates even more heat. That’s why an intercooler is located post-turbo to cool those high temps. The air temperature entering the intake filters has little to no effect on the intercoolers ability to cool the air.
Open intakes are our preference since they generally flow better and we like the unfiltered turbo/induction noises. Anyways, a closed intake system is still going to offer the same or very similar performance. As such, it really just comes down to price, personal preference, etc.
3.5 EcoBoost Intake Price: ~$300-500
3.5 TT V6 Intake HP Gains: 5-10whp
3) Twin Turbo V6 Downpipe Mods
Downpipe (DP) upgrades are an interesting discussion on the 3.5 V6 EcoBoost engine. We were surprised to come across so many threads and comments suggesting downpipes don’t offer significant performance benefits. In the BMW world, many know downpipe upgrades to be among the very best basic bolt-on performance mods.
That’s because the downpipes bolt directly onto the turbochargers. It will offer bigger power gains on the 3.5 EcoBoost than any other part of the exhaust (except the turbos themselves). Back-pressure behind the turbos is horrible for performance. The closer that back-pressure is to the turbos the worse it is for performance. Stock 3.5 EcoBoost DP’s include bulky catalytic converters. Good for emissions – horrible for 3.5 EcoBoost power and performance.
A few benefits of 3.5 EcoBoost downpipe upgrades include:
- 10-25+whp gains (similar torque)
- Faster turbo spool
- Lower back-pressure
- Louder exhaust
The more aggressive your tune and other 3.5 EcoBoost performance upgrades the more power you’ll get from the downpipe. With a modest tune-only you might see gains in the 10-15whp ballpark. If you’re pushing the stock turbos hard or running turbo upgrades you might even see gains of 20-25+whp. Lower back-pressure will also help reduce turbo spool, so the low-end torque gains are pretty big.
3.5L EcoBoost Catless vs High-Flow Catted DP’s
The primary goal with a downpipe performance upgrade on the Ford 3.5 EcoBoost is to reduce back-pressure. It’s healthy for the twin turbos, helps reduce EGT’s, and tons of other great stuff. A catless downpipe for the 3.5 EB will offer the best flow and drop in pressure. As such, it’s going to offer the biggest power and torque gains. However, catless downpipes are illegal emissions-wise so that’s a major flaw.
A high-flow catted downpipe will likely still pass emissions testing in most states. However, these parts may still be considered illegal and/or fail emissions. They still offer the same benefits as catless, but to a slightly lesser degree. Expect a high-flow 3.5 EcoBoost downpipe to provide about 5whp less than catless options.
Unfortunately, catted downpipes can also be about $200-400 more expensive. For off-road racing applications we highly recommend opting for a catless downpipe since it will offer the best bang for your buck.
3.5 EcoBoost DP Price: ~$500-1,000
3.5L V6 DP HP Gains: 10-25+whp (15-30wtq)
4) 3.5 V6 EcoBoost FMIC Upgrades
A larger front mount intercooler (FMIC) is another great bolt-on upgrade for the Ford 3.5L twin turbo engines. The stock F-150 3.5 intercooler is effective at stock boost. However, even then it’s still prone to heat-soak, especially when towing or during several back-to-back pulls.
Increasing boost with a tune and other mods is going to make heat-soak a serious issue. When this happens the turbos get so hot that the intercooler cannot efficiently cool the charge air. Larger FMIC upgrades for the 3.5 EcoBoost are a simple solution. Cooler air is, of course, great for performance and power. There are other great benefits to FMIC mods, too:
- 10-20whp gains
- Consistent performance
- Lower chance of engine knock
Consistent performance is the main benefit to 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler performance upgrades. Ever notice your turbo engine feels a lot weaker after flooring it a couple times? That’s heat soak at work, and the engine will start backing out performance due to the high temps. On glory runs you might only notice power gains of 5-10whp.
However, after multiple pulls an FMIC will likely save your EcoBoost from losing power. Cooler temps also reduce the chance of engine knock, which is great for engine health at higher than stock boost.
Best Ford 3.5L V6 FMIC Upgrades
A few great front mount intercooler upgrades for the 3.5 EcoBoost include:
- Mishimoto Performance FMIC
- CVF Titan Intercooler
- Wagner Tuning Performance FMIC
As with most other 3.5 EcoBoost upgrades there are tons of great options on the market. There’s quite a bit that goes into FMIC upgrades but surface area is an important one. Look for a larger than stock intercooler from a reputable company. We’ll expand on 3.5 EcoBoost FMIC’s in a separate post soon.
Ford 3.5L FMIC Price: $450-1,000+
3.5 TT V6 FMIC HP Gains: 10-20whp (consistent performance, prevents power loss)
5) Ford 3.5 EB Methanol Injection
Alright. We’ll be quicker on this topic. We wouldn’t recommend methanol injection as a mod to do up-front. It’s good to have a bit more knowledge and experience with the simple bolt-ons before moving onto methanol injection (also known as water-methanol injection).
The above 4 upgrades will take your Ford 3.5 EcoBoost to the next level, and they can easily make 450-500+whp. To push much further you’ll need to run higher quality fuel than the standard 91 or 93 octane pump gas. We really prefer E85 to methanol injection. However, E85 puts a lot more stress and demand on the fuel system whereas methanol reduces that demand.
Methanol is actually highly flammable and rated as a high octane fuel. It’s a separate system that doesn’t rely on the standard fuel pumps or injectors. As such, when you max out the stock fuel system methanol can come to the rescue. Power gains depend on how heavily you intend to rely on water-methanol injection (WMI). However, aggressive 3.5 EcoBoost methanol injection setups can provide 40-60+whp. A lot more power is possible, too.
WMI can be a little complex, and there’s a lot to cover. We’ll break this down further in a WMI guide of its own in the near future.
Ford 3.5 EcoBoost Performance Upgrades Summary
As with lots of turbo engines, the Ford 3.5L EcoBoost leaves a lot of power and performance on the table. The engine and turbos are built to handle quite a bit more power than the 3.5 offers stock. A few simple bolt-on mods can truly take the 3.5 EcoBoost to the next level. These mods are capable of pushing the 3.5L twin turbo V6 engine to 500+whp.
Tuners are a great starting point, and offer the best bang for your buck. Not only does a tune give huge gains itself, but it also allows you to extract more power out of additional 3.5 EcoBoost performance upgrades. Next up, intakes are a great mod to couple with a tune to help with the added air-flow.
Then there are downpipes, which we believe are among the best performance upgrades for the 3.5 EcoBoost. They offer countless benefits and solid power gains for the price. FMIC’s are another great mod to help with consistency and preventing power loss from heat-soak. These mods can push the Ford 3.5L V6 to 500+whp.
Those looking to go even further should consider fueling solutions like E85 or methanol injection. This stuff gets a bit more complex, but we’ll have in-depth guides coming in the future. Anyways, the 3.5 EcoBoost is a truly incredible engine capable of insane performance with some basic upgrades.
What mods do you have on your 3.5 EcoBoost? Are you considering any mods?
Drop a comment & let us know!