How To Build A 350+HP Mustang EcoBoost
It was only time before the muscle car segment broke into smaller, turbo engines. In 2015, Ford did exactly that with the 2.3L inline 4 turbo engine found in the S550 Mustang EcoBoost. The base models make an impressive 310 horsepower straight from the factory. However, the appeal with turbo engines is the ability to easily tune and mod for extra power.
There’s no question the 2.3L EB leaves some potential on the table that can be unleashed with a few basic bolt-on performance mods. Though, risks are always involved when pushing an engine beyond its intended design. In this post, we examine basic bolt-on mods and discuss the risks of modding the 2.3L S550 Mustang EcoBoost.
Mustang EcoBoost 2.3L Bolt-On Mods
The 2.3L EcoBoost performance mods we discuss in this post include:
- Charge pipes
We refer to these modifications as full bolt-on or “FBO” for the Mustang. Some may include a full exhaust, upgraded turbo, and other mods as being truly FBO. We’ll write more about those mods in the future. However, in this article we want to discuss the best bang for your buck performance mods. The 5 bolt-ons above have the ability to boost your Mustang EcoBoost to the next level. Let’s discuss some of the risks first. Then we’ll break down each of these bolt-on mods one by one.
2.3L EcoBoost AKA “EcoBoom”
Well. The 2.3L EcoBoost doesn’t have the best nickname – some refer to it as the “EcoBoom”. However, we don’t fully agree with that. Of course, the internet has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. Ford wouldn’t use the 2.3 EcoBoost in so many flagship cars if they didn’t believe it’s a solid engine. That said, the engine does well at what it was built to do. Start throwing extra power at it, as with any other engine, and the risks increase. Every engine has its limit and the 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost engine is no exception.
The Stock Turbo Is Inefficient
We hate to start on such a negative note, but the 2.3L EcoBoost engine doesn’t flow well. We’ve spent a long time writing about various cars, and the above dyno chart is one of the worst we’ve ever seen. The low-end torque is impressive – we’ll give it that. However, look at the torque curve, especially above 5,000 RPM’s. It’s awful. That’s generally a sign the turbo is being pushed outside its efficiency range. It’s simply too small of a turbo.
We say this to tie into our discussion coming up next about the 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost limits on the stock block and internals. A small, inefficient turbo creates massive amounts of backpressure that can be hard on the engine. 350whp on the stock turbo is not the same as 350whp on a larger, higher flowing turbo.
2.3L EcoBoost Stock Engine Limits
We’re ignoring an upgraded turbo as a bolt-on mod in this post. However, the previous section is there for a reason. It’s impossible to put an upper limit on an engine. If only it were as simple as, “Yeah the motor is 100% fine at 350whp, but there’s a 90% chance you’ll blow the motor at 370whp.” There are so many different factors at play. Torque is also a better number to use when quoting the upper limits of an engine. That said, it seems 420-450 torque is about the safe limit for the 2.3 Mustang EcoBoost.
Take any numbers with a grain of salt. However, there are things that can be controlled that reduce the chance of engine failure. Proper tuning is towards the top of that list. Also, having proper supporting mods goes a long way. Intakes help the engine breath. Downpipes reduce back-pressure. Intercoolers ensure the charge air is cool. Finally, proper data-logging and monitoring can go a long way. You don’t want to be driving aggressively if the engine is leaning out or you’re having excessive engine knocks.
In summary, 420-450 torque is a good limit for the 2.3L EcoBoost. Ensure you’ve got proper supporting mods, good tuning, and monitor the engines parameters. Even then, understand things can possibly go wrong. This is not meant to scare anyone away from modding their EcoBoost Mustangs. It’s just something everyone should understand prior to doing so. With that out of the way, we’ll break down each of the 5 bolt-on performance mods below.
1) 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Tunes
If we were looking for only one performance mod a tune would be our choice by a long shot. A tune alone on the 2.3L Mustang can offer power gains of 30-50whp and 60-80wtq. Impressive gains for a single mod that usually runs around $500. Additionally, 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost tunes allow you to reap the full benefits of further mods. Performance mods simply do not reach their potential without a proper tune.
There are tons of different options on the market and it’s tough to go wrong with most 2.3L EcoBoost tunes. Ensure you’re getting the tuning device from a reputable company. Otherwise, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. It’s also a good idea to consider which tunes have good support for switching tunes down the road. As you continue modding your 2.3L EcoBoost you’ll likely need updated tunes to account for the new mods.
Best Mustang EcoBoost Tunes
A few of the best tunes for the 2.3L EcoBoost include:
- Burger Motorsports JB4
- Lund Racing N-Gauge
- Cobb Access Port
- SCT GTX Tuner
Again, there are tons of great options on the market and the above isn’t an exhaustive list. Nonetheless, those are among the best tune choices for the 2.3L EcoBoost engine. They’re all reputable companies with highly tested and proven tunes.
On a side note – we come from the BMW world where the JB4 piggyback tune is a popular option. However, piggyback tunes may be an unfamiliar option for many in the Mustang world. We really like the JB4, but highly suggest doing some additional research on flash vs piggyback tunes if you’re interested in the JB4.
EcoBoost Tune Cost: $429-600
EcoBoost Tune HP Gains: 30-50whp (tune only)
2) EcoBoost 2.3L Performance Intake Upgrade
Intakes are another popular and cost-friendly upgrade for the Mustang EcoBoost. The factory intake is efficient at stock power and boost. However, the intake becomes less efficient as boost and horsepower increase. It’s a great mod to compliment the tune and there are plenty of tune + intake bundles on the market. Intakes generally add somewhere in the ballpark of 5-10 wheel horsepower on the 2.3L EcoBoost. However, gains may be higher with heavy mods.
Finding the right intake can understandably be confusing. There are so many different names and terms out there. S550 Mustang EcoBoost cold air intakes, performance intakes, performance cold air intakes, and intake kits are all various names. What’s the difference?
EcoBoost Open vs Closed Intakes
To make it simple we like to think of intakes as open air intakes or closed intakes. An open intake is open to the engine bay whereas a closed system shields the filter and pulls in colder air. However, the difference does not really matter on a turbocharged, intercooled engine. The air passes thru the filter into an incredibly hot turbo. It’s then cooled by the intercooler. It’s been proven that intake temperatures at the filter have little affect on the intercoolers ability to cool the charge air. We prefer open intakes for several reasons:
- Better flow
- More sounds
An open intake generally has less restrictions since the filter is open to the surrounding air. Also, removing the restrictive air boxes allows for more EcoBoost induction and turbo sounds. Despite open intakes flowing better the closed intake designs will still offer the same performance, especially on the stock turbo. It’s tough to go wrong with either option. It’s just a matter of personal preference and whether or not you want louder induction and turbo noise.
Best S550 EcoBoost Performance Intakes
A few of the best 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost intakes include:
- JLT Performance Intake
- Roush Cold Air Intake Kit
- K&N Air Intake System
These are just a few of many excellent options on the market. Ultimately, we recommend opting for an open intake design if you want louder intake sounds. Otherwise, it comes down to personal preference on looks, design, and price. Most 2.3L EcoBoost intake upgrades will offer nearly the same performance.
2.3 EcoBoost Intake Price: $250+
2.3 EcoBoost Intake HP Gains: 5-10whp
3) Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Downpipe
An upgraded downpipe is arguably the second best 2.3L EcoBoost performance mod following a tune. It’s likely a toss-up between an intercooler and a downpipe. We’re big supporters of downpipe upgrades since they offer many benefits on top of horsepower gains. A few benefits of Mustang EcoBoost downpipe upgrades include:
- 10-20whp gains
- Faster turbo spool
- Lower back-pressure
- Slightly louder exhaust
Power gains are impressive from an upgraded downpipe. Though, it’s important to note a lot of those gains aren’t from the downpipe alone. Rather, the horsepower gains are due to the ability to run a couple extra PSI. This is due to their ability to help move air out of the engine more efficiently through lower back-pressure. The drop in pressure from the manifold to the downpipe actually plays an important role in a turbos ability to spool and build boost. As such, an upgraded downpipe will reduce turbo spool time. Improved sounds are also an added benefit. Mustang EcoBoost catless downpipes will add a bit more bark, but are not intrusive when daily driving.
2.3L EcoBoost Catless vs High-Flow Catted DP’s
The goal with a downpipe upgrade is to reduce back-pressure. A catless downpipe is the most effective as that will result in the largest drop in pressure. However, catless downpipes of course add concerns for emissions testing. That’s where high-flow catted downpipes come into play. They’ll offer the performance benefits above, but to a slightly lesser degree. If performance is the end goal catless are the way to go. However, catted downpipes are a great solution for EcoBoost Mustang owners concerned about emissions.
Best 2.3L EcoBoost Downpipes
A few of our favorite downpipe upgrades for the 2.3L EcoBoost include:
- Corsa 3″ Catted Downpipe
- CVF 3″ Catless Downpipe
- BBK Catted Downpipe
You’ll notice catless downpipes are generally about half the price for the Mustang. Cats aren’t cheap to make, which is why the catless options are better. We definitely recommend catless options if emissions aren’t a concern.
2.3L EcoBoost Downpipe Cost: $250+
2.3L EcoBoost Downpipe Power Gains: 10-20whp (5-15whp catted)
4) 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Intercooler
Intercoolers (FMIC) are one of the best bolt-ons mods for any tuned 2.3L EcoBoost. The factory intercooler is sufficient for stock boost. However, increasing boost quickly overwhelms the stock Mustang EcoBoost intercooler. This ultimately leads to heat soak. In this situation the turbo and air get so hot the intercooler isn’t able to effectively cool the charge air. A larger intercooler upgrade is a simple solution to that issue. Of course, cooler air means more horsepower. However, there are other important benefits too:
- 10-20whp gains
- Reduced chance of knock
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to intercoolers. An upgraded EcoBoost Mustang FMIC will prevent heat-soak during extended “aggressive” driving. Ever felt like your Mustang makes more power the first couple times you floor it, and then starts feeling slower and slower? That’s heat soak at work. It may be time to consider an FMIC upgrade. Additionally, cooler air entering the cylinders helps reduce the chance of engine knock.
Best 2.3L EcoBoost Intercoolers
A few of the best FMIC’s for the Mustang EcoBoost include:
- Mishimoto Performance Intercooler
- Wagner Tuning EVO1 Intercooler
- Injen Intercooler
As with all the previous bolt-ons discussed – there are tons of quality options of the market. Look for an FMIC from a reputable company and you should be good to go.
5) 2.3L EcoBoost Charge Pipe Upgrades
The final performance mod we’re discussing for the EcoBoost are charge pipes. A charge pipe is a generic term for any intake piping that carries charge air. Specifically, we’re looking at the charge pipes that connect to the intercooler. Most kits will offer the hot-side (after turbo, before FMIC) and cold-side (after FMIC). Additionally, these charge pipes hold the factory diverter valve. Depending on which charge pipes you choose you can also upgrade to a blow-off valve. Charge pipes aren’t really a power mod. A few horsepower may be had, though.
The real benefit is replacing the weak rubber hot-side pipe with a higher quality metal pipe. The cold-side upgrade does help remove some flow restrictions and also allows the option to upgrade to a BOV.
Best 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Charge Pipes
A few great charge pipe options include:
- CVF Aluminum Intercooler Charge Pipe Kit
- SR Performance Intercooler Charge Pipe Kit
- Mishimoto Intercooler Pipe Kit
This is pretty basic piping so it’s really hard to go wrong with most options. Look for something with a quality finish and fitment. Otherwise, the most important aspect is choosing a quality BOV if you’re upgrading that.
Mustang EcoBoost Bolt-Ons Summary
As with many turbo cars, the Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost leaves a lot of power on the table. A few basic bolt-on mods unleash the S550 Mustangs true potential. However, increasing boost and power does come with risks. It’s generally accepted the EcoBoost is good up to about 420-450 torque. Ensure you’re running a quality, conservative tune with proper supporting mods and monitoring.
A tune is likely the best starting point for most. Not only does it offer the biggest gains up-front, but it also allows you to get the most out of additional bolt-on mods. An intake is a great mod to couple with a tune to support increased air-flow. Downpipes and intercoolers offer many benefits, on top of power gains, for the Mustang EcoBoost. Finally, charge pipes are a great way to ensure reliability and an easy way to upgrade to a BOV. These 5 basic bolt-on mods can push the Mustang EcoBoost north of 350 horsepower.
What mods do you have on your Mustang EcoBoost? Which are you considering?